US Open - Review
My US Open didn’t go as I had planned - I finished well down the field having never got into the business end of the tournament. I was happy with the way things had gone in practice and was looking forward to getting started.
When I did get going on Thursday morning I found the course to be playing easier than I had expected - the greens were not firm and so it was possible to get at the pins. My first round was a mixed one - I hit some very good shots and then a couple of bad drives. Even so I managed to work my way around the course nicely. I was one under par playing my last hole, the ninth, after missing three short birdie putts in the round. In the end I bogied my last hole, after missing the fairway with my lay up, to shoot level par. It wasn’t a bad score but it was a disappointing one, as I knew that I had left a few shots behind me.
Over the next three days I stuck the ball well and continued to give myself a number of birdie chances in each round but just wasn’t able to convert them. The USGA kept the greens soft for the week, which meant that you had to be shooting under par to move forward. On Saturday I shot level par and actually dropped a few places - I am pretty sure that this was a first for me in a US Open, because normally when you shoot a level par round in a US Open you jump up the leader board. It was definitely a very different US Open than I have ever played in before, as the greens were receptive and you had to shot low numbers. It wasn’t the mental battle that we are used to seeing over the years.
In the end of the day my putting just wasn’t good enough to get myself anywhere near the top of the leader board. Even though I felt good over the putts, I just had a week where I didn't manage to hole any - in my third round the longest putt I held was a three footer. At least I know what I have to work on before next week.
I did a lot of very good work with Bob Rotella during the week; we established that I have been too hard on myself, something that I fall into every now and then. Even though I know this, it takes a while to realise it. However, once I got it clear in my head I felt a lot better about my game and myself. It’s back to the old saying of ironing my hands! Now that I have realised it again, it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
My US Open wasn’t what I had hoped for but it was for Rory! What a performance - he played fantastic all week and looked in full control. To win by so many shots against a top class field is an amazing achievement. I think it is fair to say that we all expected Rory to win majors, but I don’t think anyone could have dreamt of him winning like he did. It is only the first of many I am sure. It’s a great feeling winning your first major and equally great celebrating it. He will enjoy waking up looking at the trophy during the week and letting it sink in. Well done Rory, an amazing performance.
I am off to The Travelers Championship in Hartford, Connecticut, next week for the last of my three-tournament run.
US Open Championship - Preview
I am back at the venue of my first US Open, Congressional Country Club, in Washington DC. I played here in 1997 and I thought it was the toughest course I had ever played. On top of that I did everything wrong that week - I spent way too much time on the range and the course and managed to get sunstroke and severe dehydration. In fact, would struggle to find anything i did right that week. Its funny when I look back on that week to now, how much my game has changed and how I approach tournaments differently. Back then when I got here I felt that I had to cover every blade of grass in practice and that if I didn’t, I wasn’t prepared. Nowadays I know that it is impossible to hit every possible chip shot and putt and so I take a much more relaxed approach to my preparation.
This week I have played 27 holes during the practice days, nine holes each day. I haven’t spent too much time on the range as I know that this is a long week and the most important thing is to be fresh come Sunday. Of all the majors this is probably the most grueling in terms of ones state of mind. It is constantly testing you - over the years I have realized that the most important thing about competing in the US Open is to be patient and mentally prepared for a long week.
I am happy with the way my practice has gone. I felt that last weekend in Memphis I hit the ball well and I have continued in that vain here this week. I feel very comfortable with my game and my preparation, and have done some good work done with Bob Rotella.
In terms of the course, it really is a tail of two nines - the front nine is very playable and feels like you can make a score on it, whereas the back nine is substantially harder. The holes are longer and generally tougher and I would have to say that the rough feels like it is slightly longer on the back nine. That said it does feel like a course that you can make some birdies on if you hit good shots. Over the last few years the USGA have eased up on the toughness of the course set up; it’s not to say it is easy but it is generally fairer. This year’s course is very much in that mould, it is a definite advantage to be coming off the fairway but you can also advance it quite well from the rough. As much as driving the ball is important on a US Open course, the most important thing is your short game. The winner this week will have putted and scrambled well; with this in mind I have spent most of my time hitting chip shots and short pitches.
I am feeling comfortable with my preparation and my game. I have made sure not to wear myself out before the tournament gets going. In stark contrast to my first US major championship here in 1997, I feel that I have done everything right this time. It doesn’t necessarily give you any guarantees, but it puts you in a good position starting out and ahead of the vast majority of the field. I have an early/late draw, which would be my preferred option and after three days of practice I am looking forward to starting the pursuit of my fourth major championship win.