PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - MARCH 02: Padraig Harrington of Ireland poses with the trophy after winning The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa - Champion Course on March 2, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
I have had a couple of days to sit down to write my review of my latest win so that I could relax and enjoy the feeling! My win in Indonesia in December was key for me as it showed me that I was on the right road and this win at the Honda Classic confirms to me what I am doing is correct. Winning in December had a huge bearing on this win, as I knew that once I got myself into contention I was still able to hit the big shots. It?s amazing what winning does for you, it gives you a huge amount of confidence and while Indonesia wasn?t as big a win as this one in terms of my career, it is every bit as significant as it reminded me of how to win.
The funny thing about this win is that it may well be the first time in my career that I called it myself. I felt on Sunday of the Northern Trust that I had turned the corner with my mental game and I said to Ronan and some friends of ours on Sunday night that I was going to give the Honda Classic a good run. I have been struggling with my mental side for a long time and on Saturday evening last week I managed to get a few things clear in my head. It was definitely much better in Palm Beach, not all the time but for at least 50% of the time.
Going to Honda last week, I knew that it was a tough course and one that I haven?t had the best of records on, but I felt confident that I had hit on the solution in L.A. and was looking forward to putting it to the test. Along with my mental solution, I got to see Pete Cowen, which was great as he was happy with how my swing was looking and what I was working on.
I played early on Thursday - normally in the mornings there it is calm but not on Thursday. It was blowing really strong and there was a threat of rain. We were lucky in terms of the rain in that it stayed away all day. During my first nine holes I hit some ropey shots but I chipped and putted quite well, although I did miss a four footer for par on the second. I?m not going to bore you with every shot but I will say that in my first round I got a couple of breaks in the first three holes that made a difference. I could have been out of bounds on the second and I could have lost a ball on the third. I ended up playing the first three holes in level par when another day I could have been three over par. Its things like this that make the difference when you look back on them. On my back nine I played very solidly, hit a lot of good shots and my game felt good. I ended up shooting three under, which on that course is a real good score. The fact that the rain didn?t come meant that it remained windy for the afternoon starters, which was also a good break for me.
Friday was a long day of doing very little for me. I was due to play just after 1pm but there were a few delays for the morning starters, so I didn?t get to tee off until 4.50 pm. The thing about teeing off at that time was that we knew we weren?t getting finished so there was no trying to get to the last hole. I got six holes in before play was called for the night. We came back early the next day, I continued with my good play and got myself to nine under par with two holes to play. However two poor drives cost me bogeys on both holes and I wasn?t able to reach the green on either hole from the rough. It left me on seven under and leading after two rounds and when I got to the range to warm-up for my third round I hit one shot and the hooter went again. As it turned out this was the big storm and play was called off for the day.
Sunday, which is normally the final day, became day three. Going out in the third round felt a little bit like a final round and I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn?t. I played 25 holes on Sunday and they weren?t very good as I struggled with my putter ?big time?. I had been struggling a bit during the week but nothing like this. I managed to fight hard in the third round to shoot one over par but it was a real effort. However it was the following seven holes of the final round that were devastating. I three putted the fourth and then double bogeyed the sixth from just short of the green. When the hooter went I had never been so happy to get off a course, as it gave me the chance to do some putting practice and to regroup. I was back to three under and four behind the leaders but there were quite a few guys between the leaders and me now.
I was really disappointed with my scoring for the day and in particular my putting. I went for dinner with Shane Lowry and Stephen Grant, which was great as it took my mind off it and by Monday morning I was in a much better place. I felt that I had 11 holes to recover and that I was now chasing and Ronan reminded me on the 10th that I would have taken being four shots behind with nine to play at the start of the week. It all changed on the 11th, I got a good break not to be in the water off the tee and then with my second shot. I took these breaks and made birdie and that started my run of four consecutive. All day I was reminding myself what Caroline had said to me, that I wouldn?t want anyone else to hit a putt for me, and it?s true.
