Good time for a blog I reckon, to clear up my mindset after failing to win either of the last two tournaments when I have been in or tied for the lead with less than nine holes to go.
Is it disappointing not to have won, well yes of course, however if I go into a little more detail I think you will come on board and think the same way as I do about my performances.
In Genzon two weeks ago I hit the joint lead with a wonderful four under par front 9 holes on Sunday, this was quite a remarkable performance considering how frail I felt with the driver in my hands. I really didn’t have much confidence off the tee the whole week so to be in that position was a tremendous effort.
I had to manage my game well coming down the stretch with some tough driving holes to be faced. I couldn’t commit well enough off of the 14th tee and found a fairway bunker, right under the lip, a bogey was costly. I bounced right back with birdie on 15 which was the toughest hole of the week so that was like an eagle. My undoing was an uncommitted swing whist going for the green on the 17th with a 5 wood. Water right, I missed left, it was a poor swing, however I caught a terrible break ending up in a position where by I could not even hit the green from 20 yards, the birdie chance was gone.
So uncommitted fearful swings were to blame, in the end I played the last beautifully, but still had to hole a four footer to finish in a 5 way tie for fourth. After missing one of the same length in Johannesburg a few weeks before this was a pressure packed putt. You know what I mean if you play golf, the negative voice that has to be quieted, the hands that fell shaky, well we face just the same feelings on tour, you know they never go away those feelings, we just work hard to accept and deal with them, I knocked it right in the middle.
So was I leading with 9 to go? yes. Was I confident with all parts of my game? No. So in reality fourth was a good result, driving it as I was a win would have been a huge surprise. It does however go to show how well I am competing, how all departments of my game are in good shape, that I am back to playing like I was ten years ago.
Now on to this week and the Volvo China Open. A quick review to start I think.
Joint leader on day one, 68 four under par in really difficult conditions with the course being rock hard.
Day two, they flooded the course with water over night, I got caught out by this, came up short three times in three holes, each time it cost me shots off of good swings, 4 over for three holes, I did brilliantly to hang in there and get round in 72, I thought then that fighting back like that might give me a chance to win.
Saturday I payed exceptionally well, 68, joint lead again, I know I’m going to have a good chance to win this tournament.
So onto the fine detail of Sunday. Why am I not sitting here devastated that I haven’t won, that I gave up the lead again, that I didn’t finish it off? Well here is my answer.
I had a plan for this week and especially on Sunday, and that was to commit to every shot whole heartedly, to swing with no fear, this is easier said than done, but that was my goal. After the problems of the previous week in committing off the tee I knew this would be the difference between performing well enough to win or not.
I had one advantage too in that I felt more in control this week, especially off the tee, swinging with commitment was having a snowballing effect, more commitment led to more good shots which led to more belief which made it easier to commit, positive momentum building inside me shot after shot.
On Sunday I made one swing that was fearful, it came on the forth hole, that was only my third swing of the week that was effected by being afraid of where the ball might go. Three swings the entire week, I can tell you that’s a lifetime record for me.
Ultimately I probably cost myself the tournament on the 14th hole, I had 135 yards into a strong wind. I tried to punch an 8 iron in, I got ahead of it and hit a skinny push to the right, the ball plugged in the trap, it cost me a shot and brought me back to the field.
I feel I got a poor bounce off of the 15th tee into a shocking lie next to the trap, I made a great up and down for par. Off 16 tee I made the best swing of the week, hit a nicely controlled wedge, didn’t find the birdie though.
17 I hit a lovely five iron, it pitched four yards further than we thought it possibly could, I had near impossible up and down, I got it up and down.
So to 18 then, tied for the lead, Ashun Wu up ahead on nine under par, I’m on the tee. On Saturday I made one of my three uncommitted swings on 18, today I didn’t make that mistake, I hit a beauty right down the middle. Up ahead Wu made a par so was in on 9 under, with a two shot cushion over the men behind me I was in effect already in a play off, birdie to win, par just takes it to another hole, bogey and I lose and finish second.
I had a choice to hit three wood across the water and leave an 80 or 90 yard pitch but it seemed like a lot of risk for not much gain, we decided to lay up and leave 135 yards or so to the pin. 7 iron then, just find the fairway, wind into from the right. I hit it with a bit of unintended draw spin, it went on the wind, unbelievably the easiest shot of the day and I had missed the fairway, only just but enough to make things tricky.
I did however find a clean lie, on baked mud, this was a good break, 135 as expected straight into the wind, the pin tucked away in the right hand corner of the green, a little ridge 5 yard short but nothing too much to worry about. I took dead aim, tried to hit a 145 yard 8 iron shot, I made a free swing, a committed swing, it came out right on line, my only concern was whether it was going to be close or really close?
It was neither, the baked muddy lie had added spin to the ball, the spin was fighting against the breeze, it landed short of the green on the fringe grass, forty feet short with four yards of fairway grass to contend with. It was not an easy job to get down in two.
I had putted these fringe shots all week, not the time to change that plan so I pulled out the trusty putter, surveyed the break, which was minimal. I didn’t judge it well, under pressure the normal reaction is to not hit putts firm enough, I did the opposite, I didn’t feel like I hit it too hard but I had, it went 8 or 9 feet by. I missed the return putt, I had shot 72, I lost by one and 4.6 billion Chinese people were very happy. I was not.
So there you have it, I made three bad swings on Sunday, they all cost me a shot and that was the difference between winning and finishing second. I am not devastated, I didn’t get the job done but hell I came close, and know that another opportunity will come along soon, just saying that I realise how much confidence I have gained from the last two weeks. So from my point of view it’s all good, the bulk of the season is now upon us, I’m tenth in the Race to Dubai, just outside the worlds top 100, confident, swinging well and learning things on a weekly basis. That why I can say well done to Ashun Wu for winning the Volvo China Open with the knowledge that my time will come soon enough if I keep playing like I did last week.