After touring the world in the last five weeks, taking in China, Japan, South Africa, Barbados and now L.A., I have arrived at my final tournament of the year. My end of season has been a good one so far, with the exception of the World Cup where we struggled to get any sort of momentum. I am back in Sherwood for my usual end of season tournament, the Target World Challenge which is hosted by Tiger Woods. I have a good record in this event; I have won it once and finished in the top three a few times.
As always at this event I have one mind on next year and what I will work on during my winter break. I have spent a bit more time this week on technical practice than I would normally and as a result I haven’t prepared for the tournament properly. I would like to have spent a bit more time on my mental game and hitting a few more wedges, but I haven’t had the time and so I have to work with what I have.
I have played 27 holes in practice this week, nine on Tuesday and then the pro-am on Wednesday. It is a course that I am very familiar with so I don’t feel the need to get out and play too many holes. It is definitely a course that suits the players that have been here before as it takes a bit of getting used too.
This is a funky course, not what we are used to playing week in and week out on the Tour. There are a number of holes where anything can happen. Holes where you can as easily make a birdie as a double bogey. That’s why it makes for good viewing. One of the trickiest things about this course is the extreme elevation changes, some of the holes have 20 yard changes from the tees to the fairway and then from the fairway to the greens. It is also quite tight on some holes, in particular two of the par 5’s on the back nine, the 11th and the 16th. On the 11th I will probably play a three wood off the tee and then leave myself another three wood for my second, as the driving area is quite narrow. On the 16th I nearly always hit a three iron or a 5 wood off the tee; this then leaves me another 5 wood or a 3 wood to a very tight green; it is surrounded by trees with a drain in front of it and to the right. This will be a key hole come Sunday afternoon as it has potential to win or lose the tournament for you.
The other key holes will be the 9th, 11th and 18th. The 9th is a 424-yard par four with a 25-yard elevation change from the tee to the green and as a result it is not a driver hole. I usually hit a 3 iron off the tee and leave myself anything from a 6 iron to a 9 iron depending on where the flag is. The real tricky part of this hole is the green as it is 45 yards long and so it can be hard to get it close. Clubbing is very important with your second shot.
The 11th hole measures 522 yards but it plays 14 yards uphill as well. For me it will probably be a three wood from the tee, as there are two bunkers on the left that are within range and the rough on the right cuts out into the fairway making it a tight drive, which will probably mean that I have to hit another 3 wood to get home though. The green is protected by a bunker in the front and a tree overhanging the right half. This added to the difficult slopes, making it a tricky birdie.
The 18th as always will be a crucial hole, it measures 446 yards. This hole is no give away - in fact it is a good finishing hole. You know that you don’t have anything won until you have finished this one as you could end up taking any number on it. The tee shot is tight again and is normally not a driver as it narrows in at driver range, and with trees left and right it is important to hit the fairway. Having hit the fairway you then have anything from a 5 iron to a 9 iron into a tiered and sloping green with water in front of it. There is no real bail out shot here; you have to take on the shot as there is no easy up and down. This hole will definitely have a good say in who will win the tournament come Sunday. It is a hole that you would happily take 4 pars and walk away.
Another great feature of this course are the greens. They are very quick when you are above the hole and also they are tricky to chip onto. Invariably the winner here has a very good short game.
My expectations for the week are somewhat mixed. Coming into the event I have been playing well and feeling good but, as I was saying, I have spent a little too much time on my technical game and not enough on preparing for the event as I would normally. However come Thursday morning I will be ready to go and the fact that I am coming off two competitive weeks will help in overcoming any problems. The hardest thing for me this week is not to think about the fact that I am finishing up on Sunday for seven weeks. I have to keep this at the back of my mind otherwise I would find it hard to play.
As ever I am hoping for a solid start and then try and get into contention come Sunday afternoon. I have managed that the last couple of years here so hopefully I can do it again. The main thing about this week is to be mentally sharp as it is a funky course.
I am paired with Michael Campbell in the first round; we tee of at 10.30am L.A. time which is 6.30pm Irish time.