As you are all aware at this stage I missed the Open due to the death of my Father. He had been ill for several months and after a long battle he passed away peacefully on the Monday of the Open week. I would like to thank everyone for their good wishes and thoughts.
I did manage to see some of the Open coverage over the weekend. The weather looked fantastic, probably as good as you could ask for at an Open Championship. The changes that they made to the course since last years Dunhill Links Championship really seemed to toughen the course up, although by the looks of it, not for Tiger! It was fairly ominous after the first round with Tiger in the lead. He certainly looked as if he was playing very well all week. I suppose the he had his toughest test on the Saturday when things weren’t really going his way and he still managed to shot 71. Going into the final round I thought that it would be closer as there were some very good players chasing him. For a while on the front 9 it looked like it might be more of a contest, however, it never really materialized. When Tiger missed birdie putts on the 6, 7 and 8th, at that stage it looked as if a few players would make a charge at him. I was watching it on Sunday for a while and I have to say that I thought that the way the course was set up for the final round that it would be hard for someone to really shot a low score, which they would have needed to put some pressure on Tiger. The pins were tucked away and were not conducive to low scoring. That said Tiger played exceptionally well all week and deserved to win. I only wish I had backed him!
The J.P. McManus Pro-Am
My last competitive round was at Adare Manor in the J.P. McManus Pro-Am. I managed to win the event by 6 shots after rounds of 67 & 63. I played nicely for the two days but I didn’t think I would shot the scores that I did. It is a great event, which can be seen by the quality of the field that J.P. invites to play. On top of that it was a great venue and a brilliant crowd; I believe that there were nearly 60,000 people there over the two days. I was delighted to win the event but more importantly I was thrilled to be part of something like this that generates so much money for charity. It is also nice to have another course record to my name - it is something that I always cherish. The only complaint that I have from the 2 days is that I didn’t get any world ranking points for winning!!
The Deutsche Bank Players Championship.
I am back in Hamburg for the Players Championship, on the same course that I won two years ago. When I won here in 2003 I beat Thomas Bjorn in a playoff after shooting 19 under par. As I went around the course in practice this week I was wondering how I managed to shoot that number. It is nearly always like that, when you come back to a course that you have shot low scores on before. The weather has been poor during practice and is forecast to be like that for Thursday and Friday; this has a big effect on how the course plays. Along with that they have added in some new tees so as to add some more length to the course. When we last played here in May 2003, the greens were in poor condition. This year, however, they are in great shape and the whole course is in fine condition.
I have tried to take it easy in practice as I am still quite tired and run down. I played 12 holes on Tuesday and 18 in the Pro-am on Wednesday. The two days have been miserable enough weather wise; we have had heavy showers and strong continuous wind. These conditions really make the course play tough. It is hard to say how I am feeling about this week; I have played well here before and have a good record in this event however my form has been up and down to date. It is probably fair to say that I have no great expectations for the week.
Looking at the course I would think that the last 4 holes will turn out to be key holes, I know that most weeks the ending holes tend to be so, but I believe that this week more than others it will be the case as there are two par 5’s, a par 3 and a very tough par 4 to finish. Both the par 5’s, the 15th and 17th , are reachable depending on the weather conditions. The par 3 is only 185 yards but it is a tough little hole, I remember hitting a 9 iron to it when I won and this week in practice I have been hitting a 6 iron. The final hole is a tough hole where anything can happen. There is water left, a bunker straight in front of you that you need to fly, it is a 280 yard carry to get to the fairway or else you have to bail out right and leave yourself a very long second shot. In practice it has been playing exceptionally tough as it was into the wind which meant that you couldn’t carry the bunker off the tee.
As always I am looking forward to getting started, probably a little bit more this week than normal. It is nice to be back at a course that I have good memories on but, as I was saying, I don’t really have any expectations for the week. We will all just have to wait and see what happens.
