This week I am back in Europe, Munich, for the BMW International Open. It is the last of three tournaments in a row for me before I have a week off. This is a tournament that I have performed well in previous years and I suppose the most memorable of my good finishes here was my second place finish to make the 1999 Ryder Cup team. I also finished second to John Daly another year, when I shot 26 under and still didn’t win! It is a course and a tournament that I like. While I have never won here I have played well, as I always say it is nice to come to a course that you have played well on in the past. It gives you that little bit more confidence as you know that you have shot good scores on the same course. Although that was not the case for me here last year as I missed the cut…….. This is also the last German event that I haven’t won. I won the Deutsche Bank TPC in 2003 and the German Masters last year; I need the BMW to complete the hat trick.
The course this week measures 6,953 yards, which is not long by normal Tour standards. However due to heavy rainfall in Munich over the last week the course is very wet and will be playing its full length. However, it also means that the greens will be soft and receptive to all approach shots. Monday and Tuesday of this week were very wet too, but luckily Wednesday was warm and will have helped to dry out the course somewhat. However, I would think that there is a good chance that we will be placing the ball on the fairways tomorrow. One of the main features of this course is how flat it is, there is hardly an elevation change on the course. This is quite unusual on golf courses these days. So it’s a week of for the altimeter! Look out for the end to each nine as they both end with reachable par 5’s but there is water on both. On the 18th you have a hazard on the left that is 295 yards to carry and on the 9th there is a drain in front of the green. Both are easy holes if played from the fairway but when you are trying to force a birdie they can be treacherous.
I left Akron on Sunday evening and arrived in Munich on Monday morning. BMW send a plane over to the NEC to bring back the players that are playing in their tournament. Monday was spent sleeping and taking it easy as was most of Tuesday morning. In the afternoon I did a small amount of practice and competed in a Shoot-Out event with 10 players on the front nine. The player with the highest score at each hole goes out. I lasted till the third hole, Nick Faldo and I bogeyed the third and so we had to have a chip off where nearest the hole wins. He chipped it closer than me and then went onto win the whole thing. On Wednesday I played in the Pro-Am and did some practice on my chipping, wedge play and putting. I believe that these are the key areas for the week on this course. We will end hitting a number of wedge shots in each round and to shoot a good score it is imperative that you hit your wedges close. As the event is usually won with a low score it means that you have to make a lot of birdies and no matter what people tell you there are not many birdies made off long irons shots. It is all about how close you can hit your wedges. I know that when I am playing well and feeling good that I am thinking about holing some of my wedge shots. When I won my first event in the States this year I hit 3 shots in the final round stone dead with my wedges. If you can do this it really makes the scoring relatively easy. I haven’t done much practice on my long game as I feel that it is in good shape and I don’t want to wear myself out beating balls. It has taken me a while to get to grips with it but I now know that the most important thing about tournament golf is to be fresh and ready to go. It is no good going out there when you are tired as you are just not mentally sharp.
Four competitive rounds under my belt last week has really helped to get me back into a competitive frame of mind. I have said all year that I have lacked play - I have been starting and stopping but I am back to my normal schedule from now on. I am feeling good about my game and looking forward to playing this week. I feel that my last three rounds last week were far better than I had been for a while. As always I will be looking to try and get myself into contention on Sunday as I always feel that I have a good chance if I am somewhere around the lead starting out on the Sunday of a tournament.
I am drawn with Marcel Siem and Luke Donald for the first two rounds at 8.40 am Thursday (7.40am Irish time) and 1.40 pm (12.40pm) on Friday.
After the end of my three weeks on Tour, I now head home for a week off. I have a few commitments lined up, including a trip to see Bob Torrance planned for later in the week. The BMW International went ok for me. I wasn’t entirely happy with everything but again I feel that I made some good strides forward. I wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders but I still managed to nearly get into contention. There were a few small things in my swing that I wasn’t happy with but nothing major. I should smooth these out when I see Bob. Looking back on the week there were a few things that cost me doing better than I did. Even though I played fine I never quite got it going and so never really got into the thick of it. I was always just outside the main group, needing a low score to get into contention or a low round on Sunday for a top 10 finish.
