I’m in North Carolina for the Wachovia Championship this week. Its my first time playing this event and all year the rest of the players have been telling me how good an event it is – I have to say so far it is living up to its reputation. As is customary here on the PGA tour the players receive cars for use during the week of the tournament, this week I am driving a Mercedes CLS 500! A very nice courtesy car indeed.
All the trappings aside the main attraction is the golf course, it was described to me as a US Open type course and I have to say having played it twice it really is a fantastic golf course. An old style course cut among mature trees, it is one of the nicest courses that I have played and one that could definitely hold a major.
I have played two full rounds of the course in practice, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday in the Pro-Am. Monday was spent practicing on the range in effort to feel more comfortable over the ball. The more I think of how I played and felt last week the harder it is to believe that I managed to finish 9th.
This week in practice I have tried hard to focus more on my target so as to stop myself thinking about how I feel and fidgeting over the ball. It has worked to some degree from tee to green but I am now struggling with my putting, in particular with my alignment. It is just one of those things. I have spent several hours trying to rectify the problem, but hopefully by Thursday morning it will be business as usual.
I have enjoyed my practice rounds this week as it is a particularly good and testing course. Each hole is surrounded by mature trees, which makes judging the wind very difficult as it seems to blow down the gullies. My practice round on Tuesday was spent getting to know the course, having a look around and trying to get a feel for the greens. On Wednesday in the Pro-Am it was more competitive as there is a team prize and also I try to play my pro-am rounds as if they are tournament rounds so as to get used to holing out and hitting at pins. I played “ropey” enough in the pro-am, some very good shots and some poor ones. My nicest shot of the day was on the par 3 13th which was playing 203 yards. I hit a great 5 iron straight at the flag and knew as it was flying that it had a chance to go in but I didn’t want it to. It bounced once and then into the hole for my fifth hole in one. What a day to have an ace, if only it was in the tournament.
This is long course but at the moment it is not playing its full length as the ground is firm and the ball is running. There is rain forecast for the week, along with some wind. If the forecast is right then this course will play very long. There are a lot of elevation changes on the course which will also add to its toughness. The second hole, a 180 yard par 3, has an elevation change of 10yards downhill. A couple of the key holes this week will be the last two:
The 17th is a 220 yard par 3 with an uphill elevation change of 5 yards. There is water on the left and a run off on the right. The temptation is to miss it right, but if you hit it there you have a near impossible up and down. The key here is that you must hit the green.
The 18th is 478 yard par 4 with a bunker on the right at 280 yards and a stream all down the left running into a pond to the left of the green. The tee shot looks impossibly tight and once you have hit it on the fairway you are left with anything from a 7 iron to a wood depending on the wind, into a green with water on the left.
I am drawn with Adam Scott and Nick Price for the first two rounds. We start on the 10th at 8.09 US time (2.09pm Irish time) on Thursday and 1.09pm (6.09pm) on Friday. I am looking forward to playing this course in tournament conditions, would like to be feeling better about my game but there is nothing I can do about that now. I have to work with what I have. With this in mind I have worked with Bob Rotella again this week, so hopefully that will help to get me more target orientated. Again as I said last week, hopefully I can get myself to into contention come Sunday and see what happens from there.
It was more of the same on the course this week as last week; however I wasn’t able to keep it together like at the Zurich Classic. I had hoped that I would feel better when the Tournament started but unfortunately, if anything, I felt worse. It was a pity because I liked the golf course, Quail Hollow. It was an old course cut among trees with a lot of elevation changes and sloping greens. The sort of course I would like to play all year round. But due to the way I was playing the course got the better of me this time.
While I never really got myself into contention I was never too far away from a good finish, even going out in the last round I new that a score in the 60’s would move me up quite a few positions. But the way I was playing it was always going to be difficult to shoot a good score and in the end it all came crashing down!
For the first two rounds I was drawn with Adam Scott and Nick Price - a nice group to play in. We started from the 10th on Thursday morning at 8.09am. When we teed off there was a bit of rain but luckily there was no sign of any thunder. It all started well for me. I hit a 9 iron from 143 yards, out of the rough, to 3 feet to birdie my first hole. I followed that up with another birdie on the 11th, my second. Another birdie on the drivable par 4 14th put me to 3 under and on the leaderboard. It was a lot more than I deserved as I hadn’t hit the ball great for the opening holes. It would soon catch up with me - I bogeyed the 16th but followed it up with a chip-in on the tough 200 yard par 3 17th. Back to three under but not for long as I would hand back the shot straight away on the 18th to turn in 2 under.I played the front nine, my back nine, as I had played the back nine, with little confidence. I had consecutive bogeys on the 3rd and 4th holes; both bogies were caused by bad tee shots into the trees. I birdied the 5th, a 570 yard par 5 by hitting two 3 woods onto the green and two putting but again I gave the shot back on the 250 yard par 3 6th. I hit a 3 iron just short and failed to get up and down. A very disappointing way to drop a shot. Having hit the par 5 7th in two I three putted for par and then parred the short 8th, missing a 6 footer for birdie. I played my last hole well, hitting a drive and a 5 wood to 20 feet and holing for a birdie and a round of 71, 1 under par. It felt like a lot more, but left me in reasonable position.
