SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 06: Padraig Harrington of Ireland hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the Valero Texas Open held at the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio on April 6, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
My first trip to San Antonio was a good one. I went there to get myself into the right frame of mind for the Masters and I would have to say that it was a success. I finished in a tie for tenth in the end, but could have been better as I definitely left a couple of shots behind most days. However that is exactly what makes my playing there so important.
Every tournament that I play in I am trying to win, but the ones before a major have another aspect to them. I am trying to get myself competitive for the following week and also looking to see what areas of my game need to be worked on before the major starts. Last week ticked all the boxes bar a win - I got myself into contention for the final round and I got to see the areas that need some practice. I have gone away from there knowing that I need to do a bit of work on my putting and bunker play and to make sure that I do not get too hard on myself. I can slip into trying too hard and so getting a little tough on myself, but for a major the key is to be patient and just let things happen.
In terms of the tournament I felt that I played fine - I didn't feel overly confident with my game at the start of the week although I did score well. We got a mixed bag with the weather - day one was freezing and windy; I felt I played my worst and yet I scored my best. I think when the weather is bad I tend to be much more focused on one shot and not thinking about what is coming up, so I am much more "in the moment". As the week went on I played some good golf and some average golf, but in general I managed to keep it in play and take advantage when I hit good shots. In the end I finished on seven under par and a share of tenth spot, although with a little more confidence on some shots I could have finished further up the leaderboard. It was great having Dave Alred there as we got some great work done in the evenings. He wouldn't let me practice immediately after my rounds; he insisted on me resting and then coming back at 6.30pm for an hours practice. Each evening we worked on areas of my game that will be put to the test at Augusta, namely my wedge play and my short game and with the sessions being short it meant that they had real meaning.
Overall I feel it was a good week as I am now heading to Augusta feeling prepared and ready to play.
This week I am in San Antonio, Texas for the Valero Texas Open. It is my first time here as it has never fitted into my schedule until now. As always I want to play the week before a major so as to be competitive, but I am here this week trying to win, with an eye on next week. Much of my practice will be focused on shots that I will be playing next week, whereas normally I am totally focused on the week in hand. I got here on Monday evening after having a week off at home, where even though it was cold, I still managed to get a lot of practice done.
I spent Tuesday morning working on getting a new driver, which took a couple of hours of testing to find one that I liked and worked. Once I got it, I played nine holes so as to see what it was like on the course. I always want to see how a club works on the course as over the years I have hit clubs well on the range but poorly on the course, but I was very happy with how it went during the nine holes I played. I played the back nine because the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday was for thunderstorms and I was due to play from the 1st hole in the pro-am on Wednesday - I was worried that the pro-am could be reduced to nine holes if the weather came in and I wanted to see all of the course.
As predicted on Wednesday the weather came in and the pro-am was reduced to nine holes. I was called in from the seventh and after two hours we went back out to play the eighth and ninth, which made my decision to play the back nine on Tuesday all the better. The course here is designed by Greg Norman, which was built to test professionals. It is a tough course, but if you play well you can score. However if you are not quite on your game you can struggle. There are some funky things on the course, a bunker in the middle of the seventeenth green and the bunkers are built in such a way that you rarely get a flat stance. It is a very good test, there are no gimmy holes and everyone of them has something there to penalise you if you get complacent.
This week I have Dave Alred with me to help get me in the right frame of mind for the Masters. The work I do with Dave is very conducive to getting ready for competitive action. All his practice drills are designed to be competitive and match what a tournament is like. We haven't got as much accomplished so far this week due to the bad weather but over the next four days we will get a lot of good work done for next week.
I would have liked to have got more practice in on Wednesday but unfortunately the weather put paid to that. I am at a bit of a disadvantage to much of the field as it is my first time here, however I like the course and am looking forward to playing a tournament around it.