Thursday and Friday...I played the first two rounds with Luke Donald and Marcel Siem. It was a nice draw as they are both very nice guys. I opened up with rounds of 69 and 67. While it sounds good to be 8 under after two rounds, it is only ok around this course. The nature of this tournament and the course means that there is low scoring - as I was saying in my preview I have shot 26 under around here and been beaten by 1 shot. So as you can imagine there are a lot of birdie chances on the course. The main ones are on the par 5’s - there are 4 of them and they are all within range for me and certainly for most of the field. To shot a good score around this course you need to play the par 5’s well under par, but for me on the first two days I managed to play them in 2 under. My first round of 69 really only felt like about level par as I knew that there was so many chances available, especially as we had played in the morning when the greens had less spike marks and shoe prints. My score was made to look quite ordinary as both Luke and Marcel shot 5 under, Luke opened up with a double bogey and still shot 5 under so I could see that there were plenty of birdies to be made. On Friday, I was slightly better than the first day but still not really good enough. I shot 67, 5 under. Again it only felt average. I didn’t manage to birdie any of the par 5’s and still managed to shoot 5 under, so it really felt like I should have been better. I finished the first two days on 8 under, lying 6 behind. I knew that I could and should been better than I was but I still felt that I could get back into the tournament over the weekend. Luke finished the first two days on 12 under and Marcel on 8 under too.
Saturday and SundayUnfortunately Saturday and Sunday brought more of the same for me. I shot 70 on Saturday and 67 on Sunday. It was a similar story to the first two days. I knew that there were lots of birdie chances on the course but I just wasn’t able to make them. I hit a lot of good putts that just didn’t drop and then I left myself out of position a few times, which meant that I couldn’t really attack flags when I should have been. A good example of this was the 4th on Saturday. I had hit it in the rough off the tee and was left with 108 yards to the pin; this green is protected by a small pond at the front left. The pin was cut about 9 yards from the front; nowhere near the water if you are coming off the fairway but from the rough where I had a bad lie it was in play. I decided to hit a sand wedge up the middle of the green and not flirt with the water but I pulled it and managed to hit it in the water and end up having to chip and putt for a bogey. This is a hole that you are thinking about making a birdie on as it is only a 3 iron and sand wedge. The rest of the weekend was quite similar - I would leave myself out of position on holes that were playing easy and as a result I wasn’t able to get at the pins. My scores of 70 and 67 left me on 15 under par for the tournament and in a share of 16th place - not bad but it should have been a lot better.
Looking backLooking back on the week my performance on the par 5’s wasn’t good enough and my driving let me down. It wsn’t that I was diving the ball terribly, it was just that on a few holes, like the 4th, 5th, 13th & 15th, where you could easily leave yourself with a pitch from 80 to 100 yards from the fairway with a decent drive. I was leaving myself that distance from the rough, which meant that I didn’t have the same control and so I couldn’t go at the flags as easily. I managed to pitch the majority of them to within 20 feet but that it not good enough. If I was coming off the fairway I would be thinking that I had a chance to hole them and certainly be thinking of hitting them stiff.
Overall my finish of 16th was fine but I just wasn’t playing well enough to be much better. On top of this I missed two putts from inside 3 feet and also duffed a chip shot to the 16th. These are things that I don’t normally do and things that you can’t afford to do in any tournament, but certainly in a low scoring one like this. All in all I am happy enough with my last three weeks as I feel that I am getting more competitive now, I feel like I am getting myself match fit.
It was great to see David Howell win as he has played well all year and been unlucky in two play-offs so far. He was also sidelined for few weeks with an injury. He deserved to win a tournament the way he has been playing. It was also great to see Paul qualifing for the World Match Play at Wentworth. He has been playing very well for the past few months and is getting the rewards for it now. Let’s hope that he can keep it going and maybe he can pull off a win at the Match Play.
My next tournament is German Masters where I am defending my crown. As always I will be looking forward to getting out there and playing a course that I have performed well on before.