The 2007 European Tour season finished last week and here we are in Shanghai a week later for the start of the 2008 season. It seems strange to be thinking about next year already even though it is still 2007. I lost my European number one title last week. Although I would have really liked to defend it but unfortunately it wasn’t to be; now I am back to square one to try and give myself a chance of being European number one for 2008.
Getting here from Valderamma was somewhat difficult. I had to fly to London on Sunday night and then get a flight to Shanghai leaving on Monday afternoon. I arrived here in Shanghai at 10am on Tuesday morning, feeling quite tired as there is an eight hour time difference. This is the third year of this tournament and every year it attracts more and more big name players; it is testament to the tournament sponsors and Shanghai that this event is rapidly becoming a key tournament on the players’ schedule.
This is the third year of playing here and every year the course gets better and better. It measures over 7,150 yards but can play much longer than the yardage if the wind blows. Last year the wind blew quite strong for the week, which made the course very difficult. This year the course is in very good condition, the rough is little longer and tougher than last year and the greens are rolling very well. There is definitely a bigger premium on hitting fairways this year than the last two. The course has water on eleven of the eighteen, which this makes it even more difficult and adds a different element as to how you play the course. Another feature that makes this course play tough is the fact that the greens are quite undulating with a lot of run offs around them. There are a number of very good holes on this course but two that I would pick out as the ones that will have a big bearing on the outcome this week are the 16th and the 18th.
The 16th is a short par 4; it is only 270 yards to the front of the green but with no room right and several bunkers up the left. All down the right of this hole is a massive canyon, designated as it is a water hazard if you go right. It is easily reachable off the tee and normally plays a three wood, but you can also hit it 200 yards of the tee and leave yourself a short pitch. This is a hole that you feel that you should make a birdie on but if you’re not careful you can make a bogey or worse very easily.
The 18th is a par 5, measuring 538 yards. There is water all down the right side from the tee and fairway and then in front of the green as well. It is reachable in two off a good drive but with so much water around it will take two good shots. This is a great risk/reward hole as the closer to the water you are from the tee the shorter your second shot is. It is a great finishing hole as you can make anything from eagle upwards.
I arrived here on Tuesday morning feeling very tired, as I had a tough week last week, and then the jet lag on top of that. I decided to take it easy on Tuesday and try to get rid of the jet lag; my first look at the course this year was in the pro-am on Wednesday. I wasn’t too worried about it as I have played here for the last two years and as a result I am well used to the course now. I did a small bit of practice on Wednesday before and after the pro-am; not much really just a small bit of chipping and putting. I wasn’t too happy with my putting last week so I wanted to spend a bit of time on it this week to try and sort out a few things; hopefully it has worked. Because of the fact that I arrived here late it has meant that my practice and preparation has been curtailed.
I am looking forward to getting playing as I felt that I played well last week but just didn’t hole enough putts. As usual I am just looking to get myself into contention come Sunday afternoon; if I can keep getting myself into the mix on Sundays then I know that I will add to my title count. I play the first two rounds this week with Retief Goosen and K.J. Choi at 11am (3am Irish time) on Thursday and 8.20 am (12.20am Irish time) on Friday.