It’s my first time playing in Wentworth at this time of the year for 3 years. I missed the last two Volvo PGA Championship’s but I always said that I would return to give it another go. I have decided that this is the year; it is also the first year as the BMW Championship. I like the golf course a lot the only problem that I have is the greens at this time of year; I just can’t get comfortable over the lines. This is not great when you are struggling with your putting anyway! I am looking forward to competing in the tournament and as always it has a top class field. All the best players from the European Tour have turned up. During my press conference I was asked about this tournament and my feelings are that this is one of the premier events on the European Tour. It has a definite major feel; it’s played on a very good course and attracts a great field. It is definitely a tournament that I would like to win.
This is a course that I know very well, I have played it numerous times in my professional career in both the PGA and the World Match Play. Because I know it so well I spent Tuesday working with Bob Torrance on the swing and with Harold Swash on my putting. I thought that it would be better to use my time working on the areas of my game that were not quite at their best last week. It was a good day’s work for me, Bob helped me to iron a few glitches in my swing and Harold pointed out a couple of things with my putting stroke. It was good to see Harold as it had been a while since I had had a chance to work with him and seeing as I had been feeling a little uncomfortable over my putts lately it was a timely meeting.
On Wednesday I played in the Pro-am. It was first time playing the course since the HSBC World Match Play last October. It was certainly in great shape. I definitely think that they have toughened the course up this year, looking at how it was playing it is hard to see how players have shot 19 and 20 under in previous years. I was happy with my play in the Pro-am, tee to green I hit the ball reasonably well. I had my usual problems reading the greens and as a result found it difficult to hole putts; however this is never a bad thing on a Wednesday as you never want use up all your putts before the tournament starts. The rest of the day was spent going over things with Bob and Harold and then working on my short game. I am happy with how things have gone, as usual I would like to have an extra day to do some more but then I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t feel that way!
This must be one of the most well known courses in the world, certainly in Ireland and Britain. They have definitely toughened the course up this year. They have grown the rough in key areas, adding a premium to hitting fairways. The greens are firm and quick.
There are number key holes on this course. Everybody knows the last two holes, both par 5’s, and can remember how important they have been to this outcome of this tournament over the years. Certainly all the par 5’s are important as they are good birdie chances, however it is easy to end up making a mess of them if you try too hard to make birdies. The 12th has been tightened at the driving area as they have brought a drain to the edge of the fairway; it is 280 yards to carry this which is fine on a good day with no wind but with a wind into you it is definitely in play.
One of the things that TV. spectators don’t realize is the change in elevation on a lot of the holes. For instance the third hole has 10 yard change from the fairway to the green and the par 3 14th has a 14 yard increase to the green. These elevation changes make this course play longer than it yardage and judging the clubs on these holes can be difficult. To do well this week you have to get a good feel for these elevation changes.
I have a lot of good memories on this course and some not so good. In October I nearly broke my thumb against a tree in the World Match Play, and it still isn’t fully better. I am hoping that when I get going I will feel good on the greens. If I do then you never know what could happen as I like the course generally.
I have limited expectations due to the way I have played here over my past few appearances but then that may not be a bad thing, if you have no expectations then you feel freer. Let’s hope so!!!
My first time playing in the PGA, or the BMW Championship as it is now called, for 3 years and it was a nearly week. I played some great stuff and some fairly average. The weekend was a struggle for but in truth I struggled the first two days as well. While I got myself into a reasonable position after two rounds I was surprised to find myself there, as I didn’t feel that my score of 6 under was all that good. I had left a lot of shots out on the course.
Rounds 1 & 2
I played nicely over the first two days but only managed to get to 6 under. In round 1 I got off to a good start by birding the second and fourth but then handed back the shots with two bogies going out which came about when I failed to get up and down from around the greens. I parred the next five holes and then managed to birdie the 12th and 13th. My birdie on the 12th was somewhat lucky; I had hit a good drive down the middle of the fairway and was left with nearly 210 yards into a slight wind for my second. I needed 3 iron to get there but it was a shot I would have liked to hit with four iron, in the end I went with the 3, pulled it left and saw it heading for the out of bounds. I hit a provisional onto the green but luckily enough my first one had hit a tree and stayed in. I managed to chip and putt for birdie just short of the green. I finished my round with another bogey on the 15th (I drove it in a fairway bunker down the left then splashed out to 9 iron distance which I hit to 5 feet and duly missed) followed by a birdie on 16 and two pars on 17 & 18. I had played nicely but was a bit disappointed to only finish with a 70 as I had made 5 birdies and failed to birdie either of the last 2 holes which are par 5’s. However I was happy that I was still in touch as the lead was only 5 under.
