ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 20: Padraig Harrington of Ireland walks off the 1st tee during the final round of the 144th Open Championship at The Old Course on July 20, 2015 in St Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
As we went into Monday for the first time in nearly 20 years at The Open, it was a long week for everyone. That said though, I was one of the lucky ones that managed to finish my round on Friday and so I had a day off on Saturday. It was very nice having nothing to do and I embraced it by actually having a full day off.
I finished in a tie for 20th and left St Andrews disappointed as I had managed to get myself into a great position going into the final round, in the third last group two shots behind the leaders. As I said to Ronan when we headed down the first fairway ?where else would you rather be?. All the practice and work that I do is for days like Monday, to have a chance to win another Major and be in the mix.
All week I was feeling good about my game and where I was at mentally. Over the last few weeks I have managed to get a lot of things clear in my head and have been feeling a lot better about what I have to do. Going to St Andrews I was confident that I could not only get myself into contention but also add to my major tally. The scoring on Thursday morning was red hot. I was one of the afternoon starters and was only able to shoot level par. It was definitely tougher in the afternoon but it still played a lot easier than the level par I shot. I had left a lot of shots behind me, as I didn?t make use of the downwind holes on the front nine. When I was finished I was disappointed with my score and knew that I would need to improve on Friday to make the cut let alone get myself into contention.
Friday morning was terrible, lashing rain and windy. When I got to the range to warm up it was so bad I decided to take shelter in the marquee on the range to let the heavy stuff blow over. Thankfully for me it didn?t blow over and the R&A halted play due to the greens flooding. You can?t believe how happy all the early starters were and I managed to get a couple of hours sleep while it was blowing over. When we did get back out it was quite windy but still a lot better than what we thought we were going to play in. The front nine played downwind, but again I didn?t make much use of it. It was actually the back nine that I played my best and made up some shots. I was level par with six to play, knew that I couldn?t afford to make any mistakes and that if I was to get myself into the tournament I needed to make some birdies coming in. A good iron shot on the 13th set up the first of three birdies in the last six holes, with two good pitches from 60 yards on the 14th and 18th setting up the other two. I signed for three under par 69 and was very happy with myself, as I had played really well coming in.
As they didn?t get finished on Friday it meant that I was always going to be out late on Saturday, so when I heard that they were delayed during the morning I knew that it was going to very late if I was to get playing at all. In the end there was no third round play and I had a rare day off hanging out with Paddy and Ciaran.
Since I was a boy I have dreamed of shooting 65 on the Sunday of an Open, but unfortunately my 65 wasn?t the final round! I played the front nine downwind again for the third round and this time I took advantage of it by making four birdies and the holes I didn?t birdie I could easily have. My back nine played into and across the wind, which was a little easier than straight into. I continued my good play and made three more birdies for seven under par for the day. The funny thing was that I missed a good chance on the 17th for birdie and then missed a five footer on the last for another. It?s hard to believe that you could shoot seven under and be a little disappointed. When I finished I thought that I would have ended somewhere between three and five behind but in the end no one took advantage of the day and I was only two behind, which made up for the missed putts on the last two holes.
For the final round I was paired with Marc Leishman in the third last group. I knew going out that to win I had to shoot a good score as there were so many people in with a chance. I got off to the perfect start by birdying the first two holes. I could have birdied the third but left it just short in the jaws of the hole. On the fifth I had a good look for eagle and just missed, but three under through five holes was a great start. On the sixth I hit driver to get it down close to the green for a chip shot, however I pushed it and it kept moving right into the gorse. We weren?t able to find the ball and I ended up taking six, which was a killer blow as it put a halt to my momentum. It took the wind out of my sails and whilst I didn?t give up I knew it was going to be hard to make up the ground. I hit a good putt on the 7th but just missed a birdie and then dropped a shot on the 8th when I putted it off the green. After that I wasn?t able to get anything going, I made a birdie on the 11th but gave it back on the 14th when I missed a short putt. Then I hit my best drive of the day into the bunker on 15 and dropped another shot. A long breaking putt on the 16th for birdie got me smiling again, only for me to miss short putts on the 17th and 18th to end up shooting 75 and finish the day on 7 under.
I was very disappointed when I finished as I had given myself a great chance to add another Open title. My start to the final round set me off and the support from the crowd was great, but the double bogey on the 6th was like letting the air out of a balloon. In the end to finish in 20th spot was poor and what disappointed me most was my finish, dropping three shots on the last two holes. Had I parred those two it wouldn?t have felt as bad but the short putts that I missed were very annoying.
I am disappointed with my final round, as I didn?t play as badly as a 75 suggests. A couple of average shots were harshly penalized, which happens but is tough to take when it does. The putts I missed were most disappointing as I putted very well during the week, however, while I am leaving disappointed I am also feeling good about things heading to the final major of the year. I played a lot of good golf during the week and felt very comfortable being in the mix again; it has made me hungry for more.
I have to take this opportunity to mention our new golf star, Paul Dunne. It was an amazing performance from him, to be leading the Open after three rounds as an amateur is an outstanding feat. I know he had a tough final day but there is no shame in that, what he did for the three rounds before was fantastic and I have no doubt we will see a lot more of him at the top of leaderboards. I have to also say well done to Zach on winning his first Open, he played great and fully deserved his win. It was a great performance especially as everyone would have said that only a long hitter could win at St. Andrews, but when you have a wedge game like his it doesn?t matter.
I am off for two weeks now, looking forward to some relaxation and chilling out before I head away for the Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship.
This may well be the biggest week in golf, the Open Championship in St. Andrews. It comes around every five years and when we get here it always feels special. St. Andrews is a special place for any tournament, anytime of the year, but for the Open there is nothing like it, especially for me as I have two claret jugs, get to attend the Champions Dinner and take part in the Champions Challenge. In 2010 the Challenge was cancelled due to bad weather so it was my first appearance.
I know the golf course well so I haven't been too stressed about getting out and seeing it. I've played 10-12 holes each day, varying where I started and then jumping around the course. We are used to it being firmer here, even in Dunhill week, so it has taken a day or two to adjust from what we expect the ball to do. I haven't done much practice on the range this week as I am happy with the work I did with Pete last week. This week I am focusing on being fresh and getting my head in the right place and with that in mind I have Bob Rotella staying with me. We have had some good chats during the week and I am confident that I am on the right track and can see some good progress.
I have had a busy social calendar this week with the Champions Dinner and I also attended the induction into the Hall of Fame of Mark O'Meara, David Graham, Laura Davies and AW Tillinghast. On top of this I played in the Champions Challenge on Wednesday. The dinner and the four holes of the Challenge were great and to be around all the past champions was really special. I played with Gary Player, Mark Calcavechia and Stewart Cink. I have to say that Gary was brilliant and he hit every shot down the flag. It was a something else for a guy that is nearly 80!
All he work is done now and I am ready to get going. I'm out at 12.39pm on Thursday and 7.38am on Friday. The weather forecast for Friday is very bad so I'm hoping that it doesn't come in until the afternoon. That said I'm not worried about bad weather as it's part and parcel of the Open. I'm looking forward to getting going and hopefully getting myself into contention.