The second major of the year has arrived; the break between the Masters and the US Open is the biggest between the four majors of the year. From here on the three majors come at us pretty quickly, but this week we are in Pittsburg for the US Open. There is always a different feeling around a major than any other tournament; every player has their own way of preparing. It is much more tense than a regular tournament; players are trying to get to know every bit of the course in the few days practice.
This year we are playing Oakmont which they say is the hardest course in America; it certainly is a tough course, but whether it is the hardest in America I can’t say. I like to play the week before a major to get some competitive practice in, so missing the cut last week was disappointing for me. I don’t see it as the end of the world as I got to play an extra practice round but I would certainly have preferred to be in Memphis competing for the St. Jude Championship.
In the first major of the year I got myself into contention on the Sunday and felt very comfortable, as I did last year in Winged Foot when I was three pars away from winning the US Open. I ended up making three bogeys to finish in fifth spot but it was definitely a big week for me, as I walked away knowing that I could win a major. In Augusta this year I showed myself that I have the game to win a Masters, so both these performances have given me the belief that I can win a major.
I arrived here on Saturday night having missed the cut last week; the missed cut gave me the opportunity to get an extra practice round in on the Sunday. It was my first time seeing the course, but I had heard a lot about it from the press and other players. My first impressions were that it was tough but very good. I like the way it is set up. The big difficulty on this course is the greens. It is not like last year where you could hit the middle of the green and then leave yourself with an uphill putt. This week there are not many places on the green that you can hit it to and be sure of making a two putt. I think this will mean that you will have to be a bit more aggressive than normal in a US Open. There are a number of holes on this course where it is better to miss the green than hit the green in the wrong area. With this in mind I have spent quite a bit of time practicing chip shots from the rough around the greens. I have played three and half rounds in practice as I feel it is a course that the more you play the more you know it. Normally I don’t play this much in practice but I reckon it is worth it this time. I have spent a lot of time working with Bob Rotella, going over the usual stuff; it’s a case of reminding me of the work we have done before. It always great to have someone remind you of what needs to be done as it is easy to fall into bad habits. As usual my preparation for a major hinges on rest, I always try to make sure that I don’t do too much as the most important thing for these weeks is to be mentally fresh.
The course is as expected for a US Open, heavy rough and a tough course, but this one is probably a bit tougher than the others that I have played in. The hazards are just off the fairway on this course which makes it much tougher, but then the really tough part is the greens. It is definitely possible to hit every green in regulation and still shoot well over par! This course reminds me of an old links course, there are holes that you know that you just can’t miss the green on the wrong side, but if you miss them in the wrong place then you are taking double bogey into the equation. Holes like the 6th - if you miss the green on the right then it is practically impossible to get it up and down and even tough to get down in three. As far as tee to green is concerned, there is more trouble on this course than most others and it is closer to the fairway. As a result it means that you have to take on more, because if you try to lay up there is trouble in that area also. I definitely think that it suits the more aggressive player. A lot of people have suggested that the 7th through the 10th are the meat of the course, but for me there are 18 tough holes; I see every hole as being tough with no real bail out. It is hard to pick out holes that will be key this week, however the ones that I think will have a bearing on the outcome of the tournament are the short par fours. There are five short par fours that you don’t have to hit driver on and as such you feel that they are chances for an easy par or a birdie; although the problem is that by thinking this you can easily make a mess of them. The 14th and 17th holes are both driveable but by taking them on you can easily make bogeys on them too. Dropping shots on the likes of these holes makes you feel worse as they are holes that you feel you should be making up ground on. As a whole this course plays shorter than most of the US Open courses as there are several big elevation changes; it is definitely a course that you could play without a driver whereas normally in US Opens it is a case of hitting driver everywhere as the courses are so long. At the moment it is playing hard and fast and so the 7200 yards doesn’t play anything like it.
