For the last couple of years Doral has hosted the start of the Florida swing but this year, as the schedule has changed, the Florida swing kicked off in West Palm Beach for the Honda Classic. The change in schedule has meant that we are here at Doral, on the Blue Monster course, for a World Championship event this week, in previous years this was the week of the TPC. This is the old American Express tournament, now sponsored by CA. The CA Championship is a reduced field tournament, 74 players, made up of the top 50 in the world, and then various players from all the tours around the world. I am coming into this event after two weeks off and for probably the first time in my professional career I really did have a number of days off as I went to Cheltenham for three days. It was my first time there; I am not really into horses but I have to say it was really enjoyable.
This is a big event and one that every player wants to win but at this time of year there is only one thing on everyone’s mind, the Masters. We are all hoping to play well this week and win the event, but really we have one eye on Augusta. For me it is the start of my build up, I play this week and then next week try and get myself into top form for the trip to Augusta.
Coming into this event after two weeks off is not my ideal preparation for a big event like this but with the way the schedule is there was no other option as I like to play the two weeks before the Masters. I always find it tough after a couple of weeks off as I struggle to get back into tournament mode. After a couple of weeks practice it takes me a week or so to get back into the swing of things. I saw Bob Torrance in my break and made a couple of changes, nothing we haven’t worked on before but it has made my swing a little shorter. I am happy with the changes we made and the way the work has gone during practice. However since I have gotten here I have been trying to get any technical thoughts out of my mind. I have been worked with Bob Rotella for a couple of days here to help me get back into scoring mode. As ever it is nothing knew but just reminds me of what I am trying to do on the course.
The vast majority of my time has been spent practicing my short game and wedge play. This has been the case for a couple of reasons, firstly because they are important areas that help you win events and secondly because they will be crucial areas in Augusta. I have played the course the last two years so it is one that I feel comfortable on. I have played 27 holes in practice this week and found that they have made a few changes to the greens since last year. They have changed the grass on the greens and they have grown up a bit more rough. The main difference between this year and last year has been the weather. In practice this week it has been very windy, with a number of showers. It certainly hasn’t been typical Florida weather. If it stays as windy as this for the week then the scoring won’t be a good as previous years.
The Blue Monster is one of the most famous courses on the PGA Tour; I can remember watching tournaments on this course for years before I was a professional. It is a par 72 that measures 7,266 yards. It is a long course that is made longer for all bar the real big hitters as the trouble is at that length that only the big hitters can carry. There are a number of holes on this course that will have a big bearing on the outcome of the tournament; the 3rd, 16th and 18th.
The 3rd hole is a 434 yard par four with water all up the right hand side and a big fairway bunker at 294 yards off the tee. It is a difficult, tight drive with the water and the bunker. Having managed to get your drive away you are left with anything from a 5 iron to 8 iron into a heavily sloping green. There is the chance that you can run into the water on this hole with your second shot, or if you have missed it left then you have the possibility of chipping into the water. A par here is a great score.
The 16th is the hole that we all probably remember from last year as the one that turned the tournament. This hole is a short par 4 that measures 361 yards but if you take it straight at the green it is only 333 yards! This is a hole that you feel you should make birdie on but if you push too hard you can walk off with a bogey very easily. It is hard to hit the fairway if you don’t go for the green as you are hitting across the fairway. The winner will play this hole under par but it will certainly cause problems for a lot of people.
The 18th is probably the most famous hole on the course and one of the most famous holes in golf. It is as tough a closing holes as you can play. There is water on the left that you can carry if you can hit it in the air over 285 yards, which then makes it considerably easier. If you can’t carry the water then you have a small area to hit into. Invariably if you can’t carry it then you end up hitting it right to make sure that you don’t go in the water and so you are left hitting your second shot from the rough into a really tough green with water short and left. The second shot is equally tough as the drive. A par here is a great score; I would take four of them now!!
I will be trying my best as normal this week but the fact that I haven’t played for couple of weeks puts me on the back foot. There is no cut here this week so it gives me more time to get myself into the right frame of mind. As ever I am hoping to get myself into contention come Sunday.