SOME time in the next few weeks you will have a medal card in your hand again and there is no longer the comfort of a Stableford or winter team competition.
The best piece of advice I could give, at this time of year, is to practise your three footers as dribbled putts aren’t really going to work. Line it up and hit it firmly against the back of the hole. If you hole all your three-footers it can really tidy up your score.
I am reading a book at the moment by Mark Broadie and in it he explains that a crucial area of improvement for the average club golfer is the four-foot putt.
On tour it is five feet; an average pro makes 70 per cent of five-footers but the really good players are above 80 which is quite a difference.
One area that I have improved with experience is how to bounce back after a bit of a disaster. In the past the temptation would be to get the driver out and just try and smash it but that doesn’t often work if you are thinking about your last putt.
It is all about a bit of perseverance and taking those holes on the chin. You haven’t got long to get over it in the walk from the green to the next tee so you have to be pretty quick. The good thing is you are probably last off the tee and, if you commit properly to the next shot, then you should be OK again.
In South Africa recently I had nine birdies and then treble-bogeyed the 17th. It might sound odd, being nine under for the day, but I hadn’t really recovered from not making a birdie on the previous two holes, having hit the par-5 15th but then three putted it.
Previously I have had a couple of nine unders and that did play on my mind a bit which was a nice problem to have.
If I’m honest I had a conscious think about the 59 and went for the eagle putt but that was worth going for as those type of opportunities don’t come along very often.
If it was the last I would have tried to two-putt it.
Given a choice of having a crowd or not, I would rather have nobody or the whole lot At the 17th I then tried to attack a tight pin, was five yards off line, found the water, and things got out of hand. I made a six which I hadn’t seen coming at all.
So, from being a possible 10 or 11 under, I was back to six and, if I then made a mess of the last, it could have been a 68 and I would have been raging. When you think what could happen it will almost certainly spoil things, it’s good to have a quiet 30 seconds and think about what you’ve just done and what you now need to do.
Thankfully I managed to think clearly enough, and there was a long enough walk to get myself together. I made a birdie, thanks to holing a huge putt with about 20 feet of break, which is pretty typical of the game.
My best round anywhere was a 59 in a fourball match with, I think, Henrik Stenson’s caddy, Gareth Lord, in Coventry.
I’m surprised nobody has shot a 59 on the European Tour. We play quite a lot of par-70 courses so it should happen; they have had half a dozen on the PGA Tour. We change courses quite a lot which doesn’t help, and the courses are very different from week to week, but I’m still surprised.
I hated playing in front of TV cameras for the first few times in my career. It wasn’t so much being on TV, more having someone directly behind you and not wearing a cap means I don’t have that little blinker.
If you are on TV you get used to it very quickly. In my first few years on tour I didn’t play great so when it happened I let it get in the way of finishing off some good rounds.
And, given a choice of having a crowd or not, I would rather have nobody or the whole lot. With a few people you tend to notice what they’re doing, with a big crowd it’s great to have some feedback and really gets you going.
My last piece of advice this weekend is to club up. There is no run, it is still a cold air and the ball won’t travel anywhere near as far as in the summer months.
Work out how far your 7-iron is going and make the necessary adjustments.
And enjoy it!