Life always seem to go on at quite a pace but the last couple of weeks have been more hectic than usual. Now I need to settle down and get in hard practice for the US Open.
Appearing one week in England then the next at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial brought great rewards, though, and it’s marvellous to be back on top of the world. It’s never easy when you go from one country to the next and try to adjust to different courses. There’s a very different speed of greens from Wentworth to the Memorial for a start.
Winning at Wentworth and then finishing off with a good round at the Memorial leaves me looking forward very much to the US Open. After that slow start, I’m in contention again for winning both orders of merit. There’s a long way to go, though, and I’m going to need to win some big events. Winning at the Olympic and pulling off my first major would be extremely helpful.
I haven’t played the Olympic so I’m making sure I have plenty of experience of it before the US Open gets underway. I’ve watched the highlights of when Payne Stewart won there in ’98 and I’ve heard quite a lot about the course. It’s a good course for me, one that you have to plot your way around. Most US Open courses are like that. You really have to have a good game-plan and be smart about what you’re trying to achieve. I’m going there this Saturday morning to play some early practice rounds this weekend, ramping up my practice altogether.
I’m excited about the US Open because my game’s in a good spot. It’s important to get the ball in play off the tee because obviously the rough is tough. I feel that with my short-game, if I get it around the green I can have a good opportunity to get up and down. But there are a lot of holes where you have to shape it against the fairway, move it left to right, right to left, and I’ll be working quite a lot on that, especially off the tee.
I’ve been working hard with Pat, my coach, and John, my caddie, who keeps an eye when Pat’s not there, but it’s been all on similar things – trying to get the club head moving first, get a little bit more cup at the top, in a more neutral position. I’m trying to get my swing more and more simple, with a little less movement in the hips. In terms of accuracy off the tee, it’s been a lot better this year.
I’m really enjoying my MP59s, still using the MP T11 wedges – 54 and 60 degrees. I’ve still got the CLK, the hybrid, and the same three-wood and driver. It’s all working well for me. I’m a firm believer in ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
Everything worked well at Wentworth. The win was something I was very proud of. To play that standard of golf down the stretch when the pressure’s on and to get back to number one, is all very positive for me. It just adds to my confidence. Nick Faldo sent me a little message on Twitter, saying ‘congrats’ (for equalling one of his records in winning back-to-back at Wentworth). I keep well in touch with Nick. I’m always chewing off his ear, trying to get some little tit-bits from him, his experiences of how he was so successful. He’s been very gracious with his time. You have to try to learn from great players like Nick. He knew how to do it, for sure! It wasn’t just the win at Wentworth. Being given honorary life membership of the European Tour was unexpected. I was very honoured – and humbled – when they presented that to me. It was wonderful to be recognised by my peers and the European Tour.
Going back to the Memorial, Tiger Woods is back up there again, showing some positive signs. He’s starting to figure out how to win again. He’s had a couple of years where he’s struggled but he’s starting to trust his swing. No doubt Tiger will be a great motivational force for all of us again. It adds to what’s been going on with Rory McIlroy and me and continually swapping places on top of the world. We push each other to work harder. It makes us want to get to the next level to stay on top. I think it’s good for the game. People are talking about it and enjoying it and it’s healthy for both of our games. If I can now win the US Open by about eight shots (like Rory) that would be perfect!
Off the course, I have a new white wine coming out in a few months, that’s exciting. But after the US Open I have my fourth annual ‘Taste of the First Tee’, my charity event. We taste wines but raise money for the First Tee of Chicago (life skills programme). Last year Jack Nicklaus came, this year we’ve got Steve Stricker and Mark Wilson. I’m looking forward to raising money for a really worthy cause. And wouldn’t it be nice to toast a US Open win at the same time?