After the whirlwind from Houston I flew home for just one day and then headed to Augusta with Henrik Stenson arriving late Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first time I have ever arrived so late to prepare for the Masters but I came in on a high and the big question was going to be could I maintain it after the drain of the last 5 weeks.
After the whirlwind from Houston I flew home for just one day and then headed to Augusta with Henrik Stenson arriving late Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first time I have ever arrived so late to prepare for the Masters but I came in on a high and the big question was going to be could I maintain it after the drain of the last 5 weeks. I decided to fly over Terry Mundy who has caddied for me all of the Masters appearances. We have a joint arrangement now that he will loop the European Tour and James Walton – the PGA Tour but with his knowledge of Augusta and no time for preparation it made sense. And although James was disappointed he just had his biggest pay day! Terry is now managing young Sam Horsefield starting his first season on the European Tour and also my Dad came over for a two-week visit. We played 9 holes Tuesday afternoon after the media interviews. There was a lot of attention after qualifying for the last spot and settled into the week. Wednesday was a low-key day with an early evening guest spot on Sky sports golf which was fun with Paul McGinley, Butch Harmon and the Sky golf team.
Thursday got off to a slow start and had to go deep to keep the concentration, for some reason the rounds were very slow and finished with a 74 leaving work to do to make the weekend. Friday had a few more birdies and some silly mistakes due to the challenge of staying focused but enough to get me into the weekend on the number with a 75. Off the course, the fun news was seeing the pairings for Saturday and a round with a certain Mr Woods. We all know the media intensity on his return and the expectation for the Masters so it was interesting to witness first hand his game. I must say the atmosphere was amazing! And the support which shows his pulling power and although still not firing on all cylinders I could see the game is there. Remarkable really considering where he was 18 months ago. Needless to say, he scored better than me!
Sunday was a freewheeling round and despite a sloppy double bogey I shot 69 to finish with my best round of the week. In summary, it was a great but strange week with high and low emotions. As long as I stay in the top 50 world ranking through end of the year I will be back in 2019. Just to finish with congratulations to Patrick Reed, the pressure on leading the Masters is nothing you can compare or explain. Sorry to see Rory fall away in terms of European interest but the run from Jordan and Rickie made it a battle to the end and Patrick was a deserving champion.
So on to the RBC Heritage and my straight 7th week. This is one of my favourite events, it’s a shot-makers course and I have a good record here. So, although tired, having my dad for company gave me strength and I had a good feeling which turned out to be the case for the first three days taking a 1 shot lead into the final round. Could I make it two wins in 3 weeks…
Sunday was just one of those days where I could not make it happen. The putter went cold and the swirling wind around that course made the club selection difficult. With 4 holes to go I had to press and take chances which did not work out and that’s reflected in my final score of 75. Although disappointed to finish T7, I was excited to be in that position again with the pressure of trying to win a tournament. It sets me up well for the busy summer schedule coming up and able to deal with that pressure again.
Arrived home on Monday night after a MasterCard corporate day in Charlotte on the Monday for a week and no really downtime as so much to deal with after the Houston win. But it’s a nice challenge to have! So on to the Zurich Classic partnering with my good friend Gmac. We love this format of fourball and foursomes from our Ryder Cup experience.
We had a steady week with no real fireworks and finished T22. I have to say this is a great event – we as players enjoy mixing up the format to make a change. And full credit to Zurich Insurance committing to the event through 2026.
So, at the end of April I stand 26th in the FedEx Cup standing and 26th in the World Golf Rankings. I have one week off now and on to the Players Championship. After that I will jump across to the European Tour and play the BMW Championship at Wentworth in the UK.
