We are nearing the end of a yearlong qualification campaign for the 2006 European Ryder Cup team. Every other year the BMW International in Munich is where Ryder Cup places are finalized, the tournament almost takes a back seat - all the talk is about who will make the team and who Woosnam will pick for his two wild cards. However I do remember being on the bubble myself and while I was trying to win the event I was playing to make the team, which I did by finishing in second place.
I have a lot of happy memories from this event; while I have never won here I have managed to finish second a couple of times – once to get myself into the Ryder Cup team for the first time and then another time when I shot 26 under par to finish one shot behind John Daly. As ever it is great to come back to a course that I have played well on and that I have had good finishes on.
This event has historically had remarkably low scoring over the years; the course is long but tends to play much shorter than its length due to the fact that it is at altitude and it is normally rather warm here, so the ball tends to travel that bit further. However, in the pro-am on Wednesday it was as if we were playing a totally different course to the one we’re used to, it was cold and wet and the ball was going nowhere, the rough is very heavy, and there are a few new bunkers – some which make the course easier, and some which make the course harder! I have to say that I don’t mind that the course is playing more difficult as my game has changed over the last couple of years to the point that I seem to play the tougher courses better, a few years ago I was a bit more erratic and tended to hit it all over and get it up and down a bit more.
The Ryder Cup race
This is the last week of the race for the team, as it stands Paul and I are still not mathematically safe. Admittedly for me it would take a number of things to happen for me to be knocked out. Paul is in a little more danger than me but still not a huge amount, as it would also take a few things to happen for Paul to miss out. As always when it is this time of year all the television groups have Ryder cup hopefuls in them, I am paired for the first time in a stroke play event with Paul, and our third is Retief Goosen. It’s quite funny, since the draw came out all the journalists have been asking both of us what we think about playing together - for me I am delighted as I always like playing with Paul, and both of us know that we are in control of our own destiny. If we go out this week and play our own game and not get caught up looking at what everyone else is doing then we will both be fine. The way I see it is that if we stick to our normal routine and play our own game then we will drag each other along and hopefully get ourselves into contention.
The other main talking point this week has been the Americans’ trip to Ireland to play the K club. As far as I am concerned it shows how much they want to win this year, they have got their top two players to turn up a month in advance; I don’t think they need to say anymore about how keen they are to win.
Event though there are a number of different things going on this week I am sticking to my normal routine – I will play the course and spend the rest of time working on my putting and short game. This course demands good wedge play and good putting so with that in mind I have spent quite a bit of time hitting some wedges to get my yardages spot on and a lot of time practicing my putting, particularly from the 10 to 15 feet range. I felt last week that I putted very well but that I didn’t hole enough from this range so I have put some extra work in. As regards to my swing, I am happy with it, so I feel that if I can hit my wedges well then I will be in good shape.
There is no doubt that it will be hard to stay focused on the job in hand this week which is first and foremost to get myself into contention. Everyone is talking about the Ryder Cup and looking at how the other players are playing but for me I am here to try and win the BMW International. That is first and foremost in my mind, the key for me as ever is to stick to my routines and ensure that I focus on my target. If I can do that for the week then I have a good chance of getting into contention come Sunday and from there I will take my chances.
Padraig suffered a play-off defeat at the first extra hole of the BMW International Open. A packed leaderboard throughout the day meant a number of players were in contention. Padraig started well with a birdie three at the first where he holed from 30 feet and continued his good form to be out in 34 shots and tied for the lead. He had his only bogie of the day at the tenth hole where he drove into a drain but got up and down from the greenside bunker to limit the damage. He fought back with a birdie four on the par five 11th hole and another birdie on the 15th left him needing a birdie four on the last to win. A super drive went one inch too far and left him with a coller of rough behind the ball. His second shot found the front bunker and he failed to hole from 15 foot for the win. He finished tied with Retief Goosen and Henrik Stenson at 15 under par. Birdies by both Padraig and Retief Goosen counted for little on the first play-off hole as Henrik Stenson made an eagle three to take the title! It's been threatening to happen for a while now and Padraig showed all his good form with a stunning 64 to leave him two behind the leader David Howell going into Sundays final round in which he will play in the last group. Six threes in a row on the back nine, eight birdies in thirteen holes and not one bogie made his score card look like a sea of red. Speaking to Padraig after his round he said that it just confirmed what he has being saying all along that he is hitting the ball better than ever and it was just a matter of time before the putts started to drop. He is so looking forward to Sunday! Perfect timing with the Ryder Cup on the horizon! Another 70 leaves Padraig with work to do as his four under pat total trails the leaders by five shots going into the weekend. Again, two early birdies show that Padraig is in good form if he can just manage to keep the bogies off his card. First round of two under par 70 leaves Padraig well placed at the BMW International Open. Two birdies in his first three holes got him off to a nice start but two more birdies were cancelled out by two bogies to leave him in the hunt for the title. Seven under leads.