To go to the Shell Houston Open and miss the cut was extremely disappointing. Missing any cut is frustrating but this one meant that my Masters chances were over for this year. It was my last chance to qualify, which I knew was a tough task but now that it is final, the realisation that I will be watching it on television is sinking in. It will be very strange not to be there, having played every year since 2000. I love Augusta and the test that it provides - I have always said that it is the ultimate test for professionals. I'll watch every shot of it as it is a fantastic tournament, but it will be tough.
I got off to a nice start last week, shooting three under par in the first round. It was a solid score and really should have been a couple better, but it was still a comfortable round. Whilst I made six birdies and two bogeys, it really should have been five under par as I was four under playing the eighth hole (my 17th) and I had a five wood in for my second. I hit a poor shot that ended up in the hazard but not the water. It was still a good birdie chance but I hit a poor chip and only made par. Then another poor chip on the ninth cost me a bogey and left me three under. I gave myself a lot of chances in the round which I was happy about; I would have liked to convert more of them but I was still happy that I was creating chances. After the round I did some practice with Pete and then spent some time on my putting and chipping.
Friday was a tougher day than Thursday, it was very windy and so the cut was moving out all day. I hit the ball nicely in my warm-up but when I got on the course I was fighting a left in my head. I felt that I was going to hit it left and then ended up missing a lot of shots right as a result. I made a par on the first from the right rough, on the second I hit it left off the tee, but it was ok and I hit a wedge to 15 feet and just missed. On the third I missed from five feet for birdie and then I only parred the fourth. However, it felt like I had dropped a shot only being level par. Then I did drop a couple of shots on the fifth and sixth, but got one back on the seventh. The eighth was my downfall again, I was in the middle of the fairway hitting a three wood to the green and pulled it left into a bunker 50 yards from the green. From there I hit it into the next bunker and then from there I hit it over the green into the water and ended up taking an eight to put me one over par for the tournament.
At this stage I was well outside the cut but I rallied back with birdies on the 10th, 11th and 13th with a bogey on the 12th. I was one under standing on the 15th tee about to hit my drive, but when I took the club away I couldn't hold it with my middle finger, which felt like cramp. I thought it would go away if I stopped for a minute or two but when I went to try again it was the same. I had to call for a referee in order to get a physio out to look at it. During this time, we let the group behind go through while I got treatment. The physio came out and massaged it for a while but we weren't able to figure out what it was. In the end I had to continue on, it was a little better but not significantly. I hit my tee shot right into the trees and could only advance it 120 yards up the fairway. I came up short with my third and then chipped it into the bunker. In the end I chipped in for a bogey to go back to level par. I then parred 16 and finished bogey, triple bogey for a round of 79.
I'm not sure what caused my finger problem - it may have been my tee shot on the 14th that I caught a little heavy, but I would have to say that it had a big part in my missing the cut. It definitely was the cause of my bogey on 15, then I was trying to make a birdie on the 16th and 17th as the cut was one under at that stage and not looking like going to level.
It was a poor way to end my four week trip to the US, so I am looking forward to getting home for a two week break to refresh the batteries and to see everyone. It will be strange being home during Masters week but that's the way it is.
I am in Houston this week for the Shell Houston Open. I have played here numerous times now and enjoy the course. Normally this is my warm up for Augusta but this year it is my last chance to qualify. To make it to The Masters I have to win here this week, anything else and I am going home. I know what I need to do but I am not thinking too much about it, I am concentrating on this week.
Pete Cowen is here this week so I spent a bit of time with him on Monday and Tuesday working on my long game. There we're a couple of things that I wanted to ask him and see what he thought. By the end of it we had cleared up my questions and found a way for me to do what I needed without really thinking too much about it. I spent the two days working on it so that on Wednesday I could leave it alone and get my head right for playing golf. As much as it makes me hit the ball better it has not been my long game that has caused the problems, it is my short game that needs to improve.
Over the three days I have spent a lot of time on the putting green working on my putting, mainly from eight feet and in. My putting stats are miserable reading but the funny thing is that I don't feel too bad about my putting. I don't feel that I am hitting bad putts or miss-reading the greens but yet I am not holing putts. To try and solve this I have just been working hard on the practice green - I reckon the more putts I see going in the more likely I am to start holing putts on the course. Along with my putting I have spent a lot of time practising my chipping as I know the closer I chip it the better I will feel about my putting.
I have played 27 holes in practice, nine on Tuesday and then the pro-am on Wednesday. Pete walked around with me on Tuesday and he was very happy with how I played. On Wednesday I felt that I hit the ball very nicely too. Also, the good thing about the pro-am was that I held a few putts, hopefully it keeps going during the week.
The course is in great condition as always, there is very little rough and lot of run-offs around the greens. You would love to play as good a conditioned course as this every week. It is a good test though as there is plenty of water and it also blows quite hard at this time of year. The combination can make for tough scoring.
I am feeling very happy with my long game and while I don't feel there is anything wrong with my putting, I know that I am not holing them. I am hoping that the work I have done this week starts to pay off and that I can give myself a chance to win here come Sunday afternoon. If I can get myself into contention in the final round I am happy to take my chances. I know my form hasn't been good over the last few weeks but I really feel that I am very close to having a good week and then getting on a great run. This would be a nice week to start it off.
I am early on Thursday and late Friday. There tends to be storms here in the afternoons so getting out early on the first day is nice. Hopefully I can get off to a good start and take it from there.