Round 2 got off to a slow start with 7 pars in a row. The most disappointing of these was the par on the 4 hole, a very reachable par 5. I missed the fairway and had to lay up, then from 100 yards I pitched to 20 feet and two putted. The 8th hole brought my first birdie of the day when I wedged to 3 feet. However I gave the shot straight back on the 9th when I pushed my drive right into the trees, I had no shot at the green; all I could do was to hit a big cut with a 3 iron to short of the green and try to get up and down, which I failed to do. The bogey here meant that I was out in level. My back nine was a bit better - I managed to birdie the three par 5’s and also make a birdie on the 13th, a tough uphill dog leg. These four birdies with no bogies meant that I shot 68 for a total of 6 under, which when I finished was only 2 off Paul McGinley’s total of 8 under. However it would leave me 6 off the lead set by Peter Hedblom by the end of play. Still I was happy to have made the cut as my last few outings in this tournament had left me sweating on the Friday.
The third round was played in two balls; I was drawn with Nick O’Hern in the second last group. It was a very windy day which meant that it would be a tough day for scoring which was reflected by the fact that only a few players were putting together good scores in the first half of the day. I started with a bogey on the first which was disappointing as I felt that I had played the hole well. I hit a drive down the left that the wind never touched and it ended in a terrible lie, from here I hit a 5 wood short of the green. I hit what I thought was a good chip but it took a bad bounce on the green and ended up 15 feet short. This was unfortunately a sign of things to come for the rest of the round. I bogeyed the par 3 5th from the greenside bunker - again I played a lovely bunker shot but it failed to check and ran by 15 feet. I finished the front nine with a bogey on the 7th and a 3 putt bogey on the 9th. This put me out in 4 over par and put me back to 2 under for the tournament. I parred from the 10th to the 14th to leave me on 4 over for the day and struggling. On the 15th I hit my tee shot into the left fairway trap again and ended up making my fifth bogey of the day. I was really frustrated at this stage as I felt that I had hit some nice shots but that I didn’t get any reward for them. My first birdie of the day came after a sand wedge to 2 feet on the 16th. I followed this birdie up with two more on the 17th and 18th to put me back to 4 under par for the tournament and a round of 74. It was a nice finish but I was still annoyed as I had blown my chances of winning. I finished the day 6 off the lead, but with too many people between me and the leaders.
My last round started well. I made a chip and putt par on the first. Then on the second hole I hit a majestic 8 iron - it was paying 152 yards. In the air I thought that I had holed it but it just lipped out for a tap-in birdie 2. I then birdied the third hole after an 18 footer. However, my momentum was stalled on the par 5 4th. I pulled my second shot left into the trees and failed to get up and down for a birdie. The next three holes I burned the edges of the holes but nothing would drop. On hole 8 I made a great par. The tee shot ended up in heavy rough and all I could do was hack out to 111 yards and from here I hit a three-quarter wedge to a foot for a solid par! I then pared 9 and 10 and made a birdie on 11 after hitting it to 2 feet. This put 3 under for the day and 7 under overall. At this stage I was thinking about getting a few more birdies and trying to set a good total in the clubhouse as I had thre par 5’s to play. However on the par 5 12th I hit it left into a drain, I managed to make a great par from it but again it had stalled any momentum that I had. With four to play I was still 7 under but that was as much I would get it to as I bogeyed the 15th, 16th and 17th to put me back to 4 under. I was really annoyed with myself playing the last, but somehow managed to hole an 8 footer for a birdie 4 to make me feel a little better. I finished on 5 under for a tie for 11th place, my best performance ever in this tournament. However I was still as uncomfortable as ever on the greens. I just couldn’t get to grips with them for putting on or chipping onto. That said I was still happy to finish 11th but also disappointed as I knew that I could have done a lot better. Still, I was delighted to see Paul finish so well - I know he was disappointed that he didn’t win but at least his second place got him back into the top 50 in the world where he deserves to be.
For me it is a week off before I head off to America again for 3 weeks which takes in the US Open. Talk to you all soon!