The key for me this week is to remain relaxed and not to try too hard. At the Masters I was in a great frame of mind and that is the same frame of mind and that I would like to get myself into again. As ever I am looking to get into contention come Sunday, if I can do that I definitely feel that I am capable of finishing it off; whether it is this week or another I will have to wait and see.
The second major of the year didn’t go as I had hoped or planned. I arrived here in Oakmont for the US Open after missing the cut in the St. Jude by a shot, which wasn’t the best preparation but it meant that I got to play an extra practice round so I wasn’t too disappointed. However the extra round of practice didn’t do me any good; I missed the cut by three shots after a disasterous run of holes in the middle of my second round.
By the time that the tournament started I was happy that I had gone through my preparation as well as I could have. I was happy that I had done everything properly and that I had left nothing out. In the first round I shot 73, three over par, without making a single birdie. I made fifteen pars and three bogeys for a mediocre round. I knew that it could have been better but it could easily have been much worse. While I didn’t make any birdies I made a number of putts from the five to eight feet range to save pars on a few holes, which are the putts that make all the difference to a round. My three bogeys came on the 18th, after I hit it in the ditch left from the tee, the 6th after I missed the green in the right bunker and failed to get up and down and then the 7th after again failing to get it up and down from a bunker. I wasn’t overly happy with the way I was swinging the club during the round, I had a feeling that I was going to either hit a big hook or else a block right. I couldn’t get comfortable, particularly with my driver and three wood, so to be three over playing my last hole wasn’t too bad. My last hole was the 9th where I hit my second shot to 12 feet, which I missed; if I had holed for birdie I would have walked off the course feeling very happy with myself but instead I was a little disappointed as I knew that I could have shot a better score.
Even though I wasn’t overly happy with my first round it hadn’t blown me out of the tournament, infact I was very much in with a shout. I knew going out on Friday that the course was playing much tougher than it did on Thursday. There had been a thunder storm on Wednesday night which meant that the course played somewhat easier on Thursday than it had in practice, but by Friday the course had dried out again and was getting back to where it was in practice. I still wasn’t feeling great about my swing, the range had knocked my alignment out and as a result I felt that I was going to hit a block or a hook. I opened up with a par on the first but dropped a shot on the second after I pulled my five iron tee shot into the crowd; I came up short with my second and took three more to get down. Another bogey on the 6th put me two over for the day and five over for the tournament. Neither of my bogeys were that bad as I could easily have saved par but just missed. However I was still right in there when I was 5 over standing on the 9th tee; which is where it all went wrong for me. I pulled my five wood tee shot into the hazard, took two to get out and then missed a short putt to culminate in a triple bogey seven. It had come from nowhere and all of a sudden I was eight over. Things were to only get worse, our group was now on the clock after losing some ground and I went on the worst run of my golfing career. I bogeyed the 10th, double bogeyed the 11th and then triple bogeyed the 12th to put me at 14 over par for the tournament. It all happened so quickly that it seemed like a blur, I hit a few poor shots but then compounded them by making a mess of the recoveries. Over the last six holes I made two birdies and one bogey to play them in one under to finish on a two round total of 13 over par and miss the cut by three shots.
The four holes in the middle of my round was the worst run I have ever had in my golfing career. I hit some poor shots and also made a mess of my attempted recoveries; it seemed that everything that could go wrong went wrong. I was really disappointed to miss the cut as I had come into the event with such high hopes. I felt that I was playing well, that I had prepared well and so I was confident that I could get myself into contention. However four holes in the middle of my second round put paid to my US Open.
I stayed in Oakmont till Sunday and did some practice to try and sort out my alignment problems. I got some good work done over the weekend and then traveled to Connecticut for the last of my three US events. I watched the final round of the US Open in Connecticut; it is always tough watching an event that you have been in. However it was a very exciting end to the tournament; I was delighted for Angel as he played very well. As regards my performance I was disappointed as I had high hopes after my performance in this event last year and also the recent Masters. I have one more tournament to play before I come home for a week off, so I will be hoping that I can bounce back after two missed cuts and get myself into contention this coming week.
Talk to you all soon!