Iskandar Johor Open - Review
What a great week I had in Johor, Malaysia; I went there quite tired after my last few weeks and even though I went there feeling very good about my game I was still quite apprehensive, as I knew that I was badly in need of a rest. However it turned out to be a great week, I got my first Tour win since the USPGA in 2008. I did win the Irish PGA last year but nothing on any of the world tours. It was really nice to get another win; its not that I was worried about it as I have been around long enough to know the way this game works. The thing is that I was probably the least worried about the fact that it had been a while since I won but as everyone was bringing it up nearly every week it was becoming an issue with the press and other people. I don’t read any of the press so it doesn’t bother me but when you are being questioned about it most weeks it makes the win all the sweeter! The funny thing about my two years without a win is that I won in 2008 and now I have won in 2010, so it was only 2009 that I didn’t win a ranking tournament.
It had been a while since I last played in Malaysia so when I got the opportunity to go out there and play I was delighted; even more so now. When I got there I knew that I was quite tired and a bit run down after the Ryder Cup and the Dunhill. The Ryder Cup took more out of me than I thought so I purposely decided to take it easy last week. The fact that it was a new course was an advantage to me also as it meant that everyone was in the same boat as myself.
I left the Dunhill very happy with my game and that feeling continued; on Thursday I played really well and in tough conditions I shot eight under par to tie the morning leaders. It was windy for us afternoon players so to end the day tied for the lead on eight under was a good result. I definitely played my best golf of the week on Thursday. On Friday I played some lovely golf in patches but also some poor holes; however I managed to get away with some average shots and ended up shooting five under to take the sole lead. On Saturday morning I woke with a pain in my neck, the usual pain that I get during the year; I wasn’t able to move properly and when I got to the course I wasn’t able to swing the club properly at all. It was so bad during my warm up that I was considering pulling out; the only reason I didn’t was because I was leading. I know from previous experience that playing through it can knock out my coordination for a couple of weeks. The one positive thing about it was that I had the next two weeks off; whereas if I had a tournament the following week I probably would have pulled out.
Everytime I made a full swing it was extremely painful; it was less so when I made a shorter swing so I ended up playing the round hitting the ball with a three quarter swing. I actually played quite well for most of the round and when I did hit some bad shots I got away with them. In the end I shot four under to be leading by five shots on seventeen under par; I was quite surprised as going out I really thought that I was going to struggle due to the pain. On Sunday my neck was a bit better but still quite painful; I played most of my round with the three quarter swing again but I was a little freer so I was able to hit it a bit harder when I wanted to.
The thing about going out with such a big lead is that you can get defensive in your play; this can be okay on a tough course where pars are good scores but on a course where there are lots of birdie chances pars are not great. I knew that I had to maintain my aggressive play, as this would give me the best chance of finishing off the tournament. I effectively did this when I birdied the second, third and fourth holes; I did drop a shot on the fifth but I had built up a nice cushion by that stage. I played steady golf until I made a string of birdies from the 11th. With four holes to play I was seven clear and feeling like a champion. I dropped two shots coming in as I was trying to make more birdies; trying to be the hero. In the end I won by three shots. Nothing beats holing a putt on the last to win but having the last four holes to stroll in and wave at the crowd is pretty nice and stress free. Every win is great no matter how you do it. There is no doubt that this was my week, right from the start things were going for me; I holed a lot of putts and got some good breaks all week but then the winner tends to do that every week.
I have two weeks off to enjoy my win before I go back to Asia for the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai and the Barclays Singapore Open. After these I have a week off and then play the Race to Dubai finale, the Dubai World Championship. The thing about winning is that it is a habit and they tend to come in groups; I have big events left which I am really looking forward to as I am feeling good about my game and about being back in the winning habit. For the moment I have some time off to let my neck heal and get myself back into shape. My neck problem is something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my career as I have done over the years. Normally I have my physio with me and when I feel it coming on he can keep it at bay but last week I was on my own and when I felt it coming on I wasn’t able to do much. Thankfully it didn’t make any difference to the end result!
Padraig wins Iskandar Jahor Open!
