When I won the Open in Carnoustie last year I realized that the work I have been doing for the last number of years was worthwhile. I also made me realise that I was good enough to win the big events and that the way I prepare for them was correct. After my first Open win I also felt that I was definitely capable of winning more majors once I gave myself the opportunity. When I won at Birkdale I wasn't so much surprised that I had won my second, I just didn't expect to win it so quickly. Now I am here writing about my third major, it seems totally bizarre that in such a short space of time I have gone from having none to having won three.
When I arrived here in Detroit I felt that I was in good shape but as the week went on I realized that I was definitely more fatigued than I had thought. I made sure in my preparation during the week to keep it to the bare minimum and not to over do things. There were a couple of reasons for this, one was the fact that I was still struggling to get over the Open and the other was because the course was so tough that I knew it would come down to mental strength more than golfing ability. Most majors come down to the mental strength but this one I knew would have more of an emphasis on it than others due to the course. I had to try and convince myself all week that I was here jockeying for position until Sunday afternoon and all I wanted was to be in with a shout for the back nine on Sunday.
I started late on Thursday but it was worth waiting for as I came out of the blocks like a greyhound, birdieing the first three holes and missing good chances on the next two. In the end I made four birdies and five bogeys in my round to shoot one over par 71. It was actually a good "one over" in the end as I made a good par on the last after driving it in the rough. On Friday I really struggled on the course, I felt like I was swinging it badly and just didn't know what I was doing. I didn't play all that well but even still I was three over for the tournament with two holes to play, the eight and ninth. By this stage I was mentally fried, my coordination was gone and I didn't know where the ball was going. On the eighth I hit a drive that made my tee shot on the 18th in Carnousite look straight! It ended up in a hospitality tent; from there I got a free drop and went on to make a bogey. Then on the ninth hole I pulled my four iron 40 yards left of the green and again made a bogey. It was a poor finish and I was delighted to get off the course. I felt that I had no chance in the tournament the way I was playing and feeling. I went back to my house and slept for most of the afternoon, but it wasn't until I spoke to Liam Hennessey, my trainer at home, that I realized that it could be dehydration. Liam asked me a few question about how I was feeling and from this he believed that I was dehydrated. This made me feel so much better as it meant that it was something that I could control for the weekend. I had to make sure to get more liquids into me.
I was lying six off the lead going into the weekend which considering how I felt I had played I was delighted as I hadn't blown myself out of it. The key for me was to remember that I was just trying to get myself into contention for the final nine holes on Sunday. The third round was tough conditions, it was very windy when I started and the course was very firm but I knew that there was thunder storms forecast for the afternoon. I managed to make three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine to be out in one under for the day and four over for the tournament. As I picked the ball out of the hole for my third birdie on the ninth the hooter was blown to suspend play. I was somewhat disappointed as it meant that the leaders wouldn't have to play in the wind like I did and also that the course would be softened up quite a bit for them. We ended up sitting around for about four hours, they made a few attempts to get us back out in this time but each time the storm came back in. In the end they decided that we would come back in the morning and finish the third round and then play the final round in the afternoon. I was happy with this as it meant that I would get some more rest and also that everyone would get similar conditions.
It was an early start for me on Sunday morning as I always get up three hours before my tee time so as to do my routine of exercises and my warm up on the range. We were back in position at 7.20 am. My back nine went very well; I parred my first three holes but could have birdied any of them. Then on the 13th I hit it to eight feet and made a two and from here my tournament really started; I holed from 30 feet on the 14th, 20 feet on the 15th and then eight feet again on the 16th to get five under for the round and level par for the week. I missed from eight feet on the 17th for another birdie and then disappointingly I gave back a shot after a poor bunker shot on the 18th. In the end I shot 66 to leave me on one over for the week; I headed back to my house for a couple of hours sleep while the leaders were still playing. This way I was able to go through my normal routine again. By the time I got up again the leaders had finished their rounds and I was lying four off the lead and in the second last group with Sergio and Charlie Wie. It was pretty much what I was looking for at the start of the week, to be in contention come Sunday afternoon.
