"3" Irish Open - Review
It was my first time playing golf in Killarney and it was almost a very successful debut. In the end I had to settle for second place, I felt after my final round that I had given it everything but unfortunately for me it was a couple of shots shy of Ross’s total. Throughout the course of the week I definitely got the best out of my rounds so I really can’t be disappointed. The funniest thing about finishing second here this week is that everyone is heralding it as a great week and that I am back! I was never worried about my form as I have been striking the ball well for a while now, just not putting it all together but I was confident that it was only a matter of time. Not so long ago people were talking about all the second place finishes I had and wondering would I ever get over the line and now after another second place finish I’m being told how great it is.
I came into this week very happy with how I was striking the ball but a little unhappy with how my short game had been. How ironic it is that for three days it was my short game that kept me in the tournament. Actually for the whole week it was very good; I made a lot of great par saves during the week. It actually reminded me of how I used to play as an amateur. In days two and three I struggled off the tee, it was only really a confidence issue but even still I missed quite a few fairways and as a result a number of greens but yet I still managed to get myself around under par every day. As much as us pro’s like to strike the ball well there is nothing like shooting a decent score and playing badly. I had three days of scrambling, making pars from the trees and gorse on some holes. The great thing about it was that I never let it get to me; actually I was really enjoying it and getting a great buzz out of it.
As much as I enjoyed the three rounds where I really scrambled my way around the final round was definitely the highlight. The reason that this round was the highlight for me is that I played very well and managed to make a few crucial saves from really tough positions during the round. Saves that I made in the final round really dictate how your round goes. I was playing well and giving myself plenty of chances but as always in every round you face a couple of holes where you have to scramble to keep things going. If you don’t get up and down then it is the end of the momentum and you end up shooting an average score but in my case I managed to save par on the 6th, 11th and 13th. These saves felt like birdies even though they were only pars; by saving par it kept my round going and gave me a chance to challenge Ross. This is the sort of round that I have been failing to shoot during the year - I had my long game and short game working together. The fact that I had rely on my short game so much for the first three rounds meant that when I had to rely on it in the fourth round I knew that it was there and I was confident of the shot I had to hit.
Even though I didn’t win it was a great week, I got myself into contention and gave the tournament a good run. I am coming away from the 3 Irish Open really looking forward to the next couple of weeks as it has been a while since I have felt so good about my short game. I have known for a while that I my long game is in good shape; I just have to trust it.
As much as my golf game made me enjoy the week it was the crowd here in Killarney that really made the week. All week there was a real buzz about the place, from the town in the evenings to the golf course during the day, everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves. When the crowds get behind the players it means that the players enjoy themselves much more and it makes a real difference to the tournament. I know from talking to the players during the week that they loved the place, had a really great time and a lot were amazed at how beautiful the area was.
All in all it was a brilliant week, I am leaving very happy with my performance - a little disappointed that I didn’t manage to win but Ross just played to well and he fully deserved to win. That said it wasn’t just about me winning it was also about the Irish Open and having a good week. Nearly 90,000 people came to watch us play during the week and we had decent weather – what more could the tournament ask for!
I am flying to Akron with my family on Monday for the first of two big tournaments, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. I did well there last year and I am looking forward to getting back there to try and go one better this year.
"3" Irish Open - Preview
For this year's Irish Open we are in Killarney, which last held our national championship in 1992 when Nick Faldo won. The funny thing with regard to Killarney Golf Club is that I have never played there, as there was never a tournament around the Killeen course when I was an amateur. When the last Irish Open was held here I must have been away because I cannot remember watching it. As I have never played the course before, I came down on Sunday afternoon so as to get settled in and give myself a chance to play the course on Monday.
Even though I have had a week off since the Open Championship I haven’t really had much spare time as I had a couple of corporate outings and a challenge match in Loch Erne. It meant that I wasn’t able to do as much practice as I would have liked but then that could be a good thing. I missed the cut at the Open but I actually struck the ball well, the missed cut was much more down to my short game and wedge play. With this in mind I have spent a lot of my time working on my short game. I have played the course twice since I came down on Sunday; one full round on Wednesday and another 18 holes split between Monday and Tuesday. On top of playing the course I have been practising my wedge play and short game quite a bit. I have limited the amount of time on the range so as not to get too involved in my technique. As far as my technique goes I am very happy with what I am working on; I am confident that once it is fully bedded into my swing, playing golf will be a lot easier for me.
Since missing the cut at the Open a lot has been made of my form and a lot of people have been asking me what is gone wrong and why aren’t I playing better. The funny thing is I am hitting the ball very well, probably as well as I have ever hit it and I am much more confident in my long game than at any time in the past. The problem that everyone seems to have is that I haven’t won since the USPGA in 2008 but I have had a lot of very good tournaments since then. I have been in contention a number of times but unfortunately I haven’t come out on the right side of it. I am not worried about my form; in fact I am very excited about my game and the progress that I have made. I am looking forward to the run of events that I have starting from here in Killarney.
Having never been here before I have to say that I am blown away by the setting; I don’t think you find a more beautiful place anywhere in the world. I am staying in the Aghadoe Heights Hotel and Spa, which looks out over the course and the lake. It is an amazing site to look out at every morning. The only unfortunate thing is that I am here to work and not relax! I have played the course twice now and I like it a lot; it is not long by modern standards but it has it own defences. The greens are quite tricky as there are little shelves in them, which can make for tough pins. That said they are very receptive and there is not much rough on the course. I can see the scoring being good this week but the better a course is prepared the lower the scoring will be. It is actually a compliment to your course if us pros come out and shoot good scores as we rarely shot low scores on badly prepared courses. The key to shooting a good score here is to play the par three’s well and a couple of par fours, like the fifth and the thirteenth. If you can get through these holes with pars then you have a good chance of making a score, as there are plenty of birdie chances out there. It is important not to try and over power this course, as there are plenty of disasters waiting to happen also.
I won the Irish Open in 2007 and it was a great thrill for me to win my own national title; I would love to give myself a chance to do it again this week. I am very happy with my game so hopefully a few putts go in and I can give myself a chance come Sunday afternoon.