Life is a lot easier when you play badly and then all of a sudden you get in contention and win one. No one gets on your back. When you finish runner-up seven times, everyone is asking, 'Why aren't you winning?' It's much more fun when you jump into a win out of the blue. It's a much tougher game when you play consistently well.

Open de France

Entry Date:
Jul 2, 2006

I arrived here in Paris on Tuesday morning exceptionally tired and was questioning my logic of playing as it was to be my fourth event in a row. However looking back on it now, it was a great idea! A good final round added to my solid rounds over the first three days was good enough for a second place finish on my own and as it turns out, very close to forcing a play off. I would certainly say that I exceeded my expectations this week as I really felt that this was one week too far. The way it started certainly didn’t give me any confidence as I didn’t arrive until Tuesday and my clubs didn’t arrive until Wednesday….

I only managed to have one practice round on the course and that was in the pro-am on Wednesday afternoon, and that was only because Niclas Fasth was good enough to change his pro-am tee time with me to give me more time for my clubs to arrive. The last time I played this course was as an amateur back in 1994 and I found it exceptionally tough. That is part of the reason that I hadn’t been back since; so with all this I really wasn’t expecting a great week.

Over the first three days I shot rounds of 69, 70 and 69, which left me just inside the top ten on five under par. I was relatively happy with this as I found the course very difficult and so I just wasn’t able to see myself shooting the lights out. In the first round on Thursday I hit a few hooks, something that I haven’t done for a while, so I knew that there was something wrong with my swing. I knew by the way the ball was flying that it was probably my take away (I get this problem a couple of times a year). When I take the club away too much on the inside I tend to hit a few hooks. Luckily I was able to spot this and so I spent my time on the range over the next few days working on getting the club more towards the outside on the initial movement away. By working on getting it more to the outside it meant that when I got onto the course it tended towards my normal swing, which was my practice for the week. Over the first three days I had fifteen birdies and ten bogies. I felt on Saturday night that I was giving myself enough chances to make birdies and converting enough but I just needed to reduce the number of bogies.

I was drawn to play with Mark Roe on Sunday; Mark had won the French Open in 1994 when I was here as an amateur watching it, which was a nice draw as Mark is very entertaining. I just made sure that I didn’t mention the fact that England were knocked out of the World Cup the night before as Mark, like all the English players, and caddies was very disappointed. Heading out on Sunday I knew that if I could shoot a good score that I may have a chance as I was only five shots behind but realistically I felt that a good finish was what I was chasing. The first couple of holes didn’t go the way I was hoping; on the 1st I just missed the green left and my ball bounced into the bushes behind the green. I was thinking that I may have to go back and hit another as I was walking up but luckily when I got there I had found a gap and was able to chip and putt for par. On the second I hit it in the bunker and failed to get it up and down, which was not the start that I was looking for but then I made a birdie on the next to get the shot straight back. I then made four birdies over the last five holes of the front nine to be out in nine under par for the tournament. I was playing nicely and still trying hard to make more birdies, but missed a ten footer on the 10th for birdie and then parred the 11th and 12th. On the 13th I hit my tee shot in the rough left, it was sitting ok so I decided to hit a seven iron but I hooked it left and into the water which resulted in a good bogey in the end. When I didn’t birdie the par five 14th I was very annoyed with myself as I knew that it was my last realistic chance for a birdie over the remaining holes. On the 15th tee I asked Ronan what I needed to do to have a chance of winning, he told me that 11 under was leading and that I would need at least two birdies and probably three. With this in mind I decided to be even more aggressive over the last few holes, I fired my last four iron shots straight at the flags. On the 15th and 16th I hit two lovely iron shots right at the flags but wasn’t able to find a birdie. On the 17th I hit driver off the tee to try and get myself further down, which paid off as it left me only a 9 iron in, which I hit to 10 feet and duly holed for a birdie. The 18th is probably the toughest hole on the course and not one that you expect to birdie but I knew that I needed to make a three if I was to have any chance. I hit a three wood off the tee to the right half of the fairway, which left me 178 yard to the pin. It was playing a little into the wind and obviously over water, and therefore was a very good 7 iron (if I was leading I would have been hitting a 6 iron). I knew that I had no margin for error with a 7 but it was the best club to give me a chance of making a birdie. I hit a really nice shot to 15 feet just left of the pin which I ended up holing to finish on 10 under. I was delighted with my round and in particular my finish but when I looked at the leaderboard I saw that John Bickerton had made a couple more birdies and was now 13 under so I thought that I had no chance. However by the time I handed in my card he had dropped two shots on the 15th and was now only one ahead of me. I headed to the range to hit a few shots so as to keep myself limbered up incase there was to be a play off. When I got a text from Caroline telling me that he had hit the 18th in two I knew that it was all over and headed back to watch him finish.

I ended up second on my own just one shot behind John; I was delighted as I had played well on Sunday and fought hard to finish on 10 under. I was close but John deserved to win as he played the last three holes in level par, which is a fantastic effort when you have to. The reason that I entered this event was because of the race for Ryder Cup points, I was last man into the team coming here and I didn’t want to end up looking for a captain’s pick. With this in mind I am delighted with my finish as it virtually assures me of a place on the team. You never want to miss out on a Ryder Cup but certainly when it is in Ireland and I didn’t want to be sitting at home. I can focus on my game for the rest of the season and not get too caught up in the race for the team. In one way I won my tournament this week. It’s now back home to Ireland for the European Open this coming week where I will be trying my heart out to go one better.