Round 1 started at the home of golf, St. Andrews where Padraig was quick out of the blocks with a four birdie start. One bogie and three more birdies left him with a six under par total of 66 and three behind the leader Paul Casey.
Round 2 saw Padraig at Kingsbarns. An up and down front nine saw him bogie the first and ninth but three birdies got him out in 35 shots. A birdie at the 10th and 18th holes saw him with a satisfactory score of three under par 69 and still well in the hunt for the title.
Round 3 was played at the tough Carnoustie course where Padraig played a blinder! Three under par after ten, he dropped his first shot at the11th but hit back with birdies at twelve and fourteen before dropping shots at the tough 16th and 17th holes. A birdie three at the last left him one behind the leader, Bradley Dredge, going into the final round at St. Andrews. Padraig had only one thing to say after his round - "I played great"!
After fifteen months it is great to be writing about a win again. My last tour win was the Barclays Classic on the PGA Tour in June 2005 and my last European tour win was the German Masters in 2004. When you are winning regularly you feel like you can win every week but when you have gone for a while without a win you tend to get a bit anxious as to where the next one will come from. This year I have got myself into position a few times for a win but I haven’t been able to finish it off. Going out on Sunday I was determined to play my own game and not get involved with the distractions of trying to win. Without doubt I benefit from the pro-am format as I enjoy playing them and I particularly enjoy J.P McManus’ company. For me the added interest of the team event is a great distraction. I find myself almost forgetting about my own game and trying harder for the team and as a result it improves my own personal performance.
The Dunhill links is a tournament that I really look forward to every year. I enjoy the format but I also like the courses that it is played over. Two of the courses are Open venues and the third, Kingsbarns, is a fantastic new course. There is a great feel about the event as it is not just about golf, having a number of film stars and other sporting legends makes it a totally different event to a normal tournament. Obviously the better you are doing the more it is like a regular event but there is still the nice distraction of the team aspect.
I started on Thursday in Kingsbarns from the 10th tee. As the week is a bit more relaxed it normally takes a while to get into full tournament mode but for me it happened pretty quickly as I opened up with four straight birdies to get me right into the mix. On the 10th I holed a ten footer for birdie and then on the 11th I hit my approach to six feet to set up another birdie. The 12th is a reachable par five which I was just short on but made a chip and putt birdie and then on the 13th I hit an eight iron straight over the flag to fifteen feet and holed for my fourth consecutive birdie. The game felt so easy at that stage; if only it was always like that. Our amateur opposition was the actor Bill Murray and he was finding my start very entertaining as he thought it was never going to stop but it did on the 14th. I was hitting a lob wedge for my second and it pitched two yards short of where I needed to land it and it spun back down the green. I two putted for a par but it felt like a bogey as I had made four birdies already and was feeling bullet proof. Then on the 13th I hit a lovely five iron into the middle of the green but it ran through the back and I ended up making a bogey four, really brought me back to earth. I birdied the next hole to get back to four under but I then went on a run of pars that lasted until my 15th hole, the 6th hole of the course. Normally this is a driveable par four; in fact it is reachable with a three wood but when we got there it wasn’t on so I hit my hybrid off the tee and left myself an eight iron which I hit to three feet to set up my sixth birdie of the day. I then made one more birdie on my last hole, the par five ninth. We had a bit of confusion playing this hole as I hit my second over the back of the green and a marshal thought that it was a ball that had been thrown to the crowd so he picked it up. After a few minutes retrieving the ball and getting a referee I had to drop it where it had come to rest. I chipped it to five feet and then holed my putt for a first round 66, six under. It was an ideal start for me and for the team as JP improved my score three times which meant that we shot nine under as a team.
For our second round we played St. Andrews, where if you get decent weather you always feel that you can shoot a decent score. We did get a reasonable day, only a couple of showers but nothing major. However I started poorly by three putting the first hole, but JP made a four with a shot for the team. I was really annoyed that I had dropped a shot on the first but I kept with it and managed to get it back on the third hole. Two more birdies on the 5th and 8th got me to eight under for the tournament but a bad drive on the ninth cost me a dropped shot. I hit my three wood into a fairway bunker which I could only chip out sideways from and then I miss hit my third and two putted for a bogey. This put me back to seven under. I was really annoyed with myself for hitting it in the bunker but luckily a birdie on the 10th managed to ease the pain. I parred everything to the 18th where I hit my drive onto the green and two putted for a final birdie to shoot three under for the day. I was somewhat disappointed that I only shot three under as I felt that I had left a few shots out on the course. However in the team event we had a good day as JP played well and we shot 62. This put us one behind in the team event and left me three behind Bradley Dredge, but the following day I had the hardest course left to play, Carnoustie.
