After sitting out the BMW Championship last week, I just scraped into the Tour Championship. It was touch and go in the end; I was lying in 26 position after the Deutsche Bank so it meant that six guys had to pass me to knock me out of the final event of the Fed Ex Cup. By Friday evening I was looking fine, I nearly booked my flight but then over the weekend a number of guys that were outside of the top 30 played well. In the end I finished in 30 spot, the last man in, just over 100 points ahead of Luke Donald.
I didn’t make it to Tour Championship last year so it’s nice to be back again. I have played here in this event twice before, while I have never been in contention either year I have shot some good rounds on the course. The big story of the week so far has been the greens at East Lake. Over the weekend of the BMW Championship the television coverage mentioned that there was a problem with the greens. Before I travelled on Monday I received word that the course had lost their greens due to the extremely hot summer. The solution to get the course ready for Thursday was to cancel practice rounds and the pro-am. However by the time I arrived on Monday afternoon this had changed again. The course was open for practice but three greens remained closed, the 2nd, 13th and 15th. The pro-am remained cancelled but at least we would be able to play the course. I always like to play the pro-am before a tournament as it gets me into the right frame of mind so I was disappointed that it was cancelled.
I arrived early evening on Monday but I didn’t do anything then. I played the course on Tuesday, the morning was spent doing some practice and knocking a few of the cob webs and the jet lag off. I went out in the morning to play the course; it was weird as I pretty much had it all to myself. There was no other player on the course at the time I went out and there were no spectators as the tour barred all spectators until Thursday to help the course. It was nice that it was quiet but it felt strange. I played the 15 holes that were open, to get a feel for the course again as it was two years since I played it last. After my round I spent a bit of time practicing my bunker play and chipping. Wednesday is normally pro-am day but this week as there isn’t a pro am all the players had to do something else. I had a breakfast with the guys that I would have played with, it was nice to meet them but they were disappointed not to be playing. After breakfast I went and played the course again, I played on my own again and tried to finish, to get used to having to put the ball in the hole. It was very quiet again as still no spectators, it certainly made the round feel longer.
East Lake Golf Club measures 7,153 yards, it is a long par 70 and plays even longer as nearly every hole has some elevation changes. It is an unusual course in that we hit a lot of drivers here. The course from tee to green is in great condition, the only problem with the course is the greens. They have suffered during the extremely warm summer and lack of rain, and as a result they are patchy in some areas. They remind me of greens that you would see in early spring. Three of the greens have been closed during the practice rounds so as to save them for the tournament. Overall they are far better than we were expecting, there is no doubt that it will play a part this week but as ever the guys that do well will hole putts.
There are 18 good holes on this course but some of the ones to look out for are the: 5th This is a 520 yard par four but it is all downhill, the important thing here is to hit the fairway as it is a long iron approach shot. Anything in the rough from the tee makes it hard to make par.
9th This is the first of the two par fives on the course; again it plays downhill and is reachable in two. Like the 5th it is imperative that you hit the fairway here if you want to get up in two shots. In practice I have hit it with a 5 wood but if you have to lay it up it is not an easy birdie as the green is protected with a bunker on the right side and is sheltered by some trees so it is hard to judge the distance to pitch.
15th The second par five on the course, this hole is a good birdie chance and even a reasonable eagle opportunity if you hit a good drive. It only measures 495 yards but it plays 13 yards up hill for the second shot. The drive is the awkward part here as it is a dog leg right and the fairway is protected by two fairway bunkers. If you hit the fairway you are really looking at a four if not it is a tough four. As there is only two par fives you feel that you have to make up shots on them when you get to them, and as a result you can often walk away disappointed.
18th The final hole here is a par 3, this is unusual for a championship course. It measures 235 yards and tends to play into the wind. In practice I have been hitting my hybrid and five wood to it. I would gladly take 4 pars here and be happy!
This is the final event of the Fed Ex Cup, there are only four guys that can win it at this stage and I am not one of them. I am here to concentrate on the Tour Championship; the Fed Ex Cup has little interest to me now as I am playing for position. The tournament in hand is the main thing, as ever I am trying to get myself into contention come Sunday afternoon. If I can be in there with nine holes to go then anything can happen. The key for me is to stick to my routines and focus on my target; if I can do that then I will be alright. This week we play in two balls as there are only 15 groups, I am first out at 11.50 am as I am last man in the tournament.