Until next time
After the intense media coverage on the incident I flew home Saturday night for some down time and decided on the Tuesday to fly to Huston and play myself into the Masters. (All players have to confirm entry for the following week by 5pm EST on a Friday which I did during the Dell). No way I could give up this opportunity on reflection. First day was a disaster and at 123rd place I actually went back that night and packed my bags! That was me playing games with myself and setting a challenge which turned out successful… I’ve been saying my game was good and it all clicked into place – the swing, the putting stroke, I just felt really good and focused. After a 64 and 65 went into the last round tied for the lead. Played in the last group with Beau Hossler. A few groups ahead Jordan got off to a hot start and the crowds went with him which in a way made our round a bit more relaxed than the usual Sunday last tee time pressure. Got off to a fast start and made 3 quick birdies. At one point I had a 3 shot lead but it’s never over till it’s over. Through holes 12-16 Beau made 4 straight birdies against my 4 pars and all of a sudden I am 1 back! I just told myself same patience, I was swinging great and had my irons dialled in. The last 2 holes at Houston are not easier through – on 18 Beau hits an amazing bunker shot to 30 feet and nearly makes the putt to win upright. The good news for me was we had the same line so I saw the putt committed and, well, you know the rest…
As I revealed in my interview I was always going to Augusta National. It was just a case of when I was going to Augusta National next week either as a commentator for Sky Sports or as a player!
It was well documented – I had never won a stroke play event in the USA, 6 years since my last win, needed a win to get into the Masters. Well if you believe in fate then after the Dell Match Play it was scripted to turn out this way. I cannot describe my emotions. Last few years have had their challenges on and off the course and as I said in my post round interview this one is for my wife Katie, she is the reason I am still playing out here, what more can I say…
In summary the first 3 months of the year has had its highs and lows, but how sweet is a victory the week before the Masters, one to treasure with fond memories!
Until next time
As you all know I took 7 weeks off after finishing up in Dubai last November.
2017 was one of the most roller coaster years I have experienced in my professional life. From the lows of losing my PGA Tour card to being extremely grateful to Brian Gay for spotting the change in the Fed-Ex points system and weeks later nearly winning the Players!
I needed that time to reflect and spend quality time with the family. Then hit the road again, starting with the Middle East swing on the European Tour. The HSBC championship in Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite stops and felt good going into the week. But that 1st round getting back in competitive play just left me too much to do and despite a better 2nd round missed the cut. Headed off to Dubai to prepare for the Omega Desert Classic which resulted in a T6, so I was pleased with myself.
From the Middle East flew back to the USA and started my season at the Phoenix Waste Management where I kind of have a love/hate relationship! The crowds are just amazing and hole 16 is really like visiting a stadium watching gladiators, which this year had it going nicely in both first rounds until then…
My favourite shot decided to appear just at the wrong time and in front of 200,000 people! Just imagine!!! Being interviewed after as I said it’s not the first and will not be the last, that shot is close to perfection as we keep telling ourselves.
Before the Honda I tested new Titleist clubs (check out what’s in my bag), changed up the driver and shaft and put new shafts in the irons which I am happy with. But the Honda and the Valspar the following weeks did not work out.
I have started off the new season with two new sponsors, both new to golf, and have no doubt they will enjoy and benefit from their exposure in our sport.
The Arnold Palmer is always a honour to be invited for. This year I was happy to see young Sam Horsfield receive an invite and shine in such a class field with a T14 finish. He is one to look out for on the European Tour, give him a follow on twitter @hr59sam.
I finished T41 – not great but really felt my game was coming together.
So on to the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play. As has been well documented in the press I went back to the putter from Medinah to ignite that spark on the greens that has been missing. Got off to a fast start against Tommy Fleetwood, then continued that with a win over Daniel Berger setting up my match with Kevin Chappell knowing a win was needed to advance to the last 16. After a few holes I could sense Kevin had a problem and finally after 9 holes he conceded with back problems. Having had my own injuries I fully understood his decision and wish him well.
That set me up to play Louis Oosthuizen. It was the first time we played each other and what a great match needing 8 birdies against his 6 to win on the 17th and set up a quarter final match against Kevin Kisner. That’s where my day became a little bizarre… I was told by the Golf Channel, Media & European Tour that I was in the Masters, then 10 minutes before I teed off I was told ‘sorry, points were not enough‘… Frustrating to say the least and no excuse for my poor performance against Kevin, not putting up a match after 4 great days.
Until next time