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The Birdie was great and I broke 80

We drove up to Blackpool from London on Monday morning taking 4 and a half hours in horrendous wet weather.  The spray was really awful, complete white out on the road and people were still doing 90 without their lights on! I was thinking it was going to be a long wet week and was hoping we'd enough wet gear with us.


I had a new set of irons that I needed regripping, I hadn't been specific enough when ordering them the last time, so I left them in the Titleist van with instructions for which grip I wanted, the thickness it was to be and the way I wanted the grips aligned.  I wasn't going to use the new clubs for The Open as I needed to test how far they flew and to break the shafts in.  As it was also going to be a wet week Jamie recommended I use the older clubs to keep spin to a minimum.  I hit some balls with a right to left flight so Jamie and I spent a lot of time trying to get my swing adjusted to the left to right one I've been working on this season.  I'd spent Sunday night watching the John Dere tournament in the US and saw Zach Johnson win, so it was kind of bizarre to see him strolling around in Lytham only a few hours later.  He did look jet lagged and like a lot of the Americans was complaining about the weather!


We found the house we'd booked at Christmas.  It was about a 5 minute walk to the clubhouse which was ideal, but not all that cheap!  The first day is always unsettling trying to sort out who is sleeping where, testing the beds, shower, kitchen etc and if it's not great you just accept that its home for the week and get on with things.  This week's accommodation was rather basic but the location and the neighbours (BBC NI's Stephen Watson and Joel Taggart) made up for it.  The curtains were a little thin so I put tin foil on the windows to block out the light, my excuse to the "neighbours" anyway!
Tuesday was a full practice day for me.  Normally at Tour events you just turn up on the first tee when you want to play, but you have to book a time for your practice rounds at the Open.  I managed to get a time with James Morrison at 1020.  The round takes at least 5 hours as the course was set up tough and everyone was keen to get a few shots in from different locations.  Rafa Cabrera Bello joined us and it was enjoyable, although we felt sorry for the guy playing on his own behind us.  We could have let him through but he seemed happy enough to stay behind us.  It's a bit mad as everyone had quite an entourage inside the ropes with them, Karl Morris was walking with me to observe my own course routines, they haven't been the best recently and he's been helping me alongside Mark Elliott. Cabrrera Bello had his coach, David Leadbetter walking with him as well, I've read all his books so it was great to finally get to meet him in person.  Coaching goes through trends, at one stage he had lots of players working with him but I think he just has one or two now.  I was not hitting it so straight and had already lost 2 balls by the 10th, the rough was crazy thick and the bunkers are so deep.  You simply had to drive the ball well.


Tiger and Poulter were quoted saying the rough was unplayable.  I heard some journalists respond stop behaving like spoilt children and just get on with it, not to their faces obviously!  It was so lush that you couldn't get greedy you had to take less club than you thought.
The Open is amazing, even bigger crowds that the Irish Open practice round which was saying a lot.  It was quite tiring though signing flags, hats, shirts, gloves, balls etc on every hole.  It's a great experience and all still so new to me.


It's just a special tournament with the history and the Claret jug.  When you are in the locker room to be around Tom Watson, David Duval, Steve Stricker and the younger superstars like Rickie Fowler and Sergio is a little surreal.  It's important to realize that you've earned your spot in the field as well though.


On Wednesday the wind was blowing harder and I decided to walk the course with a wedge and putter with my caddy instead of playing again as I generally see more this way.  We looked at the weather forecasts and the predicted wind direction and did our homework as the course totally changes depending on the wind direction - the first hole changes from a 2 iron to a 6 iron when its downwind.


More practice followed the walk around, then putting and thankfully it was time for a rest when the heavy rain started.  I called it a day at that stage and went home to get ready for the 5am start on Thursday morning.  Some of the Americans were wondering how, or why, we live in this horrible climate.  We said it was just a freak summer.  The course was soaked and not playing in anyway like a links course normally would.


