It’s the World Cup time again and that means that Paul and I are teaming up for our 10th time. It is a tournament that we have had quite a bit of success in the past, winning it once and finishing in the top ten a number of times. I think that the main reason behind our performances in this event is that Paul and I get on so well both on the course and off it. We play a very different game but yet we have the utmost faith in each other. We have been playing together since 1990, when we were paired together as amateurs for Ireland. We’re from the same area at home, went to the same school so are backgrounds are very similar. I think we both know that each other is giving 100% when we are on the course and that helps as we have confidence in what each other is doing.
We played the course for the first time on Wednesday as we only arrived on Tuesday evening. I played very poorly in Shanghai last week and as a result I wanted to see Bob before I came to Portugal, so both Paul and I spent a few hours with him on Tuesday morning in London. It was great as it was exactly what I needed, fifteen minutes with Bob and he was able to tell me what I was doing wrong and how to cure it. We spent a few hours working on it and it has certainly helped. A few of the other teams have suggested that this course could lead itself to being a birdie fest, I personally don’t see it as I thought that it played tough on Wednesday. I was looking at the greens and there are plenty of tough pin positions and on top of that the rough is quite heavy in patches. Another big factor in how this course plays is the weather, it is quite exposed and so if it gets windy then it could very tricky. The course has a good mix of holes, there are four par 5’s, two of which are within reach and two which are more than likely to play as 3 shooters. The par 3’s are good holes, ranging from 190 – 220 yards, that require accurate iron shots otherwise you can be struggling to make pars. I definitely think that the hardest hole on the course is the 18th, it measures 465 yards with water all down the left. The fairway narrows in at 280 yards which makes it a tough hole to hit driver on. In practice it was into the wind which meant that you had a long tough second shot. This is certainly not a birdie hole, par here is a good score. Another interesting hole is the 14th, it has two fairways; you can hit it straight at the green to one of the fairways but you have to carry it over 250 yards over water to get to this, otherwise you have to take it up the left for the safer drive but it leaves you with a second shot over water. It all depends on the weather conditions as to how is best to play this hole. I think that it is a good course with some really good design features; I certainly don’t see it as a birdie fest as some are saying.
I am much happier with my game after seeing Bob on Monday; I had become a bit lost over in China with how I was swinging the club and what I should be doing. It has given me a renewed confidence and making me look forward to playing the World Cup. I wasn’t really in a great frame of mind after the HSBC Champions as I played badly and I didn’t want to come here and play badly and let Paul down. We are both really looking forward to this week, as always, but it seems that this week that half of Ireland is coming down to watch. It is always great to see fans from Ireland wherever we are playing. It gives you a real lift and from what I hear there will be a lot of people to cheer us on this week. There is nothing that either of us would like more than to get into contention on Sunday and have all the Irish fans going mad, so hopefully we can some up with the goods.
It wasn’t the end that anyone wanted to the World Cup. It is never the ideal situation to have a tournament reduced to 54 holes but when you have the rain that we had in Portugal on Saturday night and all day Sunday there is no other option. Having said that, I don’t think the Welsh team of Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd were complaining. They played very well for the 54 holes we played and were worthy winners.
For Paul and I it was a very disappointing week, we came into the week with high expectations. We have performed very well in this tournament over the years, only one win but we have finished in the top 5 on numerous occasions. We were both confident and looking forward to teaming up again but it wasn’t to be this year. Realistically where we lost it was on the first day, we only shot 67, 5 under par on Thursday and that left us too far behind to catch up. Our 5 under contained only 7 birdies and most disappointing of all we had 2 bogeys on our card. In better fourball bogeys are a disaster, we managed to have two of them, on the 9th and 18th. We started the round well with 3 birdies but then we hit a wall and couldn’t make another birdie until after our bogey on the 9th. Having bogeyed the 9th we managed to make 4 birdies on the back nine to get us to 6 under playing the last but we couldn’t even finish on that as we both bogeyed the 18th.
After our 67 on the first day we were in a tie for 21st. Heading out in the foursomes we knew that we needed to shot a really good score to get ourselves back into the tournament. We got off to a good start by birding 2 of the first 3 holes but again the birdies dried up a little, we did manage one more on the front nine to actually beat our front nine score in the fourball. However our back nine was nothing to get excited about, we managed to make one birdie and one bogey for a level par nine and a round of 69, three under. It certainly could have been better as we missed a few putts; I missed a short one on the 11th to get us to 5 under. Overall 3 under wasn’t a bad score in foursomes but when you have only shot 5 under in the fourball the previous day it doesn’t do much for your position and chances of winning the tournament. Also when you are playing behind a team that shot 61 in foursomes your really feel like you are only treading water.
Going out on Saturday we still felt that we had a chance to win if we could shot a really low score. However that wasn’t to be either, we managed to shot 64 but it didn’t do much for us. It moved us up to a tie for 12th position. We had started on the 10th and managed to get it round in 5 under, a reasonable nine holes. Then we birdied the 1st and 2nd to get to 15 under in total. The third hole, a reachable par 5 all week, was playing into the wind when we played it and so it was out of reach. Neither of us hit it close with our third shots and so we had outside chances of making birdies, which both of us missed. But worse than that was the fact that we both missed our par putts also and so we walked of the green on 14 under instead of 16 as we would have hoped for. After this we managed to make 2 more birdies on the way in to finish on 16 under. As soon as we finished we headed straight off to watch the Ireland Australia rugby match. Our afternoon was spent watching the rugby and looking out at the rain. Sunday morning was to be along the same lines, sitting around waiting to see if the rain would disappear or to see if we would be playing on Monday. As it turned out the forecast was for more rain on Monday and so they couldn’t postpone the last round till then.
It was a bad week for us, nothing like we had hoped for. Looking back on it our problem in the fourballs was that we didn’t give ourselves enough chances. We left one another to effectively play holes on our own and you can’t do that in fourballs. If you want to shoot a good score you have to ensure both players with chances on all the holes. This and our failure to score on the par 5’s all week was ultimately our downfall. It’s over for anther year, hopefully next year we can give it a better go.