Padraig put a two year title drought behind him as he won the Iskandar Johor Open in fine style with a closing round of three under par 69. Playing solidly throughout, he got off to a nice start as he birdied two of his opening holes to take a strangle hold on the title, his twenty under par total giving him a three shot win. He now has a couple of weeks off before returning to Asia. Fine third round of 68 for Padraig as he struggled with a neck injury throughout the round. Having raced into an eight shot lead after twelve holes he three putted seventeen to drop a shot and eventually signed for a five shot lead going into Sundays final round. Solid second round of five under par 67 leaves Padraig leading the tournament by one shot going into the weekend. He was six under par playing the par five last but made an unfortunate bogie on a hole he eagled in his opening round to fall back to 13 under par. Speaking afterwards he said he was pleased to follow up on his low first round and hopes to continue the good work over the weekend!
Padraig makes the long trip to Malaysia worthwhile with a sparkling opening round of eight under par 64 which is his lowest round of the year. One bogie was exchanged with five birdies before a storming finish saw him eagle two of his last three holes to put a gloss on an otherwise fine score. He will hope to continue his good form as he seeks to earn his first win of the year!
Padraig headlines this weeks Iskandar Jahor Open in Malaysia along with Retief Goosen and KJ Choi. He is also involved in designing his first signature golf course so a busy week is in store. He will hope to end his two year win drought with a win which would set him up nicely for the 2011 season. He tees off in round one at 12.15pm local time with Noh Seung-Yui and Marcus Fraser.
First time to the Iskandar Johor Open. Give us your initial assessment of the tournament?
It’s obviously a while since I’ve been back to Malaysia (last trip 2006). I’ve always enjoyed playing golf here. It’s a bit different down here in Johor. I like what I see. The course is very good. The greens are immaculate and in great condition. It looks like it’ll be a good tournament. In the 14 years coming over for the co-sanctioned events, the Asian Tour has really grown. There is no discernable difference between the co-sanctioned events and no discernable difference between a European Tour event. Everything about it looks like it’s going to be a world-class event.
After the highs of the Ryder Cup, has it been difficult to get back into individual mode?
Strangely enough, the week before the Ryder Cup and the Dunhill last week were both team events as well. There were some team element to them. I think last week was difficult where most of the Ryder Cup players seem to have tired although it didn’t seem to affect Martin Kaymer (the winner). But by the time Sunday came around, I was very tired. The key to doing well this week is to make sure I don’t over do it in the heat.
Pleased with your recent form?
The form is good. Like all professional golfers, we could always do with holing a few more putts. I just have to be patient and let it happen. Certainly the game is good enough to win. I’ve just got to make sure that I get out of my own way and let it happen.
Goals for the rest of the year and will the Ryder Cup euphoria carry you till the end of the year?
There is definitely a euphoric feeling after you win the Ryder Cup and you definitely carry that through. But also from having such a high, there is a little low afterwards, certainly physically and mentally I was very tired last week. And tired going in this week. I’ll have a couple of weeks off after this tournament. I know I need a break. Hopefully any positives of the Ryder Cup will kick in after that. At the moment, there is a bit of a high but there is a bit mental tiredness and fatigue afterwards. It’s probably 50-50 at the moment. Hopefully towards the end of the year, maybe there will be a bit of a boost. In regards to my form, I’ve had a strange year. Unusually for me, I’ve played a lot better in practice than I have in tournament play. I used to be the opposite. I haven’t really brought it to the golf course. I’ve had plenty of top-10s but I haven’t won a tournament and it is all about winning tournaments. You have to get across the line. I’m anxious. I’ve got about five more events and I’m anxious to get at least a win which will make my Christmas better. This is a good week to start. The game has been good but it does not carry through 72 holes. I see weeks like this as an opportunity to do that. Hopefully it’ll start the ball rolling. Scoring will depend on how the pins are set up. The greens are firm but softened up with the rain. Giving a prediction is a dangerous thing to do. If you thought 16 under would win it and if you got to 16 after the third round, you still have to go another day. In your head, subconsciously you think it’s 16. Danny said 20, KJ said 16, so the betting man will say 18 under.