ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 22: Padraig Harrington of Ireland hits his tee shot on the first hole during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hilll Club and Lodge on March 22, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
It was a funny week. My final round was terrible and as a result my finish for the week was too, but when I look back there were a lot of positives to take from it. I know that seems hard to believe after I finished on five over par in a tie for 67th, coming off a final round of 80. However I definitely saw a lot of good things during the week, things I hadn't seen for a while. My chipping and putting were much better - in my first round I didn't play that well but I got up and down pretty much anytime I missed a green. Over the last couple of months this hasn't been the case, because when I missed a green it generally meant a bogey and then I wasn't making enough birdies.
Last week I decided to get back to putting in the time practising my putting and chipping and not spending as much time hitting full shots on the range. It definitely helped as I was more confident than I had been for a while with my short game. My first round was like the old me, getting it up and down no matter where I was. I wasn't able to keep it up all week but, in general, there was a marked improvement in my chipping and putting and more importantly in how I felt about that aspect of my game.
For three rounds I was pretty happy with how things were going; I should have been a few shots better going into the final round but all in all it wasn't too bad. Had I gone out on Sunday and shot a decent last round I would have left Orlando very happy with the week. Instead I shot eight over par for the day. My round got off to a terrible start as I hit my first tee shot out of bounds and ended up taking a double bogey. I then bogeyed the second and pulled my drive into the water on the third. It was just one of those days where things just went wrong on me. I was a bit rushed in my warm up and never really got my head in the right place. I was all over the place for the front nine, nothing went right and I finished it eight over. On my back nine I played some reasonable golf and felt fine but it was too late at that stage.
It was a terrible final round especially as a decent score would have pushed me nicely up the leaderboard. It wasn't what I was expecting, however I am not getting too hung up about it. I was penalised heavily for a couple of bad shots and it took me a while to get my head right after that. I am happy that I am making good progress in terms of getting my short game back and I am now looking forward to next week in San Antonio.
This week I am in Orlando for the Arnold Palmer Invitational tournament at Bay Hill Country Club. It has been five years since I last played here. Unfortunately it hasn't fit into my schedule for the last few years, but this year, with me not being in the World events and the Masters, I have had to adjust my schedule and so it fits in. When I first played here back in the late 90s I found the course extremely tough and it was almost unplayable with the game I had then. Nowadays it is a tough course but playable and one of those courses where I can look back on how much my game has changed over the years.
This week I played the two pro-ams, on Monday and Wednesday. On Monday we only got ten holes in and were called off the course due to a storm in the area. It stayed for the rest of the day and so we never got back out again. On Tuesday I spent most of the day putting and chipping and only a short while hitting shots. I didn't play any holes as I had played the day before and I was in the following day's pro am too. On Wednesday I played in the afternoon and the weather was perfect. I played with a fella called Garry Lyons from Rathfarnham, we didn't know each other but we grew up five minutes apart. We didn't win but we had a good day.
The course on Monday was playing tough as the greens were very firm but after the rain they have softened up substantially. It was much more playable on Wednesday than Monday. It has been lengthened since I was last here in 2009 and also gone back to a par 72 - the 4th and 16th used to be played as par fours whereas they are now par fives again. They are much better holes as par fives as the greens were designed for short clubs. The course is in fantastic condition as always.
I have spent most of my practice time working on my putting and chipping. When I look back at my golf over the years I have always chipped and putted well and in recent years these two areas haven't been great. I figure by putting the time into them on the practice ground it will translate onto the course, because no matter how well you hit the ball from tee to green if you are not chipping and putting well you won't score.
With three tournaments left to qualify for the Masters, time is running out. I have to win one of the next three and I would love to do it here so as to sort it out quickly. I am trying hard to get to Augusta as I will find it very hard sitting at home watching it on TV.