After two weeks off since Abu Dhabi I am now back in the US for a run of four events starting at Pebble Beach this week. I was happy with how I performed in Abu Dhabi, obviously a little disappointed with my finish as I had a good chance to win the tournament, but as I was saying then it was pretty much due to a lack of “match fitness”. Since then I have spent a bit of time with my coach, Bob Torrance, working on a few swing issues and also spent some time working on my short game.
The key for me in the early season is playing competitive golf; I need to get competitive rounds under my belt to get myself back into tournament mode. The great thing about this week at the AT&T is that there is a guaranteed three rounds of golf. It’s not that I am coming here with a negative frame of mind but it is nice to know that I will get three competitive rounds in, no matter what happens.
In my couple of weeks off I have spent a bit of time working on my swing and also on my short game. The work I do at home is still never quite as good as the work that I do at a tournament; I definitely do my best work in terms of getting ready for an event at a tournament. However this week I haven’t been able to do any preparation really as I have been confined to my bed with the flu for two and a half days. I had hoped to come here and get a lot of good work done during the practice rounds but I couldn’t do anything. This normally wouldn’t be that bad but unfortunately I haven’t played this event before and so I have only played one of the three courses.
I have spent two and a half days in bed since I flew in on Sunday afternoon; the most I could muster was nine holes on Poppy Hills on Wednesday afternoon. After nine holes I felt like I had played 36 so I decided I had enough and went back to my bed for the rest of the day. There is no doubt that I am at a big disadvantage having not played the courses in practice but there is nothing that I could do about it. I played the US Open in 2000 around Pebble Beach but I can’t remember too much of it. I am hopping that it all comes flooding back to me when I get to Pebble. Of the other two courses I have only played the back nine at Poppy Hills, so is far from the perfect preparation!
This tournament is the same format as the Dunhill Links in Europe, which is also a pro-am, and I am playing with J.P. McManus again. After the week I have had it is great to be playing with a friend in the tournament as it will mean that I am more relaxed. We know each other well enough to know that we are both trying hard and also we are comfortable in each others company. One of the great things about J.P. is that he always seems to say the right thing at the right time. I always like the pro-am format as you are playing for someone else as well; it is not just about how I am doing, and is a great distraction from the normal
Due to my sickness I have no expectations for the week. It was always going to be hard for me as it is still the start of my season, so I was always going to find the going tough. The fact that I haven’t played the courses in practice and the fact that I haven’t been able to do my normal preparation means that I am really struggling. However, it does help that I am playing with J.P. and opposite Paul McGinley and Dermot Desmond. Hopefully I can get through the week and still be competing on Sunday. I am playing Poppy Hills on day one at 8.10am, Pebble on Friday and 9.50am and then Spyglass on Saturday at My first tournament back in the states since last year didn’t quite go as I had hoped. The finish wasn’t a surprise, more the preparation. I came to this event with limited expectations anyway as I always felt that it would be tough to come straight out and compete after the work that I did over the previous few weeks. I know that I got into contention in Abu Dhabi but that was above how I thought I would do.
I suppose coming into this week there was more interest from the outside as J.P. and I were pairing up again for another pro-am and the last time we played together we won the Dunhill Links. There is no doubt that I enjoy this format and playing with J.P. is great as he is so easy going and always hoping that I play well and not worrying about himself. We both want the team to do well and are not focusing on how we play as individuals. This week was always going to be tough, as I hadn’t played two of the courses before I was also in bed sick for most of the week leading up to the event.
At the start of the week I was feeling so bad that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to play the tournament, so to end up playing and finishing on 5 under for the week was great.
Starting the tournament on Thursday I had only played nine holes in practice so I new it was always going to be tough. The nine I played was the back nine in Poppy Hills which was the first nine holes that I played. Those nine holes went well. I birdied my first hole, a reachable par five. Over the next seven holes I made two more birdies and three putted a par five that I reached in two. It was going so well, much easier than I had anticipated! I then bogeyed the par five 18th to turn in two under. Now it was into the unknown for me, I really struggled on the nine I hadn’t seen previously. I find it very hard to play a course when I haven’t seen it before as I struggle to commit to the line that I am given because I don’t know what’s down there. As a result of this I really struggled on the back nine, and made two bogeys and a double bogey to end up shooting four over on the nine and two over in total. Our team finished up shooting 6 under which was poor as we were six under after seven holes. It was a very disappointing round as I had got off to a great start. By the end of the day I was very tired and was only fit to go to my bed.
