MARANA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Padraig Harrington of Ireland hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain on February 21, 2013 in Marana, Arizona. Round one play was suspended on February 20 due to inclimate weather and is scheduled to be continued today. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
This year's Matchplay ended with pretty much the same result as for the last number of years for me. Since it moved to Tucson I haven't got past the first round too often and this year was no different, other than that I got to play on Thursday because we were snowed off on Wednesday. It probably the furthest I have got in the last four years!
It was always going to be a tough match against Graeme McDowell. We both battle hard and never give up so it always had the potential of being a very tight match. In the end it was, but Graeme beat by two holes. We managed to get started on Wednesday just before the snow, but by the time we got to the first green the snow arrived and we were called in. Originally I thought we would be back out within an hour or so but as it turned out we were done for the day. The course was covered in snow and the temperature was too low for it to melt. It actually took until lunchtime on Thursday for us to get back out on the course.
I got off to a good start by winning the first hole with a par but a missed a five footer on the next hole and gave back my advantage. We halved two holes and then I three putted both the fifth and sixth holes to lose them both. I made the turn in two down which was poor as I had hit the ball fine but putted terribly. I struggled to trust my lines and as a result I ended up hitting some weak putts. A bad drive with a three wood on the tenth cost me a double bogey and another loss and at this stage it was looking like an early bath for me, even more so when I hit a terrible drive on the eleventh way left into the wasteland. I could only hack it back to the fairway and then hit a three wood left of the green. Graeme was in the green side bunker in two and took three to get down and I got it up and down to steal a half. It felt like a win and changed the momentum of the game and I then started a comeback, winning the 12th with a par, the 13th with a birdie and then Graeme conceded the 14th. This put us back to all square with four to play and we both birdied the 15th to stay level. However the deciding blow came on the 16th. I hit a nice tee shot but it drifted just right of the green and Graeme hit his tee shot to 18 feet. I had an awkward second shot as I had to come up a steep bank to a tight pin, which I decided to putt it as I felt it was the safest option to get it within four feet. However I ended up hitting it too hard and left myself a ten footer for a par which ended up being for a half. However, I missed it and went one down. We halved the 17th after both of us two putted from about 40 feet and meant that we went to the last with myself one down and in need of making a birdie, but I wasn't able to find it after pushing my drive into the wasteland, therefore ending up being a two hole loss in the first round. It was very disappointing to lose as it always is, but to lose the way I did was even more so. Having got it back to level I handed Graeme the advantage on the 16th and then hit some poor shots in the last two holes. In the end it was my putting that cost me, I missed two many putts in the first ten holes and left myself with lots to do.
Losing in the first round meant that I was relying on how others get on this week for me to stay in the top fifty of the world rankings and gain an automatic spot for the WGC Cadillac Championship. There were about six guys that could pass me and knock me out. All bar one went out by the second round, the only one left when I was flying home on Friday night was Shane Lowry. He had to get to the last four to get into the top 50 and push me out. It was tough one. I was talking to him after he won his second round match and laughing about the predicament. I wanted to see him do well but obviously I wanted to stay in the top 50 so as to get into the field for Doral. It would have been so much easier if I had won a match and then I wouldn't have been waiting on other results. Graeme ended up beating Shane in the third round which helped me but left him short of getting into Doral.
It was a disappointing week again, which makes three in a row after a good start to my first trip to the States a few weeks ago in Phoenix. I am coming away from Tucson knowing that I need to do some more work on my putting and to get myself to trust my lines. Once I trust what I am seeing then I hit a good putt, which I will be working on during my week off.
I am in Tucson for the Accenture Match Play Championship this week, the first of the World Golf Championships. I missed this tournament last year as I wasn't in the top 64 in the world, so it’s good to be back. Unfortunately I missed the cut last week but it did mean that I got here on Saturday night and I was able to do some practice with Pete Cowen and get out on the course on Sunday. It was a nice day to be here as there weren't many people around and I got some good work done with Pete and then played the back nine on my own at a leisurely pace. I was able to spend time chipping around the greens and hitting plenty of putts.
On Monday I was filming an ad for Wilson which meant getting up very early and I didn't get back to the course until nearly three o'clock. When I got back I spent about an hour working on my putting, holing three, four and five footers and working on my pace. I didn't hole putts last week even though I felt that I putted ok. I have spent a lot of time over the last few weeks working on my alignment and it has definitely helped to make me more comfortable when I stand over a putt.
As there is no pro-am this week I organised a game with Shane Lowry. Match Play is an unusual format for us to play as pro's so to get us into the right frame of mind we played a match against each other. I managed to take the bragging rights which I enjoyed and it was good to play a game as it has been a while since I played match play.
I am playing Graeme in the first round this week, we could have stayed at home and played this match! Not only could we have done this but Rory and Shane could have as they are playing each other too. All matches in this tournament are tough ones. We will all be trying very hard to win every match we play.
This hasn't been a great hunting ground for me over the years, but hopefully this year will be different. I’m going to try to be more care free and not try so hard and enjoy each match.