The win in Scotland
There were two things that I liked about last week, the first part of the week the wind was pretty calm and we were able to play the game through the air and I played well, and was in contention and made some birdies. And then when the weather got bad on Sunday, I was also able to get the ball on the ground and still make some birdies. And I thought that that was a good sign because you just don’t know what kind of weather you’re going to get here.
Muirfield sets up well
My favorite Open course would be St. Andrews because of the history that’s there. But from an opportunity-to-win standpoint I would say that Muirfield or Troon would offer the two best chances, because of the way the holes move, it’s very comfortable for me off some of the tees, getting the ball in play, as well as around the greens, I like it a lot. But I felt like Muirfield and Troon were the two courses that I felt most comfortable hitting the shots needed.
I’ve not putted these greens well with these little subtle nuances and rolls, with the crosswinds that come into play, as well as the strong blades of fescue grass. But I am really optimistic about this week and going forward because I’m starting to putt as well as I ever have. I putted great last week, and more than that I’ve been putting well now for months, and feel like I’ve really keyed in on something over the last three or four years, where I’ve added some poor stretches.
You’ve seen me try the belly putter, you’ve seen me try different grips, and finally I believe I have kind of found the secret to my own putting, and what I need to do to putt well.
I feel like the fairways are a fair width. I feel like it’s a very fair set-up. The rough is difficult, but there are times where you can advance it. There are also times where you’ll have a hard time finding it. I feel, though, that the set-up is extremely fair because given the firmness of the fairways and as much as the ball is running, you have to have a little bit of room to maneuver and keep the ball in play. And the set-up has allowed for that. If you play well and play reasonably well, you can keep the ball out of the rough.
I used to hate it and now I love it. It really changed for me back in 2004 when Dave Pelz and I spent some time over here and developed a shot that feels easy to get the ball on the ground and in play off the tee; getting rid of these big misses when the ball gets up in the crosswinds and it takes it 50 yards off the edge of the fairway and into the deep heather.
We worked on a shot that’s kind of a — I call it kind of a chip, a kind of a chip 4-wood, a chip hybrid, a chip 4-iron, where I’m just swinging it almost half pace trying to take spin and speed off of it and just get it on the ground. And it’s this low, little scooting shot that feels very easy to get it in play.
First links experience
The first time I played links golf was in the Walker Cup in 1991, Portmarnock Ireland, but the first time over here was in ’92. I tried to qualify for the Open Championship at Muirfield over at North Berwick, and that was really one of my first experiences. I remember that golf course very vividly.
And I feel like that course had such an influence on architecture in the early 20th Century that a lot of the holes — probably the most emulated hole ever is the Redan hole throughout the world. But some of the features, like the green on 16, some of the blind shots, the architecture, there, is exquisite.
I am really optimistic about this week and going forward because I’m starting to putt as well as I ever have
Going close at Sandwich 2011
I thought the worst weather I had played in in a long time was at St. Georges on the final round when I played the absolute best nine holes of golf I’ve ever played on the front nine.
It was rainy, it was windy, and it was extremely hard. And I hit every shot as perfect as I could and played just an incredible nine holes.
I missed the Muirfield weather in ’02, because I played so poorly the first two rounds that I teed off early Saturday and was able to miss it. Shoot 1- or 2-over and move up 50 spots.
The short game
The biggest factor is my ability inside 120 feet, inside 40 yards of getting up and down. My touch, putting, chipping along the ground, getting it inside a short, 3, 4, 5-foot area, to make the next putt, because putting in wind is very difficult. Chipping the ball close or putting it close from off the green in wind is very difficult. The speed differential, downwind into the wind is the highest you can have. And the firmness of the ground makes the touch and sensitivity to chipping so much greater, that I feel like that’s the area where you can save the most shots and ultimately the winner excels at is his ability inside the 40 yards around the hole to get it up and down. If I put a percentage on it, that would the highest percentage.
The bag set-up
I’m not going to carry a driver this week, no. I feel like the 64 degree wedge on this firm ground can save me some shots, and I just don’t see how a driver is going to help me in any areas. I’m able to hit that 3-wood on this firm ground every bit as close enough in distance on the holes. And distance on any tee shot is not even in my mind. It’s avoiding bunkers, avoiding rough, getting the ball in the fairway. And I can do it a lot easier with clubs other than driver.