I definitely got the better of the draw this week as the Friday morning players got windy and cold conditions whereas in the afternoon it was warm and less windy. The problem was I was unable to take advantage of it.I three putted the first from 30 feet for bogey - I totally miss judged the first putt and hit it 8 feet past. I followed this bogey with two more on the second and third. On the second I was undecided on how I was going to play my tee shot and ended up mishitting it short and failing to get up and down. On the third I hit it in the trees again but this time managed to get it up to just on the edge only to take three more from there. Pars until the 7th settled me down a little. The 7th is a reachable par 5, I pushed my tee shot so I was unable to reach. I layed up to 95 yards, from here I miss judged my approach and hit it in the water. I managed to get it up and down for a bogey 6. A birdie on the next got me back to 3 over for the day and level for the tournament. The back nine was no better really. I managed to birdie the 12th but bogied the 13th. A birdie on the 15th got me back to 2 over for the day. I parred the 16th and 17th, at this stage I was feeling a little better as I knew that 1 over was still in the tournament. On the 18th my tee shot finished just in the edge of the rough but sitting on a sprinkler head. I got relief form this and was able to drop in the first cut of rough. I had a 4 iron left, which I pulled into the water on the left. This cost me another bogey and left me on 2 over for the tournament. A particularly disappointing finish to a bad round.
Round 3 was more of the same again. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t get anything going. Nothing felt good. I bogeyed the 3rd for the third straight day to go to 3 over par. This bogey was offset by a birdie on the 7th. Two pars to finish the nine had me out in level par for the day. The back nine started well and I felt a bit like my normal self. I hit a drive and a 5 iron to the par 5 10th for a two putt birdie. On the 11th I hit a drive and a wedge to 4 feet. These two holes were the first holes that I felt normal on but unfortunately I missed the putt on 11. It was back to the way I had been playing after that - I hit a 3 wood on 12 into the trees and made bogey. On the short par 4 14th I hit it onto the green and two putted for birdie. However I would give this shot back again on the 16th and eventually finished with a 1 over par round, 73, for a total of 3 over.
Starting this round I knew that a good score would push me right up the leaderboard. But like every other day I just couldn’t manage it, no matter how hard I tried. I parred the first two holes and then bogied the third for the fourth day in a row! I got this shot back on the 250 yard par 3 6th. A five wood to 15 feet set up a birdie, which I followed up with a two putt birdie on the 7th. At this stage I was feeling good, two birdies in a row. The 8th was playing short and was reachable with a good drive. I tried to hit the perfect tee shot and ended up hitting too far left. I was chipping over a bunker to a tight pin and instead of chipping it to 20 feet and taking my chances from there I tried to play the perfect chip and ended up leaving it short and making a bogey. Another bogey on the 9th had me out in 1 over. I pared the first two holes of the back nine and then bogied the 12th and 13th. On the 14th I was trying to hit the perfect tee shot again, so as to try and set up an eagle. Again I miss hit it into the trees and it ended up in the water. I dropped one at the point of entry and tried to hit a 6 iron from 157 yards. It hit a branch and ended up in the water again. I moved up twenty yards and hit an 8 iron just off the right edge of the green. From there I had the customary 3 putt to end up with an 8! By this stage I was really frustrated with myself as I had made several bad decisions during the round. I parred my way to the 18th. On the 18th, knowing that I needed to make par to break 80, I hit my tee shot into the water on the left. From there I dropped out and hit a 5 iron to 12 feet but was unable to hole the putt and ended up shooting one of my worst scores as a professional, 80.
All in all it was a bad week. I never felt comfortable on the course and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get anything going. Nothing felt good, from my driving to my putting. Normally there is one area of your game that you can rely on when things aren’t going well but this time there was nothing and it all came crashing down on the last day.
It is a week off for me before I return to the European Tour at the Irish Open. A week’s practise will hopefully help to iron out whatever problems I have in my game. I am looking forward to playing the Irish Open as it is always a great event. Hopefully I can get my game back in shape before it starts.