When I won the Open in Carnoustie last year I realized that the work I have been doing for the last number of years was worthwhile. I also made me realise that I was good enough to win the big events and that the way I prepare for them was correct. After my first Open win I also felt that I was definitely capable of winning more majors once I gave myself the opportunity. When I won at Birkdale I wasn’t so much surprised that I had won my second, I just didn’t expect to win it so quickly. Now I am here writing about my third major, it seems totally bizarre that in such a short space of time I have gone from having none to having won three.
When I arrived here in Detroit I felt that I was in good shape but as the week went on I realized that I was definitely more fatigued than I had thought. I made sure in my preparation during the week to keep it to the bare minimum and not to over do things. There were a couple of reasons for this, one was the fact that I was still struggling to get over the Open and the other was because the course was so tough that I knew it would come down to mental strength more than golfing ability. Most majors come down to the mental strength but this one I knew would have more of an emphasis on it than others due to the course. I had to try and convince myself all week that I was here jockeying for position until Sunday afternoon and all I wanted was to be in with a shout for the back nine on Sunday.
I started late on Thursday but it was worth waiting for as I came out of the blocks like a greyhound, birdieing the first three holes and missing good chances on the next two. In the end I made four birdies and five bogeys in my round to shoot one over par 71. It was actually a good “one over” in the end as I made a good par on the last after driving it in the rough. On Friday I really struggled on the course, I felt like I was swinging it badly and just didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t play all that well but even still I was three over for the tournament with two holes to play, the eight and ninth.
I felt that I had no chance in the tournament the way I was playing and feeling.
By this stage I was mentally fried, my coordination was gone and I didn’t know where the ball was going. On the eighth I hit a drive that made my tee shot on the 18th in Carnousite look straight! It ended up in a hospitality tent; from there I got a free drop and went on to make a bogey. Then on the ninth hole I pulled my four iron 40 yards left of the green and again made a bogey. It was a poor finish and I was delighted to get off the course. I felt that I had no chance in the tournament the way I was playing and feeling. I went back to my house and slept for most of the afternoon, but it wasn’t until I spoke to Liam Hennessey, my trainer at home, that I realized that it could be dehydration. Liam asked me a few question about how I was feeling and from this he believed that I was dehydrated. This made me feel so much better as it meant that it was something that I could control for the weekend. I had to make sure to get more liquids into me.
I was lying six off the lead going into the weekend which considering how I felt I had played I was delighted as I hadn’t blown myself out of it. The key for me was to remember that I was just trying to get myself into contention for the final nine holes on Sunday. The third round was tough conditions, it was very windy when I started and the course was very firm but I knew that there was thunder storms forecast for the afternoon. I managed to make three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine to be out in one under for the day and four over for the tournament. As I picked the ball out of the hole for my third birdie on the ninth the hooter was blown to suspend play. I was somewhat disappointed as it meant that the leaders wouldn’t have to play in the wind like I did and also that the course would be softened up quite a bit for them. We ended up sitting around for about four hours, they made a few attempts to get us back out in this time but each time the storm came back in. In the end they decided that we would come back in the morning and finish the third round and then play the final round in the afternoon. I was happy with this as it meant that I would get some more rest and also that everyone would get similar conditions.
It was an early start for me on Sunday morning as I always get up three hours before my tee time so as to do my routine of exercises and my warm up on the range. We were back in position at 7.20 am. My back nine went very well; I parred my first three holes but could have birdied any of them. Then on the 13th I hit it to eight feet and made a two and from here my tournament really started; I holed from 30 feet on the 14th, 20 feet on the 15th and then eight feet again on the 16th to get five under for the round and level par for the week. I missed from eight feet on the 17th for another birdie and then disappointingly I gave back a shot after a poor bunker shot on the 18th. In the end I shot 66 to leave me on one over for the week; I headed back to my house for a couple of hours sleep while the leaders were still playing. This way I was able to go through my normal routine again. By the time I got up again the leaders had finished their rounds and I was lying four off the lead and in the second last group with Sergio and Charlie Wie. It was pretty much what I was looking for at the start of the week, to be in contention come Sunday afternoon.