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Getting in the groove for a hectic period

Like the Irish Open and Wentworth the Nordea Masters is one of the best supported tournaments on the European Tour.  The crowds are massive, noisy and knowledgeable - they love their golf.


I needed to make a cut after the disappointment of Wentworth, Wales and Seville but I knew the course suited me and that my game wasn't in too bad a shape.  I finished 14th here in 2010 and loved the pure greens and the good course condition, a main feature of the Bro Hof Slott.  It's a Trent Jones course, and he designed the Wisley where I now practice, so I'm a little more used to his work.  Off the back tees the course plays well over 8000 yards which is crazy long, even for us professionals.  The 16th is a par 3, 270 yards long!  Thankfully we rarely play it from the very back!  We never play all the holes from the back tees and it probably plays around 7500 yards during the tournament.


On Tuesday in the ProAm my partners told me it hadn't stopped raining for the 4 weeks prior to the tournament.  The Stockholm marathon was the Saturday before the event and they had a record low temperature of 4⁰C, with wind chill it was just above freezing!  We were lucky when the sun came out for the pro-am, it's such a scenic course right on the coast, in the sunshine it's totally idyllic! Thankfully the heat also helped to dry out the fairways and paths for the supporters!


A lot of the players reckon it's one of their favourite courses in Europe, but I'm not sure if that's the course or the number of tall, blonde ladies watching that they enjoy.  The 17th hole is an exact copy of the island green par 3 at TPC Sawgrass and it's got a massive wrap around grandstand with the 18th green, the atmosphere here is great but it can be pretty nerve wracking for the players!


I was paired with Bernard Weisberger the young Austrian who recently won the Ballentine's Championship, and the rhythmical swing of Raphael Jaquelin - it was another nice draw!  I was loving the greens and hitting nice shots to get to 4 under after 9.  I'd a 5 footer on 10 to get to 5 under but misread it and a couple of simple errors frustratingly put me at 2 under for the day.  It was a good score and I was nicely positioned when I finished my round at lunchtime!  Unfortunately the afternoon boys got slightly warmer conditions and took the course apart, especially Westwood.


When you are playing well the Sky Sports crew arrive, it's a great sign as you know you are well positioned in the field and that you are playing well.  You get a chance to show off to friends and family at home on TV, but it can also be a little distracting and you need to try and block them out and continue playing as you were before they arrived.  You need to try not to place too much importance on their presence, it's a skill the top guys have all acquired, and I guess it comes with practice and putting yourself in those positions.


Rafa was going nicely until the 18th (our 9th hole) and with a slight downslope off a wet fairway he managed to find the water twice, eventually taking an 8.  He finished strongly though and Bernard played better over the last few holes to finish 3 under.  Bernard hits it miles and putts really well, he missed a few putts and was frustrated but his game was in good shape and he could easily have been 6 under.


Day 2 was still sunny and warm, Westwood had just shot a 64 - 8 under by the time we were going out, the course sets up perfectly for him, long with pure greens.  I got off to a good start and was 2 under, rolling the ball really well with only 2 errors on the 9th and 14th.  Unfortunately both were straight forward short irons resulting in silly bogeys.  I came back strongly with birdies on 12, 13, 15 and 18 for 4 under and a nice bit of TV time.  I had a really good swing thought of more arm speed which stops me driving the hips too far ahead of the ball.  Unfortunately for Rafa the 18th cost him the cut, the day before must have been weighing heavily on his mind as he flew the green with his approach shot, didn't get it up and down and made a bogey to miss the cut by a shot.  It can be a cruel game.  Bernard double bogeyed the 15th, hitting his tee shot left in the water, his only mistake all round, and again he could have been 6 under.  I was happy to birdie the 18th, as it meant a later start on Friday for the third round!


I had a late tee time on Friday morning, drawn with a young local guy who got his card through qualifying school this year.  He had a really big, loud crowd with him and he played great golf.  I didn't have my A game with me and playing in front of lots of people on those days is not fun.  I started poorly and was a little too aggressive with my irons, aiming at flags instead of playing percentage golf.  I didn't feel sharp and didn't get the ball up and down, my putting had disserted me too.  I only had one birdie all day on the 18th and I couldn't get off the course fast enough!  I was exhausted, even more so when I looked at the scores Sergio and Ross Fisher turned in playing the group behind me.


The last day was a depressing start in freezing and rainy conditions at 7:48am.  I was struggling to find the fairways and the rough was really wet, so I was 6 over through 8 holes.  I had 2 good swings on the 9th and made birdie, hit a great iron shot on 10 and birdied it and suddenly the round wasn't so bad.  I certainly felt a lot more positive even though I didn't birdie either par 5.  I had a good putt on 14 for another birdie and a flop shot on the 15th which I holed for an eagle - playing the last 10 holes in 5 under par.  Owen, my caddy, had been trying to motivate me throughout the back nine, I think I owe him a fancy dinner now as I improved my position so much.  It's always good to finish on a positive note as it helps you have enthusiasm for practice and the tournaments to come.  I've a lot of golf coming up - Germany, Irish, French and The Open.  It's a big part of my season so I need to get home recover from this cold and get some practice in.


It was great to see other guys who've been having a difficult time figure it out too.  Rory has been heavily criticsed in the press recently for a blip in form and it was great to see him play well before the US Open next week.  I'll be glued to the TV this week with the football, rugby from New Zealand and the golf from California even though I doubt I'll get to watch most of it live so no spoilers please!