It's back to work after 2 weeks off. I'm back in America for the next 2 weeks - I play the Zurich New Orleans Classic this week and then the Wachovia Championship in North Carolina the following week. It is my first time playing both of these tournaments and also my first time in New Orleans. This weeks event coincides with the jazz festival, however I am not a jazz fan! During my two weeks off I took it easy for a few days and went to see my coach for a couple of days. I was also sick for a while as well and as as result I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but it was still nice to be home.
I arrived in New Orleans on Monday evening and played 18 holes on the Tuesday and 18 in the pro am on Wednesday. It is a new venue for this tournament, a Pete Dye design. It is good for me that its a new course as it means that everyone is playing it for the first time, so everyone is on equal footing. The course measures approx. 7,500 yards and is a par 72. All the par 3's measure over 200 yards. The par 5's vary from 540 to 604 yards. The last hole is the longest hole on the course at 604 yards with water all down the right, certainly an interesting finishing hole! The par 4's have a good mixture to them. There are some short ones and then plenty measuring over 470 yards. In practise the course was playing every inch of its yardage as it rained on Monday evening making the fairways very soft. As a result it really suits the long hitters - I know I didn't hit to many wedges in practise.
It is a very flat course with lots of bunkers and water. Some of the bunkers are barely big enough to stand in! The way the course is playing and with how the greens are designed I feel that it will be a week for a good short game. Players will be hitting longer clubs into the greens and so they will miss more than normal. One of the toughest holes on the course is the 4th hole. It has water all down the right and trees on the left. It measures 482 yards. Another good hole is the finishing hole, it measures 604 yards again with water down the right and bunkers left. A lot could happen on this hole!
My last tournament was the Masters where I missed the cut. A disappointing performance but its over now. As a result of my win at the Honda I have moved up in category, which means that I now get better tee times and more TV pairings. This week I am drawn with Todd Hamilton and Davis Love for the first 2 rounds. We tee off at 12.27 on Thursday and 7.57 on Friday.
Overall I like the course, it is a good a good design with an interesting mixture of holes. It tests your long game and your short game, so the key is to hit it well off the tee and chip and putt well.
The aim for the first few days is to get into contention and then see how it goes from there.
It was a tough week for me on the course. I didn't play very well but I managed to get it around. It was one of those weeks where you just have to get on with it and grind it out. Nothing felt good. Every shot seemed hard, a complete struggle. Bring back the weeks where it just comes easy!I managed to finish 9th - I can't believe it! Considering how I played it was a great finish. It felt like my first week back after my winter break.
I was drawn with Davis Love and Todd Hamilton for the first two rounds. My game felt terrible all day, like it was my first week back. However it started well enough when I birdied the par 5 second, eagled the par 5 seventh after a drive and 3 iron to 15 feet and then birdied the eighth to go 4 under after pitching to 5 feet. The 9th, a tough par 3 playing over 220 yards, was my first bogey. I hit a 5 iron into the green side trap and failed to get up and down. I got the shot straight back on the 10th - I hit wedge from 120 yards from the fairway bunker to 18 feet and holed. A hooked drive on 12 cost me a bogey but a long putt on the 16th got me back to 4 under for the day. Two pars to finish got me in at 4 under. I couldn't believe it but I was delighted because the way I played I should have shot over par. At 4 under I was 3 behind the leader, Chris DiMarco.
It was an early start and we were on the tee at 7.42 am. It started well again with a birdie on the 10th, my first hole. I didn't feel any better about my game. I struggled to hit it how I wanted but still I was getting it around and holing out well. I played the back nine in level par with a birdie on the 7th after a bogey on the 4th. It meant a 71 for the second round and 5 under in total, 6 behind Arjun Atwal on 11 under.
The third round was business as usual for the Tour. We were supposed to start at 11 am but were delayed until 4 pm due to thunderstorms. I was paired with James Driscoll and Sean O'Hare, both rookies on Tour. We managed to get 11 holes played before being called in for the evening and it was the worst I played all week. I bogeyed the 3rd to go back to 4 under but followed it up with a birdie on the 4th and two more on the 6th and 8th after wedging to a foot. I felt very jumpy on the course - it was probably all the waiting around that did it. I couldn't wait to get in, it felt like I was about to have a disaster at any stage. I was hitting it both left and right. Our last hole of the evening was the par 5 11th where I nearly hit it out of bounds from the tee. From the trees I hit 5 wood over the back of the green, from there I chipped to 7 feet and managed to hole it, even after pulling the putt!
We restarted at 7.30 the next morning and I played the last 7 holes in 1 over with a three putt bogey on my first hole, the 12th, and pars on the rest. The funny thing is that the morning play was the best I played all week. Golf is a funny game! I finished with a 70 for 7 under and 5 off the lead held by DiMarco.
I started where I finished off in the morning, hitting it nicely and putting badly. I missed from 4 feet at the first for birdie. I made a chip and putt birdie on the second, missed a 12 footer for birdie on the 3rd and bogeyed the 4th after a great shot just ran over the back. For the rest of the round I played and putted badly. I bogeyed the 10th, missed good birdie chances on the 13th and 14th and then bogeyed the 15th after driving in a fairway bunker. I was back to 5 under now and struggling. I then hit a good pitch to 4 feet on 16 and finally holed a putt. On the 17th I hit a seven iron over the flag to 21 feet just off the green and holed again - two in a row! Playing the last I knew that a birdie would get me a top ten finish. I was 103 yards short in two and hit a wedge to 15 feet again just off the green and again I holed. An outrageous finish to an outrageous week…………
I was delighted to finish where I did considering how I played. Its on to the Wachovia Championship now and hopefully I will feel more at ease on the course there.