My first week back didn't go as I had planned - I struggled with my game, but I wasn't too surprised as I hadn't been on a course for 9 weeks. However, the thing that caused me the most concern was my neck - I have a trapped nerve in my neck and it has led to me losing power and speed. I thought it had cleared up when I was home but about 10 days before I left it seemed to return - I hoped it would be gone again by the time we started but unfortunately not.
The funny thing with it is that I am not in pain. I have some numbness in my finger and some pins and needles, but other than that it's fine. The problem I am having is that I have no power when I'm hitting and I have lost over 10mph in ball speed because of it, which makes the game very hard if you are giving up that amount of speed. After seeing a couple of people about it we decided the best approach was to get an injection which should help free the nerve and allow it to heal. I got this on Sunday and now have to rest for the next few days before I play in Phoenix on Thursday.
I found the courses tough in San Diego because of the way I was hitting the ball, which required a lot of hybrids for my second shots! However the big positive for me from the two rounds I played was my short game - I chipped and hit my bunker shots well but most importantly I putted very well. My first round of 74 should have been an 80 only for my short game, which gives me great confidence going forward as I know that when I get my power back, if I can put the two parts of my game together, then there will be some big weeks ahead.
It's disappointing not to be able to do anything for a few days but I know the rest is best for my injuries.
After nine weeks off I am back in action this week at Torrey Pines, near San Diego, for the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour. While I was 'off' from competition I certainly wasn't 'off' golf! I spent my winter hitting balls, as you would expect - I didn't play any golf, just hit balls. I was working on a few things and trying things out - it was great to have so long to do all this.
As much as I enjoyed having the time to work on things in my swing, I enjoyed being home hanging out with Paddy and Ciaran more. But the fact that I had been home with them for so long made it all the harder to leave - the first trip is always the hardest one to make, but once I get going in the season it's a lot easier. This trip to the West Coast and the time change makes it a little more difficult as it can be difficult to talk to people at home given the 8 hours time difference.
However once I got here it felt great to be back at a tournament. As usual with my first week out, I am wishing that I had some time to get ready. I played 7 holes with Shane on Monday and it was the first time I was on a golf course since the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in November. It felt a bit weird - having been hitting shots on my Full Swing Golf simulator all winter, it was strange to be in a golf course. I've played nearly 40 holes in practice this week, split between the North and South courses, but as the days have gone by I am getting more comfortable. I can see there are areas that are rusty and really this week is as much about finding out where my game is so that I can figure out what needs to be done.
I can't really tell you how I am feeling about my game as I am really not sure what is going to come out. I am happy that my putting is in good shape after the break, but beyond that I'm waiting to see how it goes.
I'm carrying a few injuries from last year and a couple of niggles that I picked up during the winter. Ronan keeps telling me that I'm lucky I'm not a horse or they would shoot me! I have a trapped nerve in my shoulder for a good few months now, which is playing havoc with my speed as it hampers my backswing. I've been getting treatment on it but it hasn't made much progress and whilst none of them are bad enough to stop me playing, they are niggly enough to be annoying.
The weather in California has been bad for the last month or so - therefore they are no longer in a drought and because of this the courses are playing very long and tough. It's been so wet they haven't been able to cut the rough, meaning that if you miss the fairways you are only trying to advance it up the fairway for your next shot. It's probably as tough as I have seen these two courses play, although I'm not sure whether that is a good or a bad thing for me in week one!
I'm looking forward to getting back competing but apprehensive about what my game will be like.