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Indigestion as the reality of an honest mistake hits home

We landed in Charleston, arriving from Chicago at 1pm on Monday, at roughly the same time the other guys had flown from Akron via Washington.  It was slightly bizarre meeting up with everyone again at the airport even though they hadn't been on our flight!  Just beside the baggage reclaim was the PGA travel desk.  All I had to do was hand over my driver's licence and sign a form, in return I got handed a set of keys to a complimentary Mercedes jeep.  Mine to drive for the week!  The jeeps were parked in a line outside the small airport, about 20 yards outside the arrivals door.  We were on our way out of the airport within 5 minutes of getting our bags from the baggage belt - this is service!  The treatment of the players on the PGA tour is unbelievable, the convenience and organisation they experience is miles ahead of that on the European Tour.  I guess it's the difference big sponsors make!  Put into context like this I'm beginning to understand the comments of some of the American Players when they visit Europe, they simply aren't used to having to arrange things for themselves.


A 50 minute drive took us to Kiawah Island where we had rented a house for the week of the PGA.  Bev had arranged it just after I won in Morocco as I was ranked 72 in the world then and we thought I'd definitely get in.  It was a nervous wait for the invite in the weeks leading up to the event as the house was a little expensive!  Based on our experience at the Open accommodation is difficult to find close to the course for the Majors.  We assumed that accommodation would be even more difficult to find close to the course in America, but the PGA had blocked booked the hotel on Kiawah and we could have stayed there in a normal room or in one of their villas.  We'll know for the next trip! 


We stopped at the last regular supermarket on the way to Kiawah and did a huge shop, trying to get all the basics and enough food to last us until Friday at least.  The jeep had plenty of room as I'd given my clubs to the guy who drives them between events for all the PGA players.  It costs $100 but you're sure that your clubs are going to arrive, you can't always say that when you take them to the airport!  The PGA had sent us a list of local restaurants and their phone numbers when I'd received my invite letter.  They said most of the restaurants were already busy so we decided to just eat in and try and ignore the circus that would be accompanying the huge event!  We loaded up the jeep with all the food I love, its mostly healthy stuff with the odd little sneaky sweet treat and a couple of cold beers for after a hard day in the heat.  Nothing refreshes me like a beer when it's 93 outside!


I felt like chilling on Monday as the previous week had been a long one, especially with the rain delay on Sunday and the trip down via Chicago.  So we just lit the BBQ and had a beer sitting on the patio overlooking a small pond outside the house bemused by the "Danger Alligator" sign.
I went up to the course at 830 on Tuesday morning; it was an early practice day start for me.  I spent time with Jamie, Phil and the physio team trying to iron out all last week's issues.  Joost Luiten and I then headed to the 10th tee and stood there for 40 minutes as all the others already on the course came through.  We eventually cut our losses and headed to the first tee on buggies (it was about a 15 minute walk between the 2!).  Jamie Donaldson and Robert Rock had decided to do the same thing and we ended up joining up on the second hole.  Unusually Bev had decided to come and walk the course on Tuesday and just as she joined us on the second green the hooter sounded to close the course, the first of many thunder storms had come in.  Everyone headed into the clubhouse, which wasn't very big and it ended up being really busy and impossible to get a seat.  Jamie and I had a look at the weather forecast and decided that it would be best for me to head home for the afternoon and then come back at about 5pm when it would be quieter and I could play 9 holes with his other pupil Anders Hanson.  Thorbjorn Olsen also joined us for the 9 holes.  The course was playing tough and very long.  There is a lot of water in play and a hard cross wind was blowing off the sea.  We got to the 17th par 3, it was 245 yards to the pin over water and the 18th which is a 500 yard par 4 - it gives you some idea of the test this course presents.  My swing was coming on; I was feeling it a little wider in the backswing, that I had a little more arm speed and that it was all more synchronized.  I couldn't believe how many people were still watching at 7pm on Tuesday evening, it was crazy busy!  They all wanted autographs and something from you to remember the event.  The heat and humidity doesn't stop them! 


Anders finished 3rd last year in Atlanta.  He's such a good striker of the ball and if he tidied up his short game he could definitely be in the top 20 of the World.  Thorbjorn is another quality ball striker and is even younger than Rory.  He's a lovely guy but his game was a bit off on Tuesday.  I think the alligators might have eaten some of his balls.  I went back to the house and we had fish as it's easy to digest when I have a late finish and I'm trying to get up early the next day, a huge lump of steak just sits in my stomach and prevents me sleeping which isn't ideal!