Normally in this event we play Carnoustie off a mixture of the medal tees and the back tees but this year they put us on all the back tees. This made it some test, especially as the wind was blowing and it was cold. I opened up with a par on the first two holes and then made a birdie on the short third hole after hitting my second shot to two feet. Over the next six holes, I made another birdie on Hogan’s Alley, parred everything else, and on the 9th I missed from four feet for a birdie. I have never played this course in this event when it was playing so long; I was hitting drives that were only going 250 yards and I was wearing out my hybrid and four irons for second shots. I birdied the 10th hole to get to 12 under but then I hit my drive into the fairway bunker on the 11th and again all I could do was chip out. This resulted in a bogey, which was very disappointing as I was playing so well. However I got lucky on the 12th. In the previous years this hole has been a par five but this year it was changed to a par four. I pulled my tee shot well left but got lucky with a decent lie. I was left with my hybrid for my second which I hit to 30 feet just off the back, which I holed this for a very unlikely birdie! Then on the next hole the short par three I made a great save from the right bunker to keep me going; another birdie on the par five 14th got me to 13 under. However I missed a chance on the 15th to go to 14 under and then I dropped two shots in a row. I missed a four footer for par on the 16th; the 17th was playing straight into the wind and I hit my hybrid for my second. I hit it well but it just caught the front trap and left me with an awkward 30 yard bunker shot. I played it with my sand wedge but it spun too much and ended up 30 feet away, which I two putted for a bogey. I was really annoyed with myself as I had played so well and to drop the two shots late on felt terrible. On the 18th I drove it in the middle of the fairway and was left with a little nine iron for my second which I hit to 6 feet pin high. Gladly I holed it to get myself back to 12 under and only one shot behind. In the team event we shot six under to take the lead on 25 under.
For the final round back at St Andrews we played in a fourball as Bradley’s team had made the cut as well. The day started great for me as I hit my second shot at the first to 12 feet and holed for birdie to tie the lead. I made seven pars in a row after this but I played well. I gave myself plenty of chances but just didn’t hole anything. I got two breaks in the first six holes; the first one was on the fourth where my second shot had just run through the green into a bunker. I was left with a very awkward stance and shot which I played well to get it to 10 feet; I hit an ok putt but it was drifting off line, but it hit a spike mark, came back on line and went in for par! It was a nice piece of luck but I didn’t feel too bad about it as I had hit a very good bunker shot and was unlucky to end up as far away as I did. Then on the 6ht hole I pulled my drive and luckily it missed all the bunkers. My next birdie came on the 9th after a sand wedge to 12 feet; on the 10th I missed a good chance for another birdie. The 11th was a real turning point with regard to Bradley and I. I hit an eight iron to about nine feet and then Bradley hit an eight iron after me and it came up just short but in the bunker, the only place not to go. He had to come out backwards from it. It was here that we had to get an unusual ruling, Bradley’s caddie was about to rake the bunker and I stopped him as I felt that if he hit it back in the bunker that he would be penalized for improving his lie. Brad had never heard of this ruling so we had to get it checked before he hit, as it turned out I was infact right and Bradley was quite happy that I had stopped him playing. In the end I made a two and he made a five. I parred the 12th and 13th comfortably, but the 14th was probably my last wobble, I hit my drive left into the bunkers. All I could do was hit it 100 yards down the fairway and leave myself with a long third shot. I was left with my hybrid to the green which I hit very well but it ran over the green and left me with a tricky two putt for par. I got the first putt to five feet, which was a good effort and then I holed for a par. I kind of felt somewhat comfortable after making that putt. On the 15th I made a solid par four after a good drive down the middle. The 16th and 17th are two holes that can cause problems so even though I felt comfortable I knew that I wasn’t home and dry until I had played these. The 16th was playing into the wind but even still I hit my hybrid off the tee so as to make sure that I couldn’t reach the bunker. I was left with a four iron to the green and I have to say that I hit my best shot of the week, it was a majestic four iron to 18 feet. I felt that I had it after hitting that shot. Then on the 17th I hit my drive well left and was left with a 6 iron for my second which I hit into the middle of the green and two putted to give me a three shot cushion playing the last. It was a great walk down the 18th, in fact I think the only walk better than it would be if I was about to win the Open here. A birdie on the last gave me a four shot win. I felt great as I had played very well and managed to keep a bogey off my card. To top it all off JP and I won the team event by five shots as well. In the final round JP improved my score six times for us to shot 62. I have to say that it was real pleasure playing with JP and much of the reason that I won was because I was playing with him.
After fifteen months it was great to be on the winners rostrum again. I had been close in Germany but this made up for it, and not only that, it gets me back into the race for the Order of Merit title. I had planned on having two weeks off before the Volvo Masters but now I am going to play the week before in Mallorca to try and narrow the gap between Paul Casey and myself. I am €210,000 behind Paul with two events to go so I feel that it is worth pulling out all the stops to try and catch him. Needles to say the celebrations went on for quite a while on Sunday; if only every week was like this!!!
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