On Friday we were playing Pebble Beach, which I had played in the 2000 US Open so I at least new where I was going. Again I started very well, birding the second, fourth, fifth and sixth to get to four under for the day and two under in total. I parred the eight and ninth to be out in four under. But the back nine was another disappointment; a bogey on the 10th kicked it off again! I missed a five footer for birdie on the par five 14th which left me at three under. On the fifteenth I hit a good drive and then a good wedge but it went a little long and I couldn’t get it up and down which meant another bogey. I was really annoyed with myself after this as I knew that I could have shot a really good score. However it wasn’t over yet, I three putted the par three 17th for another bogey and then hit my tee shot into the water on the 18th and had to make a birdie with my second ball to shoot level par. This left me on two over the tournament and in need of a good third day to make the cut. Our team had a very similar day; we started very well again and faded in the end to end up shooting a 65 to put us on 13 under. I was feeling better so I went to Spyglass and got a cart and drove around it so as to have an idea of where to go. Having driven around the course I have to say that it looked really tough! I couldn’t see how I was going to shoot a good enough score to make the cut.
Heading out on Saturday morning I knew that it was going to be a tough day as the wind was blowing and there was supposed to be several showers during the day. We started on the 10th which is a tricky par four as there is a tree in the way for the second shot. I hit driver off the tee and got it past the tree which left me with a sand wedge to the green. I parred the 10th and then made a birdie on the par five 11th. I made two more birdies on the front nine to get me out in three under and one under for the tournament. On the 1st hole, my tenth, I missed from 6 feet for another birdie. I parred the second and third, on the third I had to hole a 10 footer for par. The fourth hole was playing down wind so I decided to have a go at the green, I didn’t quite get all of it but I managed to get it to 20 yards short of the green; from where I got it up and down for birdie. All day I had been chipping and pitching really well, making some great saves for par and then taking advantage on this hole for a birdie. By this stage it was getting very windy and the last few holes were going to be playing very tough. The 6th hole, a 420 par four uphill, was playing straight into the wind. I pulled my drive left and then hit five wood to 20 yards short of the green. I pitched it to three feet but missed it to drop back to one under for the tournament. The 7th was a reachable par five; I hit it over the green on the left and made a really good up and down for birdie. The last two holes were playing into the wind and as a result they were playing very long. On the 8th I hit a drive and five iron to the front of the green and two putted and then on the ninth I hit a drive and my hybrid to pin high and then two putted to finish with a 68 for the day and two under in total, and one shot inside the cut. In the team we shot eight under to make the cut by four shots.
On Sunday I was feeling much better, the best I had felt all week. We started on the 10th, which was fine as it meant that we got the hard holes over us around our turn as opposed to the last few holes. I started with two pars and then bogeyed the par 3 12th. I hit a four iron straight over the flag and just over the green but didn’t get it up and down. I made my first birdie on the par five 14th after hitting my pitch to one foot, I parred the next three holes and then I birdied the 18th after getting up and down from the greenside trap. My back nine was the front nine where I made two birdies and the parred the rest. My first birdie was on the second hole, I hit one of my best shots of the week here; my hybrid from a fairway trap to 15 feet for an eagle putt. My other birdie came in the 3rd hole after pitching to 3 feet. In the team we shot six under for a total of 27 under par and a tie for 10th spot. It was a decent performance but could have been better.
Overall I was happy with the way the week went and felt that I improved as the week wore on. I definitely struggled with my focus over some shots but I felt that I got better by Sunday. On Sunday I gave myself a lot of chances and felt that I could have shot a really good score. The week worked out as I would have hoped bar the fact that I was sick in bed for a few days, but in terms of what I expected it was as I would have expected. The first few days I struggled to get into tournament mode but by the end of the week I had definitely improved. It’s on to the L.A. Open now and another week to work on my focus.
Talk to you all soon.