ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 18: Padraig Harrington of Ireland watches his tee shot during the second round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 18, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
After a poor week of ball striking in Durban it was great to get to see Pete Cowen in Abu Dhabi, however it wasn’t great for my performance during the week. I worked with Pete on Monday and got some good work done with him, but the only problem with that was that I got into practicing-mode for the week. When I did what Pete instructed I hit the ball brilliantly and so I wanted to get it into my game as quickly as I could. However, this definitely affected my performance and whenever I got a scoring club into my hands, a wedge or nine iron, I tended to hit a poor shot. Not because I put a poor swing on it, but because my head wasn’t in the right place. I hadn’t done any practice with these clubs and so my confidence was low with them. The only thing is that I had to get this work done at some stage and now that it is done, I feel a lot better about it and am looking forward to doing some work on getting into tournament mode.
I finished in a tie for 23rd after what seemed like a long week of “grafting”. Even though I left Abu Dhabi happy that I am hitting the ball well after the work I did with Pete, I wasn’t quite able to trust it on the course and so my game from tee to green wasn’t up to scratch. I hit a lot of shots out of the middle of the club but as a result of not trusting my swing it meant that I pulled a lot of shots. My driving wasn’t great in terms of fairways hit and it was a very tough course to play from the rough - if you are coming off the fairway you feel that you can make a birdie on any hole but when you are in the rough it is a totally different story. In the end I shot five under for the week and it was a good effort to do that. When I did my stats after the final round it showed up what I thought - my wedge play was terrible but my chipping and putting were very good. In fact I actually chipped in three times during the week and holed a bunker shot. On top of that I had 103 putts for the week, which highlights just how few greens I hit.
There is no doubt that it is disappointing to finish in 23rd position, but when I look back at how my week went it actually wasn’t that bad. I hit it in the rough a lot off the tee, my wedges were poor, but my short game kept me in it. This gives me great confidence for the season as I know that my long game is close to being very good. It was really just a case of losing my timing, which is something that will come back very quickly.
I am taking a lot of positives from the week and the last day is a great example - I shot three under par with no bogeys and if you were looking at my hole-by-hole scores on the computer you would think that I played very solidly but actually it was the opposite, because I made several very good up-and-downs during the round to keep a bogey off my card.
Overall I am happy with my first two weeks - my new putting routine has worked very well and my chipping and bunker play have been equally good. My long game hasn’t been up to last year’s standard yet but after the work I did with Pete I know that it will actually be better this year. Coming away from the two weeks, the area that I know I need to do some work on is my wedge play and I will be concentrating on that over the next week.
I have decided to play the Waste Management Phoenix Open which begins on Thursday 31 January. I wasn’t originally intending on playing but I feel that an extra tournament would be an advantage to me. I am home for a week and then head to Phoenix, which will be the start of a four-week run in the States. Before I head off I will be seeing Dave Alred for a couple of days, which is nicely timed and after seeing him I expect to be fully “match fit”.
I got here early Monday morning after flying overnight from Durban; even though I slept on the plane I was still pretty tired. I got a few more hours of sleep once I checked in at the hotel before I went to the course to see Pete Cowen. Having played poorly last week I was looking forward to seeing Pete and having him give my swing the once over. As usual once he saw me hit a few shots he was able to tell me exactly what I was doing and what I needed to do. It was a basically the way I was releasing the club that was causing the problem. Once he explained I could see exactly what he was talking about and he gave me a couple of drills to help get it into my game quickly. I didn't play any holes on Monday, I just hit balls, but by the end of my session it felt much better and the strike was back in my shots.
On Tuesday I played nine holes with Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane, as well as a couple with Rory on Tuesday - its always good fun to get out and play with the lads. Unfortunately because I am in the States so much we don't get to play as often as we would like.
The course is in good condition as always, with no real changes. The work with Pete made a huge difference and I was very happy with how I hit the ball on the course. The hardest thing about the work we did is that I wanted to stay on the range and keep hitting balls so to perfect it, but that wouldn't help me compete in the tournament. All in all, I was very happy with how I hit the ball; after the nine holes I went back and did some more work on the range and then spent some time chipping and putting.
On Wednesday I played in the pro-am in the afternoon - it was a tough day for golf as the wind was blowing very hard and the course played really tough and long. The funny thing about this course is that it always seems to play long and tough in practice and then in the tournament it plays much easier and the scoring is very good - I am hoping this is the case again this year. I hit the ball much better again and felt good about my putting - I haven't quite got the confidence in what Pete showed me as yet but it is not far away.
This week so far has been dominated by the Ryder Cup captaincy issue. I always thought that Paul was the right man for the job and so to see him have the honour of being the first Irishman to captain the team is great. I am delighted for him and look forward to playing under him. I know he will do a great job - all you have to do is look at him and see how much it means to him to realise this. He was so nervous on Tuesday before the meeting and as his brother said, he was like someone waiting on his leaving cert results. Paul getting the captaincy only makes me want to make the team even more now.
As for this week, I am looking forward to playing. I am very happy with the work I did with Pete and am hopeful that I can carry it into the tournament. My putting was very good last week and has felt the same in practice this week. I know that if I can hit the ball the way I did last year and putt like I have during my career then there are many big weeks ahead of me. This would be a good week to start.