I got a great draw with "Wild Thing" John Daly and Chad Campbell.  They are both great guys, both very laid back.  Wednesday night was the only night we ate out all week, Bev's family had arrived over from Belfast and so we had an early dinner before they headed back up the road to their hotel.  They weren't happy at the second 5am start in a row!  The restaurant was really good and Tom Watson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell and the Sky presenters were all in it.


We went to bed early looking forward to my first Major as a pro.  I was up early and unusually the warmup routine didn't go to plan, Shane my physio slept in and I was hanging around waiting on him for 20 minutes before just heading to the range.  I was nervous on the first tee but that's normally a good sign as you really want to do well and it can help you focus.  It's an unusually tough start at Lytham, generally we don't start with a Par 3.  I hit 4 iron and pulled it left, I chipped on and was nervous not making a good stroke and ended up with a bogey.  It helped settle me down though and I found a good rhythm on the next 4 holes.  The crowds love John as he hits driver everywhere and just goes for it, he also knows how to milk the crowd with his trousers!  I just lost my swing on the 6th tee, pulled it way left and finished in a bush.  I made double and never really recovered.    My legsy swing had replaced the nicely timed fade Jamie and I have been working on.  My confidence had just deserted me with that one swing but I kept battling even though my score didn't really reflect it.  The birdie on 18 was great though, and I broke 80!  It's so deflating and dejecting to know you're out of the tournament by lunchtime on the Thursday.  It proved to me that I have a lot of work to do on my swing to be able to compete in the Majors as the course set up is so much tougher than at regular Tour events.  Daly and Chad were very average but the crowd made some noise when John hit a big one!


I decided to go home and rest, gather my thoughts and watched Adam Scott cruise round in 64 from the middle of the fairway, he swings it so good!  I went to the range and hit for 2 hours in the afternoon getting my right arm more infront as it gets stuck behind me.  I just wanted to be able to make some good swings on Friday and enjoy the rest of my first Major.


I'd a 1230 tee time on Friday and watched a little of the early golf before going to the course.  I played a lot better apart from my double bogey on the 17th which I stuck in a couple of bunkers.  I heard a few of the comments from spectators on the 12th tee box, not terribly complimentary and a little distracting but everyone's entitled to their opinion, just glad my Mother-in-law hadn't heard them though, she doesn't like it when  people  criticize me! John and Chad were right on the cut line with 4 or 5 holes to play and both were looking for a birdie to secure the weekend.  Nothing happened even though the crowds were willing John's ball in.  Both were convinced they'd missed as they finished on +3.  After everyone came in they had sneaked through to the weekend.  About 90 guys made it.  Darren missed out, attributing it to putting problems and Rory had a disappointing day he's still working on his swing with Michael Bannon .  GMAC was by far the best of the boys from home, in contention again at a Major - great stuff.
I felt like it would be better to stay and work on my game instead of disappearing back to Ascot as my coach Jamie was still at Lytham.  We had 3 hours on the range on both Saturday and Sunday mornings in-between his other guys going out.  I'm glad I stayed - Bev has a list of more drills for us to do this week at the Wisley to hopefully nail this fade.


I listened to the golf on the radio as we drove back on Sunday, thankfully the rain had stopped for the return journey!  It was a shame for Graeme, he seemed to struggle a little which is not common for him, Scott was in complete control after the birdie on 14, and was 4 ahead.  I don't know what happened to him but the most famous, or infamous caddy, Steve Williams didn't step in to help with strategy when he really needed it.  I was absolutely gutted for Scott, he's such a nice guy and I don't know how you would go about recovering from the situation!  I am pleased for Ernie, he's a legend and it's great for golf to have him back winning a Major.  It also gives me hope that I can still get there even if I'm a little older.  So more motivated than I thought I'd be in the circumstances I've booked a week of gym and serious range practice in before I head to the US on Friday.