PACIFIC PALISADES, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Padraig Harrington of Ireland tees off on the 12th hole during round one of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club on February 19, 2015 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
It wasn't a great week for me in L.A. last week, but at least it was better than my previous three weeks. Having missed the cut in my first three events I would be lying if I didn't say it was a relief to make it. It's not that I feel making the cut is some great achievement, far from it in fact, but when you haven't made one for a while it can become a big thing, so to make the weekend at least put that to bed.
I made the cut on one over par after rounds of one under on Thursday and two over on Friday. My first round was a pretty fair reflection of how I played, I made a few par putts and then missed a few birdie chances, but I was happy enough with the score. The course played tough and so it put me in a good position to move on.
On Friday I really struggled with the pace of the greens, as I felt that they were much faster than they had been on Thursday afternoon. As a result, I kept giving myself four to six foot putts back for pars, in some cases bogey, all day and even on my last hole I felt I needed to two putt from 20 feet to make the cut. I thought I had rolled my first putt down to the hole safely but it ran by 5 feet. The good thing was that I holed the one back which I felt I needed to in order to make the cut. I putted well from short range thankfully, otherwise I would have shot a very high score. I was happy to get through the round with a 73 as I didn't play as well as in the first round, but it got me through to the weekend.
Having made the cut, my Saturday round was disappointing as it left me a long way down the field with little hope of improving. The course played tough all week, any score better than par was a really good score but five over was certainly a poor score. My final round of level par was a lot better, not just in the sense of a lower score but it was hugely different in how I felt on the course. I felt that I played very solid, making three birdies and three bogeys. Two of my bogeys were from around the green from where I shouldn't have dropped shots. However, the good thing was that I hit a lot of good shots and I felt much better about myself on the course. This change came about on the range after my third round ? whilst I was hitting some balls and working on my focus, I noticed that I was putting a lot of emphasis on needing to focus perfectly in order to hit a good shot. Once I separated the two and accepted that each can be done without the other, I felt much better about myself. I have been beating myself up about my focus and mental approach and the way I judged it was whether I hit a good shot or not. On Sunday I used the idea that I can do both, but that they are not necessarily dependent on each other and it felt much better. I was much happier and relaxed on the course and nowhere near as tough on myself. Even though I only shot level par and finished well down the field I came away feeling some much better about myself and my golf. It seems so simple when I think about it, but up too now I just couldn't see it.
I have one more tournament, the Honda Classic, before I head home for a week. I'm really looking forward to playing to see how I feel on the course again - it was so much better on Sunday that I just want to get out again and put it to the test. So whilst it wasn't a great week in terms of my finishing position, it was a big week in terms of me figuring out a few things.
This week I am in the land of the stars, L.A, for the Northern Trust Open. We play at Rivieria Country Club, one of my favourite courses on Tour and actually one of the best courses that we play all year.
I have taken a more relaxed approach to the week - I took Monday and most of Tuesday off. In fact I only went to the course for an hour to get a new driver. On Wednesday I played the pro-am and then afterwards hit a bucket of balls and did some chipping, bunker and putting practice. I certainly can't be accused of overdoing it, but it's been great as Caroline is out and we got to relax together.
Off all the weeks that I can take this approach, this event is probably the best as the course doesn't change from year to year and I have played here many times so know it well. The pro-am was my first look at the course and as ever it is in great shape. The weather has been great here for a while and so it is probably in the best shape I have seen it. It's playing tough as the greens are firm, even coming off the fairway it is hard to stop the ball. The forecast is good for the week so it is unlikely to get any softer.
After missing the cut the way I did last week I am ready to get back into action. I struggled off the tee in Monterey, which had a bit to do with my driver breaking on Thursday, but I have a new one that I like and so I am feeling good about things. When I looked back at last week I was happy to see that I made a lot of birdies, I just need to keep the disasters off the card.
I really like this venue and so what better place to get my year going. I am playing late/early with Zac Blair and Jason Gore.