PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Padraig Harrington of Ireland plays his shot on the eighth tee during the first round of The Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa - Champion Course on February 26, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
The Honda Classic.
Padraig opens his account in Florida with a superb round of three under par 67 which leaves him in tied third place and only two shots behind the leader. On a day of relentless gusty winds, Padraig played nearly flawless golf with only one bogie recorded on his second hole where he missed from 3 feet. But he soon put his links experience to good use as he hit two birdies to be out in one under par. Turning for home, he played some beautiful golf to record two more birdies including two fine shots to the par five 18th to two putt for his final birdie. On a day when the average score was nearly 72, this was as good an effort as Padraig has produced in a long time. He tees off at 1.05pm Friday.
Padraig is at the Jack Nicklaus designed PGA National (Champion) for this weeks Honda Classic. It is an event that he plays every year being a past champion in 2005 and this weeks field is a who's who of the golfing world. All the big names play this week with fellow Irishman, Rory McIlroy, the clear favourite. The course got a makeover in 2014 which stretched it to 7,140 yards but scoring has continued to be low. The forecast for the week is gusty and showers and the players will also have the infamous "Bear Trap" to contend with, a reference to holes 15,16 and 17 which more often than not determine the winner of the event. Padraig tees off at 8.05am with big hitting Jason Kokrak and SJ Park.
This week I am in Palm Beach, Florida for the Honda Classic, which is the last event of my five week run. This event was my first PGA Tour win back in 2005 so I have good memories of it, even if I won on a different course. Now we play on probably one of the hardest courses of the year, PGA National. It is a big tough course with plenty of water and heavy rough, set up like an old US Open course. Any score of par or better is good playing.
I have stuck to my new regime of taking it easy and trying to get some rest. I traveled on Monday and then spent forty minutes with Pete Cowen on Tuesday, then left it at that. As I was in the Wednesday pro-am, I wasn't too pushed on seeing the course on Tuesday. I watched the Manchester City and Barcelona game and then went out for dinner with Bob Rotella. It was my first time seeing both Pete and Bob this year. Pete gave me a few pointers but in general thought what I was doing was right. Bob and myself had a good chat over dinner about what I am doing and I explained to him that I feel that I turned the corner last weekend. By separating my mental approach from the outcome of a good or bad shot it made a huge difference to me. He agreed with what I was saying and was happy to hear that I had found the solution myself.
On Wednesday I played the pro-am and then did some practice afterwards. Pete walked with me for seven holes to see what was happening on the course. He noticed a couple of things that I had been feeling, mainly that my right side gets a little left behind and so I have to flip my hands. After the pro-am I hit some shots doing a Happy Gilmore, which gets my right side through without thinking about it. The course played as easy as it gets here as it wasn't windy and it still felt like a big tough course. Whilst we didn't do any good in the pro-am, we had a good time. This tournament has grown into one of the bigger events on the PGA Tour over the last few years and the fact that it is the week before a WGC event has made it enticing for the players to come and play. The field is so good here these days that it's almost like a mini-major. It's not just the players that turn up because it is the first week of the Florida swing, you get managers, trainers and media. When I walked onto the range on Tuesday it was a scrum to get somewhere to hit, however, all this adds to the tournament and gives it a bigger feel.
I am off early on Thursday and late Friday. I'm really looking forward to playing as I felt so much better after my round in LA on Sunday - I want to get back out there and put it to the test again.