IRVING, TX - MAY 16: Padraig Harrington hits a shot during the first round of the 2013 HP Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons Resort on May 16, 2013 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
I finished in a tie for 44th at the HP Byron Nelson Classic, which is certainly not where I was looking to finish going there or to any other tournament for that matter. However when I was four over par with 13 holes to play on Friday I would have taken it, though having then made the cut I am disappointed not to have moved up the leaderboard more, especially on Sunday, as I played very well and gave myself plenty of good chances for birdies. I went there knowing that I had a lot of work to do on my focus and routines as they had been poor in Sawgrass the week before. During practice I spent a great deal of time working on this area - I figured out a few things early in the week that would help but as with any change it takes time. I felt very uncomfortable on the course with it during the week but I could see the benefit.
When I finished on Friday I was hopeful of making the cut but I knew it would be tight. I had finished on level par after shooting two rounds of level par. To shoot level par was actually a very good effort as I had two treble bogeys, after hitting it out of bounds both times. My first round was going nicely until the 14th and 15th - I was two under par going into these holes and two over coming out of them - I bogeyed the 14th and then trebled the 15th by hitting my second shot out of bounds. At two under par I was doing fine but at two over I was well outside the cut, then when I failed to birdie the sixteenth I was quite annoyed with myself. Thankfully I had a big finish by making a birdie 2 on the 17th and then chipping in for a birdie on the last to shoot level par.
My second round went a little different - I started on the 10th and after a treble bogey on the 12th and then a bogey on the 14th I was four over for the tournament and really struggling. I was hitting it all over the place and feeling very uncomfortable with my routine, not what you want when you need to shoot four under for the rest of the holes to make the cut. However, I holed a long putt on the 18th for birdie which got me going and on my back nine I made four more birdies to be 1 under for the tournament playing my last hole. A poor wedge shot to my last hole left me a difficult first putt which I left well short and then I missed the second putt to end up shooting level par for the day and the tournament. I had a long afternoon watching the scores as the cut line was moving from one under to level. It is definitely more stressful sitting watching it than playing but in the end I made the cut on the mark - I was delighted as it meant that I had two more days to work on my routines in tournament play.
My weekend was much better even though I was one shot worse than the first two days. I felt a lot more comfortable on the course on Saturday and more so again on Sunday. On the last day I played very well but just didn't hole enough putts - I had a lot of chances and could have shot 66 easily, which would have been a very good score in the conditions. So even though I shot one over par for the week and finished well down the field I am leaving feeling very positive. I got a lot of good work done and look forward to working more on it; my routines felt a lot more comfortable on Sunday and as a result I played much better.
It has been a long three week stint, having missed one cut and finishing well down the field in the other two. I had a lot of early mornings and long practice sessions. As a result of this I am very tired. I was due to play in the BMW PGA Championship this coming week but I have withdrawn as a fourth consecutive event would not be good for my game. I am now going to have two weeks off before coming back for the build up to the US Open, but for now though I am looking forward to some rest at home.
This week I am back in Dallas for the HP Byron Nelson Classic. I played here last year for the first time and really liked it, so it wasn't hard to decide to come back. I took it easy on Monday as last week was a long week - I was up early every day in Sawgrass and did quite a bit of practice. It was actually very nice not rushing to get up on Monday morning, but in the end I got to the range about 4pm and spent a couple of hours working on my routines and focus, which weren't good last week and so are my priority for this week.
On Tuesday I played nine holes and again spent quite a bit of time on the range working on my focus. I have to say that it is a tiring form of practice, much more so than just standing there hitting ball after ball working on your swing. After a couple of hours I was actually quite mentally tired. I have been working on keeping my focus and not getting distracted over the ball and to do so I have changed my routine a little. I have changed it many times over the years and the first week is always difficult as it is different and so can be a little off putting.
I like the course here in Dallas, it can get windy which makes it quite tough. There are some really tough holes on the course and none more so than the last two. The 17th is a tough par three with water in front of the green and the wind is normally into you. In practice I have been hitting five irons in there and with such a long club it is quite an intimidating shot. The last hole is probably the toughest on the course - there is water down the left for 250 yards and all the way to the green. Again the wind is in from the left and with the water down the left side and trees on the right it is a really tough driving hole. Then the second shot is into the wind to a green with water in front of it, so this hole can cause a lot of pain and angst.
Last week I did some work with Pete Cowen and he was very happy with how I am swinging it. I couldn't really complain about how I struck it, but as I said my main problem was getting distracted and losing my focus, which I have done some good work on this week. As always, you never know how a routine is until you try it out in a tournament so I am looking forward to playing and seeing how it goes. I know that my game is in good shape, I have got some good practice in on my chipping and bunker play as well this week and I am feeling a lot better about it.
Overall I am happy with the work I have done in practice and look forward to putting it into play.