It’s back to the Linde German Masters where I won last year. It’s nice to come back to a course that I have played well on a good few times in the past. I was 15 under par last year and I look back at it now and wonder just how I managed to do that because it was a really tough course but it is nothing like it at the moment. Last year it had very heavy rough, but this year looks like a much more pleasant test.
I came into this tournament last year in a similar position. It was the week before the Ryder cup and people were wondering about my form. This year I have been more inconsistent than any other year, I haven’t performed great over the past couple of months but it is always the same with me. I play well at the start of the season and at the end and usually I get a bit lost during the middle months, the summer. It has been a funny year for me as I have had two wins in the States, which if you had told me that I would win twice in America I would be delighted but as usual we always want more. For me I would like a bit of my old consistency back.
I haven’t won in Europe this season so I would like to rectify that. An aim would be to win one of the bigger events that are left so as to try and improve my Order of Merit position. It is not as high as it usually is; I have this week, the Dunhill, WGC American Express Championship and the Volvo Masters coming up. Having said that I would like to win again this year and I wouldn’t be fussy as to where it is, America, Europe or anywhere else in the world.
This is a course that I know particularly well, so I haven’t gone over board on the practice rounds. I have played 27 holes this week, all in a Pro-Am format. I like the Pro-ams as I have to putt the ball into the hole; it gets me thinking about scoring as opposed to my swing. In my week off last week I went to see Bob Torrance and did all the work that I needed to do on my swing with him so I haven’t had much to do this week. I have spent most of my time practicing my short game, putting and chipping in particular, as no matter what happens or how well you hit the ball you have to chip and putt well to be in contention. As I have been saying for a while now, I feel my game is in decent shape and not far away from where I want it to be. I just need to get myself in the right frame of mind.
As always the course is in very good condition and it is also a course that I like, so that helps. Last year they had it set up very tough, narrow fairways and heavy rough. This year it is not as bad - the rough is not as penal and also the weather is better. It is amazing how much the weather makes a difference. In practice it has been very warm and so the course does not feel as tough, but if it was cold and wet it would be a totally different test. The forecast for the week is good so hopefully it is right. The key holes on this course are the four par 5’s, as they are all reachable. If you are to score well here you have to play them well and also the 17th and 18th holes. Both have water on them; the 17th on the right of the tee and all up the right to the green. It is a short hole, playing only a 3 wood and 9 iron today but even still it is a tricky one as the water plays on your mind. The last hole has water up the left of the fairway and to the green. Depending on wind conditions and direction it can be a daunting finishing hole as it is very easy to hit it in the water if you are trying to force something. Look out for these holes; there is always some drama on the 17th during the tournament.
I am playing with Retief Goosen and Thomas Levet for the first 2 rounds at 11.50 am on Thursday and 8.20 on Friday. As I always say, I will be trying to get myself into contention come Sunday. If I can get myself in the mix on Sunday evening then I have done something’s right and from there you just have dig in and keep doing your own thing and see what happens. It would be nice to defend the trophy, I know I will certainly be trying hard!!!!
My defence of the German Masters didn’t go as I had planned. I failed to make the cut, which was a disappointing return to Cologne. I had come to the tournament feeling good about myself as it was a course that I have played well on in previous years. I was happy with the way I prepared and with the work that I had done with my coach the week before. But unfortunately it was not to be my week. I finished on level par to miss the cut. It is never nice to miss a cut but it is particularly disappointing when you are the defending champion.
As I was saying in my preview, I felt the course was playing easier than last year and it showed in the scoring. I shot 75 in my first round which was very poor. My round started well as I hit a three iron down the middle of the 1st fairway and then hit a sand wedge to 9 feet and holed to go 1 under; you couldn’t ask for a nicer start. From there I parred the next two holes. The 3rd was a disappointing par as it is a reachable par 5. I drove it in the rough and had to lay it up. My lay up with my hybrid club left me with 50 yards to the pin, from where I pitched to 10 feet and then missed. However 1 under through 3 was fine. It was the next few holes that put me on the back foot. I hit a nice 6 iron to the par three 4th which ended up 30 feet behind the hole. I hit what I thought was a good putt but it ran by 5 feet and I missed this to take bogey. On the 5th I drove it in the rough on the right and couldn’t reach the green - I tried to hit an eight iron up the right so as to give myself a chance of a par but I pulled it left into the water. In the end I had to get up and down from 88 yards to save a bogey. Then on the 6th I pulled my drive into the rough and ended up taking another bogey to put me 2 over par. I birdied the par 5 7th and parred the 8th and 9th to be out in 1 over. I knew that I needed a good back nine but I just wasn’t able to produce one. I played it in 2 over, taking two bogies and 7 pars. I bogeyed the 12th and 15th, the latter was particularly annoying as it is a very reachable par 5. I pushed my drive into the bunker on the right and then mishit my shot out of it and caught the lip. My third shot was with a 6 iron which I put in the greenside bunker from where I failed to get it up and down. I parred my way in for a 75 to leave me a lot of work to do to be around for the weekend. By the end of play on Thursday there were 72 players on 1 under or better, so the cut was looking at definitely 1 under, or maybe 2 under, which meant that I had to shot 68 or even a 67.
I played early on Friday morning, starting from the 10th. I knew I needed to shoot a good score to be around for the weekend. I pulled my drive into the rough, from where I could only get it down to just short of the green and I failed to get it up and down. I started with a bogey, which was not what I wanted. I managed to birdie the 13th by hitting the green in two (a three wood and a five iron) and two putting, then a drive and a nine iron left me with a 20 foot putt for birdie on the 14th, which I duly holed. I hit the 15th in two, with a three wood and then my hybrid to set up my third birdie in a row to get me back to 1 over par. After two more pars I was still 1 over standing on the 18th, my 9th. I hit a three wood up the fairway that left me a perfect 7 iron which I hit to 5 feet. After nine holes I was back to level par and feeling good as I knew that there were several chances for birdies on the front nine. I then stiffed a sand wedge on the 1st (my 10th) to get me to 1 under. At this stage everything was going good and I had a chance to move on and try to get into the tournament, but a bogey on the second halted my momentum. I drove it in the bunker and then hit it from there into the greenside bunker where I failed to get it up and down. However, I quickly got the shot back on the par five third.
I parred the next 4 holes to remain at 1 under. I was thinking that if I managed to finish on 1 under that I could make the cut. The eight hole is a long par 3, it was playing 230 yards. It was perfect for my hybrid. However I lost my concentration over the tee shot and I leaked it right. I hit a good chip but it just ran on and ended up 5 feet past the hole. I missed the five footer and dropped back to level par. I was very annoyed with myself as I knew that I had put myself outside the cut mark and it meant that I had to birdie my last hole. Again I missed the fairway. I had a reasonable lie, but the only issue was that it was going to fly. I hit a 9 iron and just missed the green right. I knew that I needed to chip it in to have any hope of making the cut. I played a chip and run with a 9 iron; it was running right at the hole but it stopped just 3 inches short and in the middle of the hole. Leaving me no chance of making the cut and quite annoyed with myself.
All in all, my main problem was my driving. I missed too many fairways over the two days. I wasn’t giving myself a decent chance of setting up birdie chances as it is hard to get the ball close from the rough. So it meant a weekend off to try and sort out my driving and get myself back into the right frame of mind again. Talk to you all soon!