PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 06: Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his shot from the 11th tee during a practice round for THE PLAYERS Championship at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium course on May 6, 2015 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
I left Sawgrass with mixed emotions. Firstly I am delighted with how I played from tee to green and would go as far to say that it was the best I have ever played - I was second in greens hit in regulation with 75% and fourth in strokes gained tee to green. What killed me for the week was my putting! My putting was terrible, particularly in the first three rounds; it was much better in the final round even though I didn't hole anything. As happy as I am with the way my long game was, I am very disappointed with my putting and I know that had I putted decently I could have contended. This is shown by the fact that I finished last in strokes gained putting. During the final round I felt a lot better over the putts and hit a lot of good ones, but just didn't hole many.
I am very happy that the work I did over my three week break paid off as I felt that my long game was brilliant. I spent the three weeks working on staying in my shots for longer and it made a huge difference to how I hit the ball. The biggest difference was in my misses, which were nowhere near as wild as before and as I have said previously, this game is about improving those misses. I drove the ball great and on TPC Sawgrass this is the key - you have to be coming off the fairway to play well there. Over the first three rounds my putting was terrible and I do mean terrible! In my first round I three putted twice from five feet and if I had putted averagely I would have shot five under. I had no confidence in it and was struggling to trust my reads and alignment. After round three I realized that it was all coming down to my preparation and if I was having doubts then I hadn't done my preparation properly. In the fourth round I made sure to do this correctly and I can't tell how much of a difference it made. I felt comfortable over the putts and hit a lot of good ones; I didn't hole that many but it was night and day as to how much better it felt. I was like a different person putting on Sunday than the rest of the week and my final round of five under could easily have been four shots better if I was holing the putts.
All in all I am disappointed to have putted so badly for the week considering how well I played, but I am happy to have fixed the problem. Playing the way I did last week, if I only putt averagely then I can get myself into contention. I am off to Charlotte for the Wells Fargo Championship feeling good about my game and looking forward to working on my putting.
I have to say ?Well Done? to Ricky on his victory. It was fully deserved and the way he played those last few holes showed he was playing to win.
I haven't played a tournament since the Masters which was three weeks ago. I went on a family holiday to Orlando for a few days after Augusta and the rest of the time has been at home. In those two weeks I have hit a lot of balls, in fact I have hit so many that I am coming away to a tournament to take a break! I spent most of my time off working on staying in my shots more. In the couple of games that I played I felt that my misses were much better. In this game the quality of your good shots doesn't change much, it is the quality of your misses that you are constantly trying to improve.
This week is the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, the biggest event on the PGA schedule outside of the majors. After all the practice I have done I am really looking forward to playing. I arrived here on Monday evening as I was at Ross Desmond's wedding over the weekend. Having played here many times I didn't mind missing a days practice. On Tuesday morning I did some filming for Wilson with their 2016 line, which looked great. In the afternoon I hit a few shots on the range with Pete Cowen and then payed 12 holes with Shane Lowry. The course is in great condition as you would expect. The fairways are a little softer than normal but other than that there isn't a blade of grass out of place. The most noticeable change from when I was here last in 2013 is the amount of grain in the grass around the greens and the fact that it is cut into you. This makes chipping very tough and you will see more chips shots duffed and hit past the hole this week than any other event during the year. I personally will be putting whenever I can.
On Wednesday I played the back nine with Shane and took some of his money which is always nice. It was a tricky day as it was very windy. The highlight our round though was getting to watch our caddies, Dermot and Ronan each hit a shot on the 17th. Ronan managed to keep it dry but only just as he was on the walkway, Dermot hit a great shot to about 7 feet, a couple of feet too much though. After the round Shane and myself had a few chipping and putting competitions, which is the best form of practice, especially when you win!
I am very happy with how I have hit the ball over the two days. The work I have done has definitely helped my long game and my chipping and bunker play is getting back to the good old days. I'm looking forward to playing and seeing how it all holds up in a tournament situation. I like the course and have had very good weeks here but that was before they made changes a few years ago, since then I have performed poorly. This would be a good week to change that.
I am playing early and late with Graeme McDowell and Ryan Palmer. It's a good draw as they are both nice guys and the forecast is for some wind in the afternoon in the first round.