Wednesday was either going to be a 630 am or a 230 pm start as everywhere in-between was going to be too busy out on the range and course.  I planned to meet James at 11 but the weather intervened and I eventually met up with him at 2pm following 2 delays on the course.   Bev had dragged me to the supermarket for more supplies during the rain delay as I'd invited James and Jamie over the night before for dinner and we'd run out of some items!  Everyone kept looking at us as we drove around in the Merc with "Official Vehicle" plastered across the windscreen and 2 huge logos on the front doors.  I definitely felt like a superstar!  They soon lost interest when they didn't recognize me though.  There were storms at the course and further delays, some of the guys had been up at the course for 6 hours but had achieved very little.  Our decision to conserve energy and stay away from the circus seemed to have been the right one.  I played the front 9 on my own and it was very quiet, we basically had the course to ourselves apart from a few keen fans.  I was able to spend time putting and chipping around the tricky greens.  The paspalam grass is a new tough grass that survives in the salty sea spray and extreme heat on the coast, it takes some getting used to as it doesn't roll the same way the grass on the links courses at home would do.  Bump and runs don't work when you're just off the green; you actually have to fly the ball onto the green here, even if the wind is pumping!  We had James, Jamie and Shane around for dinner on Wednesday again, nice to have some company in the evening as it was just the 2 of us in the house.


I was playing at 2pm on Thursday and planned to spend the morning watching some of the golf on TV, checking out the course as you can pick up valuable information on the pin positions and how the course is playing.  Unfortunately our house didn't get the right channel and we couldn't find it on the internet before I had to leave to warm-up.  I was a little frustrated and just went for a gentle cycle down the beach instead, it was very therapeutic!  I was playing at 220 with Kevin Na and club pro Rod Perry.  The US PGA always invites 25 club pros from the national championship.  I was really nervous so I can only imagine how the club pros feel on the first tee!  I was going great through 5, which was the 15th hole, just one over.  My performance was so much improved from the Open and Firestone.  I hit so many fairways and greens, I was really pleased!  I hit a great drive on 16 and then hit driver of the deck.  The ball finished long and right of the green in a big hollow.  I had to get the ball up a huge bank with no green to work with.  I'd practiced putting on Wednesday from a similar position and decided to go for it, but it didn't work and after 2 attempts I was still in the hollow scratching my head.  I was disappointed with the resulting double bogey but responded well, birding the next 2 holes, which are 2 of the hardest holes on the course.  The front 9 just got away from me, I hadn't realized how slow play was and I hadn't eaten enough from the 13th through to the 2nd.  I was a little ratty and the bad lies and 3 putts from frustration were the result.  We finished in the dark, taking just over 5 and a half hours, the only tournament which takes that long on the European Tour is the Dunhill Links Championship where we play with amateurs!


Friday was really windy but I got off to a nice start and found a smoother tempo in my swing.  Rod had played well on Thursday but really struggled on Friday, he completed his round though unlike Kevin who walked in after 13 holes.  I don't agree with that unless you've got a medical condition or an injury.  I had a fantastic back 9 in the strong winds and birdied 17, pared 18 and was convinced I'd made the cut - I shot 2 under for the day and was now on plus 4, the cut was plus 3 when I finished and half the field had still to play.  It ended up being the second best round of the day and one of only 5 under par.  I was so happy with the progress I'd made and that I'd made the cut in my first major, only the second I've played as a Pro!  I jumped in the ice bath which is recommended by the physio boys, as it helps your muscles recover.  It is painful but you really benefit from it especially in the extreme conditions over here.  Bev and I headed home to BBQ some more fish and get ready for the weekend.  It was only after we'd finished dinner and Shane had given me my physio session when I was going over my round thinking of the amazing up and down I'd made on the 8th for par that I realized something might be wrong.  My tee shot had plugged in the bunker (sandy area) to the side of the green.  I'd brushed some sand of it to identify it was mine and had forgotten to try and recreate the lie before I played it.  Because I'd missed a procedure I knew there was a penalty and because I'd signed my card I knew my tournament was going to be over when I reported it.  It hit me hard!  We jumped in the car and headed up to the course just as play was suspended for the evening and spoke to 2 American rules guys, they disqualified me there and then.  They felt bad for me but the rules are the rules.  I was gutted; I'd been so excited to have made the weekend!  I'd been going to ask for a referee on the course for a ruling at the time but Kevin Na was pressurising me to play as we were on the clock, it was hot and I just didn't think at the time.  What a costly mistake and one I won't make again! Anytime I'm unsure I'm going to call a referee, regardless of what my playing partner says.  On Sunday Carl Petterson got a 2 stroke penalty for moving a leaf in his backswing in a hazard on the 1st hole, slow motion TV picked it up and it put him further behind Rory.  I got a lot of messages telling me I'd done the right thing and that my honesty was admirable.  I just couldn't play without a clear conscience, that's just who I am.  I just have to believe there will be other opportunities!


I spent Saturday and Sunday avoiding the club but watching the golf.  Our flights were nonrefundable and non-changeable so we were stuck in Kiawah.  Rory was amazing! To win his second major and to be the youngest ever to do it is fantastic.  I first played with him when he was 12 and he was amazing back then!  Graeme had another great tournament as well; his record this season in the majors has been awesome.  It's great to be out there representing Northern Ireland with them both. It's a week at home then off to Gleneagles and Crans, 2 of my favourite events on the European calendar!  I really want to make it back to the states next year for the 2 events I sampled this year.  There's a lot of work to be done between now and then though!