On this course there is always drama over the closing stretch, as it is so tough. Mine came on the 17th. I was hitting a three-quarter 5 iron, the same club I had hit on 15, but I changed my mind on what I was doing with it just before I hit it and ended up hitting a terrible shot into the water. I was disappointed with myself but I didn?t let it get to me, as I knew I wasn?t out of it. I had to make sure I made no worse than a double-bogey five and then try and birdie the last. Thankfully I managed that too!
It felt great to hole the birdie putt I needed on the last; to do something like that when you have to is a super feeling and it gives you great confidence. Going into the play-off I was probably a little defensive on the first hole, the 18th. I knew that Daniel had a big advantage, as he is extremely long. I felt that I played that hole a little bit like a guy that was happy to be there and that was hoping to get him to the next hole. As it turned out we did get to the 17th again and at this stage I said to myself that I was there to win and to take on the shot. After much delay due to a number of carts and people wandering around, I hit another three-quarter 5 iron but this time to three feet. Daniel put his in the water and I ended up having three putts to win. I took two!
It feels great to have won and now that I have done so I have allowed myself to think of the things that come with it ? The Masters, The Players, WGC Bridgestone and I am exempt for 3 years on the PGA Tour, but above all that the confidence a win brings. It has been tough at times but the last couple of months, with my two wins, have made it worthwhile. I never doubted myself, I know a lot of people did and many asked me why I would do things differently, but then that wouldn?t be me. Just like I couldn?t make winning here easy, it?s always the hard way for me. I don?t feel any different now that I have won, as I always felt that the win was around the corner. Little did I know that it was going to be a nearly 7 year corner and then, like buses, two come along one after the other!
I feel that I have found the mental solution that I have been searching for and that I will kick on from here. I know that it won?t work all of the time, but that some of the time it is good enough. For now though I am home for a week and I intend to enjoy my latest win because, as I have found out throughout my career, you don?t win as often as you think.
This week I am in Palm Beach, Florida for the Honda Classic, which is the last event of my five week run. This event was my first PGA Tour win back in 2005 so I have good memories of it, even if I won on a different course. Now we play on probably one of the hardest courses of the year, PGA National. It is a big tough course with plenty of water and heavy rough, set up like an old US Open course. Any score of par or better is good playing.
I have stuck to my new regime of taking it easy and trying to get some rest. I traveled on Monday and then spent forty minutes with Pete Cowen on Tuesday, then left it at that. As I was in the Wednesday pro-am, I wasn't too pushed on seeing the course on Tuesday. I watched the Manchester City and Barcelona game and then went out for dinner with Bob Rotella. It was my first time seeing both Pete and Bob this year. Pete gave me a few pointers but in general thought what I was doing was right. Bob and myself had a good chat over dinner about what I am doing and I explained to him that I feel that I turned the corner last weekend. By separating my mental approach from the outcome of a good or bad shot it made a huge difference to me. He agreed with what I was saying and was happy to hear that I had found the solution myself.
On Wednesday I played the pro-am and then did some practice afterwards. Pete walked with me for seven holes to see what was happening on the course. He noticed a couple of things that I had been feeling, mainly that my right side gets a little left behind and so I have to flip my hands. After the pro-am I hit some shots doing a Happy Gilmore, which gets my right side through without thinking about it. The course played as easy as it gets here as it wasn't windy and it still felt like a big tough course. Whilst we didn't do any good in the pro-am, we had a good time. This tournament has grown into one of the bigger events on the PGA Tour over the last few years and the fact that it is the week before a WGC event has made it enticing for the players to come and play. The field is so good here these days that it's almost like a mini-major. It's not just the players that turn up because it is the first week of the Florida swing, you get managers, trainers and media. When I walked onto the range on Tuesday it was a scrum to get somewhere to hit, however, all this adds to the tournament and gives it a bigger feel.
I am off early on Thursday and late Friday. I'm really looking forward to playing as I felt so much better after my round in LA on Sunday - I want to get back out there and put it to the test again.