My build-up to Sandwich next week has included playing Royal St George’s last Thursday and Friday. Then I went on to Prince’s, Rye and Royal Cinque Ports. It was good preparation.
I had a few friends with me so I could make it a little competitive. It was great fun and a good way to get in form for not only the Open but for the Scottish Open – held on a links course this time, Castle Stuart up near Inverness.
It’s the first time I’ve played the Scottish Open since it moved to Loch Lomond and Castle Stuart’s links is great preparation for next week as well. It takes a while to get into the mode of playing links golf, judging bounces, getting used to chip-and-runs, especially under competitive conditions. With my practice last week around St George’s this week’s preparation is even more relevant.
I also managed to catch an afternoon with the Mizuno boys and Golf Monthly to show off some new iron models – at some stage these MP-62’s are going to be worn out. Don’t think I’m allowed to mention the new ones specifically yet – but they were very impressive.
I caught St George’s on two very nice days with not too much wind, so the course wasn’t playing overly difficult and I had chance to do some plotting my around under good conditions. The way the course was set up it suits me fine. It’s a positional layout. I don’t think length will be an issue and you’re going to have to be proficient around the greens. Like every tournament, if you can putt well you’re going to be very successful. Obviously with a bit of wind it will change. The wind may well decide the winner. I’m really looking forward to the challenge – whether it’s windy or the conditions are benign.
For the trip to St George’s my coach Pat was with me, so we got some work in, much of it just maintenance, working on the same things I have been all year. I’m still concentrating on getting a little more grounded with my feet, getting that shift earlier in my legs. That gets the club coming down on a little bit better path, a little bit more from inside. I’m able to hit those nice holds against a left-to-right wind. I’m also experimenting with a traditional 2 iron, rather than the Fli-Hi. The workshop boys made one up from an MP-62 3 iron head for me – not sure they make the old style 2 irons anymore. Jury still out whether I use it or not.
As I’ve said, putting is always paramount and I’m very diligent about preparing different aspects with the putter – working on lag putts and then getting closer to the hole and doing a few drills. One of the drills I do is a 4-8ft drill where I take 20 balls around four different holes. I have to hole at least 15 out of 20 otherwise I start again. It’s a good way to get you concentrating and becoming good at making putts around the hole.
I’m keeping my own log during tournament weeks, trying to come up with different goals to keep me accountable. When I’m out practising or playing a tournament round I’m trying to focus on certain things, to keep improving…a certain number of fairways hit, for instance, greens hit, even some postural goals. This makes sure I’m putting in 100 per cent effort.
At St George’s it was just a case of getting a good feel for the course. I’ll set myself goals of trying to hit so many fairways and greens later. But I did jot down a few statistical goals.
I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a fantastic Open. The man to beat? I don’t think you need look further than Rory McIlroy if he plays like he did at the U.S. Open. When I saw him on the range at the Congressional he was a different player to the one who looked so uptight before his final round at Augusta. You just knew he wasn’t going to take his foot off the gas.
It was a real baptism of fire for me the last time the Open was played at St George’s. I was kind of pushed in the deep end, playing with Tiger and Sergio for the first two days in only my second year as a professional. It was an honour to play with them but it was a slightly unusual start. Tiger lost his ball!
While I didn’t play that great it was a good experience. I remember missing the cut by a couple of shots but it was interesting watching Tiger and Sergio. It was an embarrassing experience for my brother Chris, though. He was caddying for me of course, and the strap broke on the bag on the 10th hole. There was a huge gallery with us naturally, and he had to carry the bag up the hill like a suitcase. He somehow managed to tie it together and it just about held for the back nine.
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