VILAMOURA, PORTUGAL - OCTOBER 23: Padraig Harrington of Ireland poses with the trophy following his victory during day four of the Portugal Masters at Victoria Clube de Golfe on October 23, 2016 in Vilamoura, Portugal. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
I have taken a bit of time before writing my review from last week as I wanted to sit back and enjoy the moment. It is one of the things that I have learnt over the years - wins don't come around as often as you think. When you are starting out you think it will happen pretty regularly and so for some of my wins I'd say I didn't enjoy the moment enough. Not now! I suppose experience has taught me something important - savour and celebrate your wins!!
Where to start? I suppose one thing that is important to say is that this win really wasn't out of the blue for me. I have been happy with how I have been swinging the club for a while now and my putting has improved to the extent that it is probably better than ever. I had been saying for a while to the people around me that as soon as I get my mental game matched up with my physical game then I would win. Last week, I did exactly that. My mental approach was hugely helped by a book I read before going to Portugal, The Pressure Principle by Dave Alred. I work with Dave and so nothing in the book is new to me but it reminded me of a few things I had let slip. Like how I talked to myself on the course and how I carry myself in terms of posture. I worked on this all week and I noticed that my posture improved and how I felt on and off the course was much better. I would actually say that this was the most relaxed I have ever been when winning a tournament. Normally I am stressed right up to the end, but not last week.
When I got to Portugal on Monday I worked with Pete for the day. The fact that he was very happy with everything I was doing gave me an extra bit of confidence in my game. It's always nice when your coach has nothing to tell you! When I played the course on Tuesday I knew that it really suited me as there was very little rough and the rough that was there was the type I like. I know what the ball does from it and can control it easily; generally the greener the rough the better for me. The browner stuff that I hit out of on the 72nd hole is very hard to predict what the ball will do from it. I knew that I could be aggressive with my approach play as really there was nowhere I felt I couldn't get the ball up and down from.
I got off to a great start in round one - I was six under through eight holes which not only got me going but also the crowd that was following me. It also brought them back each day and it really felt like the good old days!! There is no doubt that the roars and cheers from the crowd make a big difference to us as players but again you only realize this when you are not getting them following you.
In terms of how I played I felt that I hit the ball as I have for most of the year but last week I chipped and continued to putt well. My scrambling was 96%, a normal week for me is 66% and a week when I am in contention is 80%. During the week I chipped in twice and holed a bunker shot! There's no doubt the course suited me but also having a good clear mind and feeling good on and off the course has a huge effect.
Having got myself into the last group on Sunday, its a position where I would normally be a little antsie the night before and then on Sunday. But not last week! I was calm and relaxed the night before at dinner with a few friends and on the course on Sunday I was very relaxed. It helped that I was playing with Anders Hansen who I have known for 20 years and is a great guy to play with, but the biggest thing was that I was comfortable with my game and myself.
When you are playing you are always trying to stay in the moment but when I holed my bunker shot on the 11th, which was probably the hardest shot I had all day, I actually thought to myself that it was going to be my day. I walked off thinking it was my tournament to win now. The thing that I am most proud off with the win is how I played from there on in. I hit some really good shots and also made some good up-and-downs. The putt I holed on the 16th was an important one and a tough one, and then the drive on 17 was huge for me. A good drive there makes it an easy hole and under pressure I put it right in the middle of the fairway and well down. I played the last hole exactly how I would have expected I would play it with a one shot lead. I was never going to trouble the water and was always confident in my ability to get it up and down from around the green. No need for heroics!!
It's great to be able to say that 2016 was another winning year. I?m off this week and will be enjoying my win. I have changed my schedule now that I am qualified for the Race to Dubai and will play in Turkey and Sun City before it. I am only a win or 3 good finishes away from getting back into the top-50 and securing a place in the Masters. For me it's all about getting back to the majors as I know that I have more of them in me.
I'm back in the sun this week for the Portugal Masters at Villamora. I've played here for a number of years now and the event has slotted into my ?favourites? list. Everything about this week is great. I am staying the week up at Quinta Da Lago - it's so relaxed I almost forget that I am playing a tournament. The hardest decision I have for the week is which of the great restaurants in Quinta we are going to eat in!!
I got down here on Sunday evening as I wanted to work with Pete Cowen on Monday. It's been a while since I have seen him; I've talked to him a lot but he hadn't seen what I have been doing in the flesh for a while. I spent most of Monday with him hitting balls and discussing things. He was happy with what I was doing and with how it looked. However, the thing that made me most happy was that my distance seemed to be back. In the last three tournaments I have played I was hitting it nowhere which was very frustrating, but on the range on Monday it seemed to be back to normal. I didn't play any holes, it was all purely practice. On Tuesday I played nine holes - I know course well so I'm not too stressed about spending a lot of time on it. There's not much rough this year so it means that it will be a birdie fest. I was happy with how I hit it on the course and again it seemed like the ball was going for me again. After I played I did a bit of chipping and putting practice and then called it a day. This week the Tour is trialing a new pro-am format. Each group plays with 2 pros, so we only play nine holes each. I played the front nine and then did some practice afterwards and had finished my day by 1.15pm! I didn't know what to do with myself?..
I tried out the new Wilson FG Tour V6 irons on Monday and loved them - they were so good I put them straight into the bag! I love the look and the feel of them and most importantly they work. I'm looking forward to playing with them this week. I'm off early on Thursday with David Howell and Kristoffer Broberg. I really like what I saw in practice and I am excited about getting going.