The first major of the year is upon us already. It seems to have crept up quickly as the season is in full swing now. This is my sixth appearance at Augusta, I almost feel like a veteran!!
I still remember my first visit like it was yesterday. Driving down Magnolia Drive for the first time was special. I was like a little kid, awe-struck at the driveway, the clubhouse and the view of the course. I even had lunch with Sam Snead that day. Now 6 years later I still look forward to coming back, but it is a little more serious. There is more expectation now.
In my 6 years coming here I have never seen the course playing as tough. This is due to the fact that it is playing firm and fast, and this is only the practise days! It feels like it is playing shorter than previous years, but then you hit a reasonable short iron into a green, the ball lands and is still moving two or three seconds later. We're used to the ball just bouncing once and stopping. This time you see it check and then it just keeps moving, because the slopes are so subtle. It's going to be real difficult if the greens stay the way they are, with the firmness and the speed. A lot of precision will be needed to get the ball into the area you want it.
I have spent a lot of time working with Dr. Bob Rotella again this week. He really helps me to get focused on the job in hand and make my practise more worthwhile. I definitely feel better for working with him. I will have a played a total of 36 holes in practise, 9 on Monday, 18 with Graeme McDowell on Tuesday and 9 on Wednesday. The reason behind this is to ensure that I don't wear myself out. On Wednesday afternoon I will be defending my par 3 title. I have won it for the past 2 years. People say it is a bad omen, but I will still be trying. As is customary I will have a guest caddy for the par 3 event. This year I have my old foursomes partner, Jody Fanagan. This will be the end of the fun for the week, after which it is down to some serious work.
As with all tournaments the early rounds are important. The key with them is to try to keep yourself within striking distance. Here at the Masters this really is the case. For the first 63 holes it is all about positioning yourself, almost like a chess game. You don't want to blow your chances on the Thursday or Friday. Here it is all about the back 9 on the Sunday afternoon. You spend all week trying to get yourself into contention when you stand on the 10th hole on Sunday and then see how you get on.
The way the course is playing it suits the players that can hit it a long way and put a lot of spin on the ball.
I am happy with how I have prepared, now all I can hope for is to get myself into contention on Sunday afternoon and see how I perform then. Hopefully I am making room in my wardrobe for a new green jacket!
The first Major of the year is over and it was a disappointing start to the “Major Year” for me. I missed the cut at Augusta for only my second time in my 6 years there. It is never nice to miss a cut, but it is particularly disappointing to miss at Augusta. It is hard to sit at home watching it on television knowing that you could be there. I missed the cut by 1 shot this year - close but not close enough!!
I played with Fuzzy Zoeller and Angel Carberra for the first two rounds. The start of the first round was delayed again; I believe that it is the 10th time this year that a tournament has been interrupted by the weather! I was originally supposed to tee off at 9.50am, however due to thunder storms and heavy rain there were several delays and in an effort to get all the players out the committee decided to have a two tee start at 3.30pm. I teed off the first hole at 3.40pm, hopeful of getting our round finished. We played the first 9 in a good pace and were on course to make the full 18; I started solidly with 8 pars and a birdie on the par 5 second. I played the front nine nicely, the only trouble that I was in was on the 9th, I hit my tee shot into the trees on the left, and from there I pitched it out short of the green. It finished in some casual water; in consultation with the referee I dropped it and then proceeded to get up and down for par.
When we arrived on the 10th tee there was a 15 minute delay, we knew at this stage that we would not make the full 18 holes and that we would have to come back on Friday morning. We managed to get to the 15th green before we were called in, but holes that I played on the back 9 we were a bit up and down. I made a good pitch and putt on the 10th for par. On the 11th I hit it left off the tee and then hit 5 iron to 25 feet for a two putt 4. The 12th was the most disappointing hole of the day for me - I planned to hit a three-quarter 7 iron, to a hole playing 154 yards. Just as I was about to hit it a gust of wind came from behind me, so I stood off it and decided that it was a smooth one. I hit it exactly how I wanted to but it came up 3 yards short, in the face of the bunker and plugged!! I failed to get it up and down. After the disappointment of the bogey on the 12th I followed it up with a birdie on the 13th, after I laid up and then pitched to 3 feet. At this stage it was getting very dark but we carried on.
The 14th is one of the toughest holes on the course and I three putted for bogey. Given the darkness it was nearly impossible to see the line of the putt or to judge the distance, but it was the same for everyone. When we got to the 15th we were told that play would be called while we were on that hole. I decided it was best to hit my tee shot and second shot and then head for home. I did this and hit my second just over the back of the green.
When I came back on Friday morning I nearly chipped the next shot into the water! I holed the putt for birdie, but then bogeyed the 16th and parred both 17 and 18 for a level par round. It could have been better or worse, so it was probably a fair result.
My group had 35 minutes between finishing our 1st round and starting our 2nd round. We started from the 10th which I chipped and putted for par. On the 11th I hit my tee shot into the semi rough on the left. I was left with a 3 iron in - I didn’t quite catch and as a result pulled it a little which as we all know means only one thing on the 11th. It went in the water and I took double bogey 6 to put me 2 over for the tournament. I parred the 12th and was lining up a 4 foot par putt on the 13th green when there was a clap of thunder right above my head - I decided that it was too dangerous to putt out. The referees called us in at this stage. After 3 hours of waiting they opened the range to let us warm up to get going again, but after 30 minutes of our warm up the committee announced that there would be no more play on Friday and that we had to leave the course. I restarted at 8.30 on Saturday morning with a stiff neck despite some treatment.
I made my putt for par on the 13th. On the 14th I hit a lovely 7 iron approach which came up a yard short and ran back down to the front of the green, from where I chipped and two putted. I then three putted the 16th for bogey and failed to get up and down from the front bunker on the 18th for par. As a result of this I was 5 over through 27 holes and on the cut line. My neck was annoying me most on the longer shots, particularly on my drives which meant that I could not hit them full out.
I parred the 1st and then missed from 5 feet for birdie on the 2nd. After pars on the 3rd and 4th I was still 5 over. I hit a really smooth 7 iron into the 5th, but like the 14th it pitched 2 yards short of where I wanted it to and it ran back to the front of the green. From there I hit my first putt to 8 feet and my second lipped out. I was then 6 over and in need of some birdies. On the par 3 6th I hit a 5 iron to 10 feet but again I missed the putt. I pared the 7th and 8th - I hit a bad pitch to 8 which gave me no chance of a birdie and in the end held a good putt for par. Going down the 9th (my 18th) both Ronan (my caddie) and I thought that a birdie would get me into the final 36. I hit my best drive of the day here and followed it up with a great 9 iron to 4 feet which I duly holed. At this stage I was quite sure that I would make the cut on the mark, but I missed by one shot!
I headed home to Ireland on Saturday afternoon disappointed at missing the cut and knowing that I should have made it. I watched the final few holes on TV on Sunday. It certainly was an exciting finish - Chris DiMarco played great and pushed Tiger all the way but in the end it seemed to be Tiger’s day - when you hole a chip shot like the one on 16 you know that it’s your time. For me it is 2 weeks of and then a return to action in New Orleans.