ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 28: Padraig Harrington of Ireland drives off the 18th tee during the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on The Old Course, at St Andrews on September 28, 2013 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
The Dunhill Links Championship was a funny week - looking back at it went, I am thinking about what could have been had I putted better but then I am also thinking that I could easily have been having a day off on Sunday. The scoring this year was brilliant, the weather was great, but even so the quality of the scoring across the board was hard to believe. I made the cut by a shot on ten under par, but normally you are in contention with a score like that. When I came off the course on Saturday after shooting eight under par for the day I was amazed at how close the cut was to ten under for the tournament.
I started at Carnoustie on Thursday and you couldn't ask for a better day to play it. The course was at its easiest but I wasn't able to take advantage of it. I was playing nicely but just wasn't able to make a birdie. I hit the pin with my pitch on the fourth and it ended up 25 feet away, then I missed a five footer on the fifth for birdie and didn't get it up and down from the greenside bunker on the sixth, which again would have been a birdie. These three holes weren't disastrous but it meant that I never got any momentum going and had no buffer for the tougher holes. Where my round really fell apart was at the 12th, where I was hitting a five wood for my second shot. I got distracted, duffed it into a bush and then ended up three putting for a double bogey. This put me two over, which felt like a lot more with how the course was playing. I then preceded to bogey my last two holes to shoot four over par. It left me a mammoth task to make the cut, the only good thing was that I had two more days to do it rather than the normal one.
Friday was lot better for me and again the weather was brilliant. I was at Kingsbarns which when there is no wind really feels that you can go low. I played very nicely and gave myself an awful lot of chances for birdie. I made seven birdies in all and one bogey to shoot six under par and even after that it was the worst score I could have shot. I three putted three times and missed another couple of short birdie putts. However it did mean that I had given myself the chance to make the cut now that I was on two under, but it was still a big task as I knew I would have to shoot six or seven under around St Andrews on Saturday.
For my third round I got off to a bad start by missing a four footer for birdie on the first hole, which is not what you want when you need to shoot a low score. However I made one on the second which got me going and followed it up with five more birdies on the front nine to be out in eight under for the tournament. Another birdie on the 10th got me moving in the right direction. However I drove it into the gorse on the 12th and made a bogey, which stopped me in my tracks. I missed a six footer on the 14th for birdie and then gave myself another chance on the 15th for a birdie. When I walked onto the green I noticed that the cut had gone to nine under which really surprised me. Seeing that gave me a little kick and I holed it to get to nine under. Two pars on the 16th and 17th and then a birdie on the last got me to 10 under par and playing on the final day.
My last round was a disappointing one under par and I struggled with the putter again. I missed a few very makeable birdie putts and a short par putt. In the end I finished on 11 under par and in a tie for 40th.
My golf from tee to green was good all week, I made plenty of birdies after the first round and had lots more chances. The problem I had was with the putter, I struggled to see the breaks on the greens and then as a result I wasn't able to trust my lines. It was very frustrating as I had a lot of very good chances over the last few days. I could easily have been eight or nine shots better over the last three rounds alone. However it was good to make the cut after the first round I shot, from been four over par to get it back to ten under in two rounds was good going. I am happy with this but I know that I have to figure out the problem with my trust on the greens. I am off for two weeks now which gives me time to do some work on it. The other areas of my game are good so if I can sort this out I know that I can have a really good finish to my year.
This week I am playing one of my favourite tournaments of the year, the Dunhill Links Championship. I have played in a Dunhill tournament here every year since I turned pro; originally in the Dunhill Cup team event for Ireland and now in its current Pro-am format. I have had great success over the years here, winning both the individual and the team pro-am event twice. Links golf is a form of golf that I really enjoy and then on top of that I play well with J.P. McManus in the pro-am event side. It's great to be able to play with a good friend, especially when you are competing and it's nice to know there is someone pulling for you as much as you are for yourself. I always find that this week I am more interested in the team's score rather than my own which invariably helps me perform better.
I was off last week and as usual did quite a bit of practice. I worked a lot on my set up, trying to get myself to stand up a bit taller to the ball and bend over it more. I had noticed that I was getting a little sloppy when looking at my set up. Other than that, I continued to work on what I have been doing all year with Pete Cowen. In terms of my short game, I spent a lot of time practising my chipping and trying to shorten my backswing. By the end if the week I was getting a really nice strike on my chips again.
I got to St. Andrews on Monday afternoon and spent a couple of hours working with Pete on the range. I hadn't seen him since the USPGA so it was good to catch up and see what he thought of the work I have been doing. He was pretty happy with it, there was nothing really sticking out just small things that I have to watch more than anything.
On Tuesday I played 18 holes at St. Andrews and then on Wednesday I played 9 holes at Kingsbarns. On both days I played a game against some of the Irish amateurs. It's a hard school and you have to be on top of your game to win the money. On Tuesday afternoon I helped launch Wilson's new line of FG Tour M3 clubs, which went great. Every year they are producing better and better clubs and its hard to believe that they can actually improve them but somehow they figure it out and always manage to.
In terms of my game, it is where it has been all year. I am happy with how I am hitting it on the range and in practice, I just have to bring it to the course. I would like to have some more speed as I am not swinging it as fast as I know I can but that is something that will come back of its own accord. The main area of focus for me is my head and getting the right level of intensity into my game. I am very happy that I know what I have to do and am confident that I can get it right. The key is not to get annoyed when it doesn't go as I would like it too.
I am looking forward to getting going this week, I love the format and always enjoy playing with J.P. We would both love to add another Dunhill to our collection. This year we start at Carnoustie, followed by Kingsbarns and then St. Andrews. It's nice to get Carnousite out of the way early, which is nothing to do with the course, just the fact that it takes an hour or so to get there.