Another tournament interrupted by rain! I never got out of my hotel on Thursday as it rained all night Wednesday and all day Thursday and so the first day was cancelled. I wasn’t unhappy with this, infact I was fairly happy to have another day to rest. I spent the day doing nothing and trying to catch up on some sleep. I was due to play at 8.20am with Michael Campbell and Marcel Siem, which was then postponed until Friday, with 36 holes on Sunday. When I eventually got going on Friday I started quietly enough with 3 pars. Then I hit it stiff on the 13th (my 4th hole) from 131 yards with a wedge for a birdie. I proceeded to birdie the two par fives to go to 3 under, although it didn’t seem that good as I was playing with Michael Campbell who was 5 under!!! My 9 hole was the tough 18, made even tougher by the strong wind into and off the left. I tried to hit my drive over the middle of the bunker with a fade but pushed it much further right than I had wanted to and ended up 194 yards from the pin for my second shot, coming from the semi rough. As it was playing back into the wind it meant that it was a full 3 iron for me and I hit my nicest shot of the day to 3 feet to set up my fourth birdie to be out in 4 under and right in the tournament.
However, the back 9 would not be so good. I hit a 6 iron to the par 3 second hole but pushed it right and ended up just off the green with a 40 foot putt for birdie. I hit what I thought was a good putt but it ran 5 feet by and I missed the return. The third hole was the reachable par 5 - I was in the rough and just on the limit to reach the green (240 yards) so I decided to lay it up but a miss judgement meant that I hit it in the water and ended up with a bogey 6. I would end up shooting 70, 2 under. But the most disappointing thing of all was that I was 3 under playing my last hole, the short par 4 ninth. I had 124 yards to the pin and was happy to hit a wedge but as I hit it the wind gusted and it came up just short and form there I failed to get it up and down. I was really annoyed to have bogeyed the last hole as it never feels nice. The scoring was as good as expected and with a reduced number to make the cut it meant that I was hovering around the mark after the first round.
Round two went ahead as planned - the weather wasn’t great in the morning but it improved for us in the afternoon. I played fairly poorly all day; it was tired and lethargic golf. I had no spark; no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t get myself going. I made two birdies and one bogey for a round of 1 under par. I was thrilled to get off the course as I was really tired. I had made the cut by a shot and would be first off on Saturday morning as they were sending us out on both the 1st and the 10th. Although I hadn’t played well I was still happy that I could mount a challenge over the final 36 holes on Sunday as I was only 7 shots behind the leader Niclas Fasth.
At 4.20am my alarm went off for me to get up and do my routine morning exercises - it was not a welcome wake up call! I was on the tee at 6.45am. It started well with a good tee shot and then a nice wedge to 6 feet and a putt for a birdie. It was exactly the start I wanted as I knew that I would have to get going early if I was to get into contention. However it was short lived as I bogeyed my second hole. From here it was downhill all the way. I proceeded to play the next 16 holes in 4 over par to shoot a 76 - I played badly and putted poorly. My putting wasn’t great all week - I felt much better over the putts this week but nothing would go in. The worst part about shooting my 76 was that it was really a struggle and it wore me out even more. It makes such a difference if you are playing well as to how you feel. I was tired and lethargic coming over but if I had managed to play well and get into contention I am sure that the adrenalin would have kept me going, however as I play poorly I had no energy to help me out. Even the good shots that I hit were not going as far as they normally would and it was like I was playing on half a tank of petrol.
It was quick turnaround for the 4th round as we had 30 minutes from when we finished. Again I managed to birdie my first hole, if only I could have played the whole tournament on that hole. I played a bit better in the afternoon and made 5 birdies and 2 bogies to shoot 69. I dropped a shot on my 13th hole, partly due to rushing as a result of our group falling out of position a bit. I finished on 2 under for a share of 42nd position and a long way off the winning score of 14 under. All in all it was a mediocre week. I played tired golf all week and never got going. When I finished the final round I felt like I had played 10 tournaments in a row. But I know that I need more competitive rounds under my belt. At this stage rest is definitely what I need most and so I am going ahead with my planned two weeks off and coming back at the USPGA.
It was a dramatic end to the tournament, a play-off that took 3 holes. Niclas played well all week and played well in the play-off when he had to, as did Angel. It could have gone either way but in the end Niclas held the putt and won the event. I was delighted for my old caddie, Dave McNeilly, who has been caddying for Niclas for the past year.
I look forward to my two weeks off, so I can try and recharge the batteries and get myself back to my old self.