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Open ends in injury disappointment but the bigger picture is still in focus

On the Wednesday of The Open I decided to focus on the back 9 holes, so I got a car out to the 10th with Johnny Foster and Justin Parsons my 2 coaches.  I was joking saying that I'm special and I need two of them and that I need to have a big entourage, it looks good nowadays!  Randomly I joined young amateur Paul Dunne and Gregory Bourdy.  Paul goes to college in Alabama, Birmingham, where GMAC went and we talked about the quality of the courses and how the pure greens can help your putting.  The 9 was playing downwind so I hit a lot of 2 irons off the tee to leave me short of the bunkers at 280 yards on nearly every hole.  The longer hitters like Rory can fly these bunkers; it helps a lot on certain holes.  It was a fun 9, like no other tournament, people wanting flags, hats, and balls signed, you start to feel what the top guys have to do every week.  Gerry (my caddy) took a few pictures coming up the 18th with the massive grandstand in the background, nothing quite like it in golf. My swing was working well I felt it would be a much better experience than 2 years ago.  Then on the range they had me working on tucking the right elbow, getting my right arm working more and stretching width to the top.  I putted for 40 minutes after keeping score with Johnny on 18 holes stroke play, it's important to have something riding on it.  This was 9 weeks outta 10 for me on the road and I could feel I was a bit tired but riding the adrenaline of this event.  I saw Shane and got back to watch Erin run around until her bedtime. 

I woke up, had breakfast and saw the perfect conditions.  No wind, the scoring was good as the course was soft for links.   I was off at 1220 with George Coetzee and Charley Hoffman so I left at 10am, drove to the players parking which was right out front of the clubhouse.  Shane warmed me up and I took the shuttle to the range 5 mins away on the other course.  It wasn't ideal for us or spectators as none could get there easily.  Justin kept to the same theme with the right arm and I hit it well.  The wind was picking up, just as had been forecast and I went for some lunch as it was gonna be 5 hours in the afternoon.  The wind was fairly strong nearly 2 clubs different from the morning tee times but the front 9 wasn't playing that tough and I played solid.  I was 1 under after 6.  I got stuck in the deepest bunker on the course on the 10th.  The R&A like the bunkers to be a hazard, so they add a lot of sand and make us use a wide toothed rake.  Sometimes the ball doesn't roll back to the middle and you can have no shot or stance.  Mine was in thick heavy sand and it just didn't come out the full distance and painfully rolled back in!  I had a good putt for birdie on the 11th and it put me in good shape. I only hit 2 poor shots on the way in but made 3 bogeys in a row.  One was a putt I hit too hard downwind on 13 and the next was a poor tee-shot on 14.   The wind was pretty strong and after great drives down 16 and 18 I couldn't get the birdies I needed as the pins were tucked and very hard to get at.   I guess this is the difference between Tour set up and that of the Majors, it's tough. George Coetzee has probably the best short game in pro golf; he regularly lips out with chip shots and makes 4 30footers a round on average, its very impressive.  His long game is too much left to right still even though he has worked on it with my ex-coach Jamie Gough and he didn't hit many fairways all round.  Charley is working on the 1 plane swing, it looks very flat and he sprayed it but has a great short game.  It's the commonality between all top players; they all have awesome short games.  It seems a short game is more important than anything else. It was disappointing as I'd played good in general but not scored well, but definitely a big improvement on my last Open experience and knew I was capable of a good score on Friday morning.
That night I was removing the kinesio tape I use to keep the arches in my feet supported and it caught on one of the calluses on the sole of me foot.  It's an area that has been bothering me for a few weeks.  It took a huge section of the skin on the sole of me foot away and immediately I was in pain and bleeding on the carpet.  There was a deep gouge along the outer side of me foot when I looked down.  I called Bev, she did medicine at Uni so is fairly level headed when these things happen.  She headed out to get some ointment, dressings and padding for the foot and was a bit concerned.  Normally she thinks I'm a hypochondriac but this time she didn't really comment, always a sign that she's concerned.  I woke up that night at 2am in pain and didn't really sleep properly after.  We were up at 5am and it was dark, stormy and windy.  All the guys on the range were joking they got the good side of the draw, compared to the calm conditions on Thursday morning.  Butch Harmon watched me hit a few, which I thought was cool.  Justin had sent him my swing and he mentioned the recent improvements, he joked that the British summer had come yesterday and gone this morning.  My foot was so padded that it was pressing against the shoe and hurting the laceration even more.  I couldn't feel where the left foot was in the swing.  I was battling after finding a fairway bunker on the 1st downwind but made 2 good swings on the 2nd into wind for par.  On the 5th downwind I needed a decent strike with the driver to carry the gorse but the ball didn't fly.  I was losing 20 yards on the driver and the ball headed straight into the gorse.  I couldn't hit against the left foot. Walking was a real pain and I was miserable. On the 8th I hit 3 iron from the tee, again it didn't carry as far as I thought and ended up OB.  I couldn't face the walk back to the tee and decided that was it.  I hated it but couldn't face 3 hours of agony and probably put off my playing partners. Gerry and I got a lift in and went to see the doctor to clean the wound and redress it. It was not a nice experience, I'm not a quitter.  The worst bit doing interviews with the Irish media afterwards when they're asking questions like "Are you disappointed?"  You always feel like saying Erm no not at all, only the biggest event of the year and I'm fantastically happy to have walked in!
We headed back to the house and started making plans.  There was a boat at 8pm and Bev's Dad drove so we made it home.  Bev and Audrey stayed behind to tidy up and Bev caught the midnight boat home with Erin.  I just needed to get out of there and Ken wanted to get back to his garden!  I haven't really been back home much this year at all, the longest time is 2 weeks in a row so I'm looking forward to at least 3 weeks whilst my foot heals.  Unfortunately the injury means I had to pull out of Russia.  Its wrong when you don't return as defending champion, sends the wrong message to the Tour and Sponsors.  I really liked the course in Russia last year when I won and will definitely return if they hold the event in the future, despite the visa and travel issues.  It will be good to spend some time with Erin, do my chores and build up the hunger for Tour again. It's a love hate relationship with professional golf and I am constantly fluctuating on the spectrum.
Rory was awesome.  Everyone knows that when he is on it's just not possible to catch him, that's how good he is.  He was first in putting all week which sealed the deal.  It's incredible some of the short clubs he was hitting into long par 4s and 5s, with perfect balance at the follow through.  He's a genius and is a great ambassador for Northern Ireland.
It feels like the end of the season now but there are plenty of good tournaments coming up so hopefully I can finish strong, playing well like I've been doing most of the year.  The aim is still to qualify for Dubai in November and even though I had a disappointing experience at the Open I can't lose sight of what's important in the larger scheme of things!