I knew going out on Sunday that the front nine was all about keeping in touch, as I have learned over time. In the majors the real tournament starts on the back nine on Sunday and up until then it is only a case of not blowing yourself out of it. I started off fine, making a par on the first and then a birdie on the second. Sergio got off to a flyer of a start by making a birdie on the first and then an eagle on the second. I dropped my first shot on the fifth after a poor second shot; I was trying to hold it up in the wind and instead I let it go. I hit a poor chip from over the back and then two putted; at this stage I was three behind Sergio. I wasn't looking at leader boards but I obviously knew what Sergio was doing. I made a good up and down for birdie on the next, it was a 30 yard bunker shot which are always tough. I got it up and down on the 7th for par from a similar distance in a bunker again to stay level for the tournament and three behind Sergio. Sergio was my marker really, even though I knew that there were others in the event I was playing with him and he was ahead of me. On the eighth I hit the green in two with a good five wood, my playing partners failed to get there but they both managed to get up and down for par. On the ninth I made a good par from the right trap and Sergio also made a very good save. At this stage it seemed like it was going to be his day as he had played the front nine very well and made a couple of good saves. However I reminded myself that nothing really happens until the back nine though.
I birdied the 10th after hitting an eight iron to about 15 feet to get me to one under for the tournament. A par on the 11th was followed by a bad drive on the par 5 12th; it went right into the crowd. When I got down to the ball it was sitting nicely but I had a tree in my way; I could chip it out sideways or hit a five wood right of the tree and hook it to the green. It was a risky shot but I felt that at this stage I needed to make some birdies and this was the only way of giving myself a decent chance. I hit a big hook with a five wood around the tree and it pitched on the middle of the green and ran over the back; from where I got it up and down for birdie. This got me to one behind Sergio as he made a par. I caught Sergio on the 13th after I hit a five iron to eight feet and holed. We were both three under for the tournament at this stage but it was to be short lived for me. I bogeyed the next hole after hitting my eight iron from the crowd over the back. At this stage it felt like it was Sergio's championship; he hit the flag with his second shot on the 15th and I hit my second to 12 feet just outside his. We both missed and tapped in for pars to stay one shot behind. It was the 16th that everything changed. After two good drives it was Sergio to play first. He was quite a bit further back than me; and hit his second shot in the water. It was the first opening I had, but I hit an eight iron and in trying to make sure that I kept it safe I ended up pulling it in the bunker. I hit a really good bunker shot but a stone got between the clubface and the ball which meant that it didn't spin and so I was left with 14 footer for par. Sergio had four footer for bogey after a pitch to the green. I knew that this was my opportunity and that I had to take it. I hit a great putt and it went in for a par to put me level with Sergio with two to play. Ronan reminded me that it wasn't a case of match play as Ben Curtis was also in the tournament as up until now I had really just been playing Sergio. As I walked to the 17th tee I knew that this was my tournament for the taking. I then hit a five iron straight at the pin on 17, as did Sergio. When we walked onto the green there were two balls close to the pin but I wasn't sure which was mine until I got up to them. Mine was the furthest away which meant that I would be putting first. However I holed my putt for a birdie and then Sergio missed his. Then I knew that I had great chance of winning if I could par the last.
As always I have to make it difficult. I pushed my drive a little and it caught one of the bunkers. It was close to the face and I had an awkward stance so I wasn't able to go for the green. I hit an eight iron out of it but caught it fat and it didn't get out of the rough. Luckily I got a good lie and I was able to get a club on the ball. I was only 143 yards out from the pin but the rough was going to take a lot out of the ball and also it was into the wind; I hit a good seven iron just right of the pin to about 18 feet. Sergio had hit his drive right and hit second into the greenside bunker; from where he put it to nine feet. As I lined up my putt I felt that this was the putt to win the Wannamaker Trophy; even though I knew that Ben Curtis was behind me I felt that if I held it I would win. It was a nice putt to have as I saw the line straight away; a double breaker but I knew that it would come back from the left at the very end. I hit a really nice putt, once I hit I was pretty sure I had holed it but I wanted to see it go in and it did!!!
After it went in I heard that Ben had bogeyed the 17th to be one under par for the tournament which meant that he had to eagle the last to catch me. I sat in the recorders hut watching him play the last and once his second shot came to a stop on the green I knew that I was the PGA champion. What a feeling, it was hard to believe!
It was unbelievable! I never thought that I would be writing about my third major so quick after the second. It was only in my post round press conference that it began to sink in; to hear that no other European has ever won two majors in the same year was hard to believe.
What a feeling, what a season so far and it is only two thirds of the way through. I am off for a family holiday this week and then back in action for the Fed Ex Cup Play-offs. I am now looking forward to sitting around during this week doing nothing and savoring my win.