US Open - Review
What a great performance by Graeme! I got to watch most of his back nine on Sunday and thought he played very well. He fully deserved to win and hit good shot after good shot coming in. He has been a very good player for a long time but one that has been consistently underrated, but not anymore. It was fantastic for Irish golf and European golf to see him win at Pebble; the last European to win the US Open was Tony Jacklin in 1970. I met up with him in Carmel on Sunday evening after he had finished all his press commitments and as expected he was over the moon. It is hard to believe when you have just done it and will probably be a few weeks before he fully gets to grips with it.
As far as my US Open is concerned I was disappointed with my performance. I felt that I never really played to my best ability. I struggled with my driver and three wood; nothing too bad but just lost a bit of confidence in them. I got distracted a lot over shots and as a result never really got to a situation where I was comfortable over the ball. During the practice days I felt that I was getting there but I just wasn’t able to get it right in the tournament. I finished in a tie for 22nd on nine over par, which was along way back from Graeme on level par. I never really got myself into the tournament at any stage, always being a a few shots too far back. I had been looking forward to playing there as I had done well in 2000 and have played well around the course in the AT&T pro-am. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do it last week.
Looking back on the week the are a few areas that definitely let me down and a few things that I'm quite disappointed about. I lost a bit of confidence in my driver and three wood as the week went on; when this happens it is hard to play well. This aside though the two areas that really disappointed me the most were my wedge play and my focus. Over the four rounds I hit 24 wedges and I played them in six over par (I consider par to be three for a wedge), which is just not good enough. If I played them in level par I would not be happy, so to be six over is terrible. Even with how I was feeling about my long game, if I had been hitting my wedges decently then I could have been in with a shout on Sunday afternoon. What is very annoying about this is that the course was set up so well that you felt that you could take on flags with wedges; in previous US Opens you couldn’t take on pins, even with a wedge in your hands.
The other area that I was disappointed with was my focus over my shots. I wasn’t feeling overly confident with my driver and three wood and as a result I started getting too conscious of where I wanted to hit and where not to miss shots and as a result I hit a lot of shots without being fully committed to them. As hard as it is to play a regular event when you are not committed to your shots a US Open is twice as hard.
A lot of my disappointment is coming from the fact that the USGA set up a very fair test last week. Leaving the course on Sunday I was thinking about the opportunities that I missed during the week and how the course was very playable. That said there was only one man that managed to tame it and that was Graeme. The USGA did a great job setting up the course and they got a great tournament; unfortunately for me I wasn’t really involved in it.
The conclusion is that I have a bit of work to do on a few areas of my game before the Open in four weeks. I am leaving disappointed in my performance but delighted for Graeme and also happy with the fact that I know what I have to improve on before the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
US Open - Preview
I am in California for the second the major of the year, the US Open. This year we are playing Pebble Beach, one of the best locations in the world for a golf course. It is definitely one of the most scenic courses in the world but for this week we won’t be spending much time looking at the sights. As great as the views are, it is an equally great golf course and one that can really bear its teeth; similar to a links course at home a lot depends on the wind. With no wind you definitely feel that it is possible to shoot a good score but when the wind gets up it is a totally different prospect. I am a big fan of Pebble; I've played it a number of times now, in the 2000 US Open and various AT&T pro-ams. I have always enjoyed the challenge that it presents to us players; you have to be able to hit a variety of different shots.
I am coming into this week happy with my game. I know that my scores and finishing position from last week wouldn’t necessarily back this up but I was happy with how things went. Last week was as much about my knee than anything else and that stood up to the test no problem; in practice this week it has been great too. As far as my game is concerned last week, there were a lot of positives and the negatives I have worked on this week in practice.
I have played the course each day but not a full eighteen. On Monday I played thirteen holes, Tuesday nine holes and Wednesday ten holes. As I have played the course plenty of times I wasn’t too worried about getting out there and seeing it. I have spent a lot of time around the greens as they are very undulating and will definitely be the hardest part of the course. Anytime you are above the hole here you are happy to get down in two; it reminds me of Stackstown Golf Club in that sense. I remember when growing up at Stackstown you never wanted to be above the hole and it is exactly the same here. As the greens are so tricky, you really want to be mentally fresh going into the week, which is the main reason that I have only played a relatively small number of holes in practice. c When I played the 2000 US Open here I remember the course was extremely tough, the rough was very heavy and the greens were firm. I finished in a tie for fifth place but I came away thinking that the course was really tough, but this year the rough is not as bad. The course is definitely more playable from tee to green than in 2000; the greens will be equally as tough especially if they dry out over the next few days.
I am very happy with how my practice has gone, I have worked on my focus and mental side with Bob Rotella and it has helped a lot. It is the usual things that we go over, but as always it is a lot easier to do it when he is here with you than when you are away doing it on your own. On top of the work I have done with Bob I have spent a good bit of time working on my scoring irons as they weren’t great last week. In this tournament you have to be confident to take on a pin when you get a wedge or nine iron in your hands. There will be plenty of holes that you will have to hit away from the flags and be trying to chip and putt to save par so when you get a chance to set up a birdie you have to take it.
The US Open has a reputation of being a bit of a grind - there is no doubt that it can be but this year it is set up very fair from tee to green. I don’t think you will see as many players struggling with the rough as you have done over the years. However, this year I think you will see a lot of players struggling with the greens, both chipping onto and putting on them.
I am looking forward to getting started and seeing how the course plays in tournament conditions. I am playing with Phil Michelson and Y.E. Yang for the first two days; we tee off early on Thursday (8.06am local time) and late Friday (1.36pm). This, more than any other week of the year, is a case of being patient and just hanging around; doing whatever you can to be there or thereabouts come Sunday afternoon. It really does come down to the final nine holes on Sunday in the Majors. Hopefully I will be one of the guys there with a chance.
US Open Interview
Three-time Major Champion Padraig Harrington heads into this week's US Open Championship believing it is time he experienced that winning feeling again. The Irishman won his three championships in a six-Major spell during 2007-08, securing back-to-back Opens at Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale before adding the US PGA title at Oakland Hills. Harrington, however, has not added to his trophy haul since then and speaking at Pebble Beach ahead of the second Major of the year, the 38 year old said he was due a victory.
"It's been six Majors since I won in 2008. So I'm pretty keen to try and get another win," Harrington said. "When you win tournaments like that you want to get out there and win another one. And it feels like a long time, even though, as I said, it's really not that many events. "Obviously I haven't won any sort of regular events, either, but at times I can be distracted at those events and maybe focusing my goals elsewhere. "But certainly a win would be nice. It would be great if it's this week but any win would be nice. "It's kind of overdue at this stage, yes."
After four top ten finishes in Europe and the US this season, Harrington's season was interrupted last month by minor knee surgery. He returned last week at the St Jude Classic in Memphis with an opening round of 65 but trailed off in subsequent rounds as he battled fatigue and intense heat.
"Three weeks today I was under the knife. I had arthroscopic surgery on my right knee.," he said. "It's responded well, I'm comfortable, while it needs a certain amount of minding and I have to look after it, it's not posing any problem to me playing golf. "It needs me to ice it and get physio on it and to do my exercises and all that sort of stuff but it's not affecting my golf. "Maybe I'm not hitting the ball or going at it as hard as I could because of that, but that's not needed, either. It's delicate, but it's not inhibiting me."