• Facebook
  • Twitter

Strong Sunday performance at Fota Island gets the adrenalin pumping

The journey to Cork is a lot easier these days. I remember going to the Munster youths in the late 90s and the road taking so long that we got 2 trains via Dublin and taxis instead of driving.  This time we stopped in City West just outside Dublin with Erin for some food.  It was a chance for her to wriggle around; being stuck in the car seat in hot weather is not much fun!  The weather was great; it really was very un-Irish like.  We got to Fota Island about 2hr 30 later.  We checked in quickly and headed down to the lodges.  They are self-catering and ours had 3 bedrooms, so Bev's parents could join us later in the week.  Child care is now top of our list of priorities on Tour! The lodges were very nice, and more homely than a hotel room. 
My only previous experience of Fota was the Irish open in 2002, one of my first as a pro. It didn't go well for me then, I missed the cutt by a lot and it was the start of a tough run.  My first few years of the pro golf apprenticeship were not easy.  I wanted a better experience this time!

Justin Parsons, one half of my coaching team, is based in Dubai for most of the year but has 2 months off in the summer.  He said it was 45⁰ last week in Dubai and he made the long  trip to Cork in one go; 7hrs Dubai to Birmingham then to Belfast with a child and then the 5 hrs drive to Cork with Andy Park (former Ulster Rugby player) who is now in golf management.  We went to the range and Justin watched me hit for an hour, he was switched on considering the travel.  It was a simple session, width, tempo, ball position; not many changes at this late stage.  Justin had a couple of long awaited Guinness at dinner, and then the tiredness kicked in.  It was good craic to catch up and ease into the week.
I played 9 holes early on Tuesday before the crowds arrived, then focused on plenty of short game chipping with putting after as well as a hitting session.   Johnny Foster and Justin were both with me and honestly there is no conflict of opinion; they were both singing from the same hymn sheet regarding my swing, chipping and bunker thoughts.  I tend to drive my chips instead of rotating and using the bounce more for a softer flight, which is highlighted when trying to land the ball in a 1 yard gap from 10 yards, it's not easy.  The session ended with more 8 irons from the bunker, like Seve did.   The setup has to be correct and rotation applied.  With my long game some of my right shots come from the face being open at set up, it's a natural drawer's position which trackman has shown.  Golf is a game of opposites; the square to closed face at set up is a correct fade position.  I got more square and hit some better fades; it's not quantum physics but just understanding the whys! 
I played pro-am on Wednesday; it's the 3 new friends' day, that's what we call the pro-am. My team were from BMW, a big partner of the Tour and so it's important for them to have a good day.  The weather made it for us even though our golf wasn't good the crowds were great. We talked cars with Brendan and Brian.  Gerry told a few cheeky stories which made our 20 points behind the lead, feel better.
I had a late start on Thursday and was playing with Marcel Siem and Alvaro Quiros. Marcel was fresh of a 12th place finish at Pinehurst for €130,000 the money is big eh.  He said he had a couple of drinks with Kaymer after.  Martin won by 8 shots then Kaymer went to bed.   Marcel said if that was him he would have gone crazy and been out for a week!  I didn't play my best, I felt my timing was off but I putted good and hit the right shot at the right time which is key in golf.  There are about 4 tee shots a round that are more important and you can't afford a wide at them as much as the other holes.  Marcel hits a cutt shot, it doesn't look pretty but it is effective and he shot 5 under.  The crowd were great when I holed a couple of 30 footers, what an atmosphere, that's why we play for those moments. There were approximately 25 thousand people during the day so the Tour were happy.
Friday was a scrappy day after a great birdie birdie start.  I lost my pace with the putter and the swing.  The greens were quicker and I was too aggressive but ultimately I ground out level par and was still in the mix. I knew a 5 or 6 under was on but I just wasn't in control.  Marcel had a nightmare hitting 2 in the water on the 3rd par 3 for a 7 but still making the cutt.  Quiros isn't hitting it as far as he used to, I think his wrist is sore.  When you're that strong the distance control can be a problem in his short irons.  GMAC did great for 5 under on Friday, he's a scoring machine when he gets going, deadly with the short irons distance control, which requires hours on the range and he travels well from the US.  I always struggle with bad jet lag.  It was surprising to see Rory miss the cutt, the course didn't set up as well for him as some of the others.  There are a lot of left to right tee shots,  Rory is more right to left, and I guess Pinehurst was a draining week, a lot of people wanted to watch him.

It was Erin's first birthday on Friday, we went out to dinner she had a nice purple dress on but she was a bit tired and grumpy after running around in the crèche all day.  It was a special day to remember even though she screamed her head off!

It was good to see the journalists again, it's only a couple times a year everyone is in attendance and the craic is good.  Usually we say that Joel Taggart is getting coaching from Bob Rotella on how to throw less clubs and Stephen Watson is working on his fade shots with Kenny McDowell, while Paul Kelly just laser beams his fairway woods dead straight. 
I was with Matthew Baldwin on Saturday; he's a nice young guy from Southport.  He is very professional and was steady holing nice putts at the end for 5 under. I didn't play great after 2 under early but some decent rhythm on the back 9 and a birdie at 18 for 1under.  It meant more time in bed on Sunday morning.
Sunday was a better day.  I found some rhythm in my swing on the range and took it to the course.  I was close with short irons on 4 and 5, I had good tee shots on 8 and 9, then the putts dropped and the crowd got behind me and the adrenaline kicked in.  I was trying to slow myself down otherwise my tempo gets too quick. The only blip was a steamy putt on 14 and an uncommitted 2nd putt cost me, but a solid birdie on 18 made up for it.  It was one of my best ever chip shots on 18, to within 2 inches for birdie and a top ten finish.  It was an exciting finish to an exciting week having so many family and friends watching.  You always feel like you don't want let people down, even though it's just your job at the end of the day. We headed back to Belfast on Sunday and then back to Dublin on Monday night as I'm off to Germany now for more of the same and hopefully better.
I'd also like to wish good luck to Joel Taggart, Albert Kirk and John O'Neil doing the 72 holes of golf for Macmillan on Friday at Galgorm.  They raised a ton of cash last year and I hope they do again this year.