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Lots of hard work as the excitment builds to Akron

I was more motivated than I'd anticipated after my performance at the Open.  The 2 days with Jamie on the range up at Royal Lytham had really given me a sense of what I could achieve if I just worked hard enough on the right stuff so Bev and I spent Monday through Thursday practically living at the golf course.  We arrived early each morning and left late each afternoon, sometimes after 7 pm to miss the rush hour traffic.  A 45 minute drive in the south of England can turn into 1 hour 30 if you hit the rush hour.  We worked on the fade shot again, trying to get the club out in front of me, with my weight more balanced and Bev videoing some swings so we could send them to Jamie in South Africa each evening.  He'd then call us the following morning on our way to the club with that days practice routines and the specific areas I'd to work on.  He offers an unbelievable service, I know I can always get him on the phone day or night nothing is too trivial for him, he likes to be involved!

I also spent a lot of time practicing my pace putting and reading the greens, concentrating on the drills Phil had given me a few weeks ago at the French Open.  Then I'd chip.  It's kinda like playing pool, Bev would drop balls around the chipping area and I'd have to select either my 54 or 58 wedge then nominate the target and talk her through the shot.  I didn't get any points if I was further than 2 feet away - she's a tough task master and no points means a small financial forfeit, always to her advantage.  It's never much but it helps to keep me focused on each shot.
We'd then go out and play 9 holes on the course, hitting a few balls from each of the tees and spending time chipping around each of the greens, Bev trolleying the big tour bag around.  The Wisley is great for that sort of practice, the only time it gets busy is a Wednesday afternoon and on a Saturday.  They have 27 holes though so I always go practice on the 9 not being used for the medal so there is always time to get the extra shots in.  Unfortunately it also means playing on the 9 the green keeping staff are working on, and as I hit a great drive down the Par 5 5th a lawn mower came into view.  It was a great drive, possibly the best I'd ever hit down that fairway, and it managed to get Chris (the green keeper) right on the back of the head!  Bev thought I'd hit him from the tee, I wasn't convinced but the bump on his head was massive.  Thankfully he'd turned just as the ball impacted or else his nose would have been broken.  I felt really bad, but he hadn't looked at the tee box before he drove down the middle of the fairway and he took it really well, saying it wasn't my fault.  I've a big box of golf goodies to take up to him next time I'm back at the club. 
It certainly wasn't the week we'd planned. Originally my parents had been due to visit for my Dad's birthday present; his birthday was on the 11th July.  It would have been the first time they'd visited since we moved in September, but I had to postpone them in order to get the practice in.  It's hard to have other people at the course with me when I'm trying to focus as they ask questions and interrupt the flow of the sessions.  We've developed a spreadsheet that Bev fills in with all the shots I hit each day and explaining that and all the other drills to people takes up a lot of time.  A friend Colin, who's a real golf nut, also likes to visit when I'm practicing and its good craic but I never achieve as much as I would if it's just Bev and I, or Jamie.  The session becomes unfocused and takes over the entire day, which isn't ideal.  Sometimes you just have to be selfish to make sure you get the work done, after all I wouldn't ask to go to someone's office and watch them work.

I met Rob at the gym on Tuesday afternoon and had a really good productive session, he's going to try and come out to events more next year so I can continue to improve my fitness.  It's been a little stop and start again this year so a session with him really hurts and takes me about 2 days to recover.  It isn't ideal when you've serious technical stuff to be doing as well!  I stuck to the routine he gave me and fitted a few other sessions in after we got back from the Wisley as well.

We headed off to Chicago on Friday morning, just as the rain started, and before the Olympic opening ceremony got under way.  It's a shame to be missing the Olympics, but a lot of the roads are closed around the Ascot area as the rowing is happening close to us in Eton and the cycling road races are happening around the Wisley.  I don't think we'd have been able to get to the club easily this weekend!  Our next door neighbours have tickets to a few events and they were filling us in about everything just before we left.

Bev and I were flying off to Chicago with BA from T5 as it was one of the easiest ways to get to Akron, Ohio for the Bridgestone Invitational.  Neither of us had ever been to Chicago and I was really interested to see the city - especially the John Hancock and Sears Towers.  The sky-line is amazing in the movies and I love skyscrapers.  We arrived at the airport in good time just in case there were delays on the M25 due to the Olympics.  Bev got a free upgrade to Business.  She was over the moon, just wished I'd been quick enough to claim the credit!  It was a great flight to Chicago and we arrived at about 330pm on Friday afternoon.  The traffic going into the city at that time was horrendous!   The hotel was right in the middle of things, even though the down town area was so quiet.  US cities are always a stark contrast to European ones, the wide streets, the really tall buildings and the quiet.  Chicago is an amazingly clean city, and it has a really beautiful setting along the river and on Lake Michigan.  It really is beautiful.  Friday was a quick walk, dinner and sleep but we fitted a lot more in on Saturday.  We started with a walk to the park, a bus trip to the Science and Industry Museum via Barack Obama's house.  It has huge concrete breeze blocks all around it and secret service at the end of the road now.  I'm not sure the neighbours will be all that impressed with the security changes in the area!  The Museum is really good, great for kids (big or small) as it's one of those interactive museums.  We took in the exhibits about the coal mine which has been relocated from mines around the Illinois area and the tornedos.  3 hours really wasn't enough but we were on a tight schedule as I was meeting up with Mike Scardina.  I'd played with Mike in the Pro-am at Royal Portrush.  He lives in the city and Collette, his FiancĂ©e from Donegal, was over visiting for a few weeks.  We met up and went to an Italian restaurant where the who's-who of Chicago society hang out.  Mike being more impressed by our table than any of the 3 of us from Ireland!  Then we went to the John Hancock Tower for a night cap, the bar on the 94th floor offers amazing views over the city, apparently the view for the ladies bathroom is the best in the whole place.  The lift takes about 90 seconds to get you up there so you're ears pop on the way.  I was in my element, Bev happy with our table far from the windows!

Mike met up with me early on Sunday morning and we went out to the Merit Golf Club.  Michael Jordan is a member, so Tiger has played there a few times.  It was everything I remember of exclusive golf clubs in the States, perfect weather, perfect condition and very quiet.  More traffic on the way back into the city and a quick dash to the airport and we were on our way to Akron.  The flight was full of all the other European lads jetting in from London - Dyson, Donaldson, Rock, Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari plus caddies and managers.  It was weird to be meeting up with the circus in Chicago O'Hare!  Thankfully our bags and the clubs arrived, Rock's and Donaldson's hadn't! We were met at the airport by a lady who's worked this tournament for 16 years.  She took us to the club and gave me the keys to a brand new Cadillac, mine to drive for the week.  I'd a quick look at the course, my first ever view of it and I'm excited!  Now I know why everyone wants to play US Tour!