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On the Road with Ernie: Back In England

Find out how Ernie spent the holidays, how he is preparing for the grind of a full golf season and get an early peak at his complete 2006 schedule...in this edition of On the Road with Ernie.

It's good to be back. This is my first report of 2006, so I'll start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year. Hope you had a good break. Goes fast, doesn't it! Ours was a traditional family Christmas, with everyone getting together for drinks and lots of barbeques - the weather was great in South Africa. I played a lot of social golf this Christmas, as well; probably more than usual. It was all great fun, but by the first week of January I felt like it was time to get back into a routine and start preparing for the new season. I guess the life I've led these past 15 years means I soon get itchy feet. And as I was saying in my last report at the end of December, I'm looking forward to this new season maybe more than any other since I turned pro. That layoff through injury meant I could get some things straight in my head and evaluate some of my goals. Mentally and physically I feel good. And in the dunhill and the SA Open last month I was swinging the club great. You know, having recovered from such a bad injury, it almost seems that 2006 is going to be the start of the second half of my professional career. I'm ready.

Coming up this week...

We all got back from South Africa last week. I went to see the Manchester derby match in the Premiership on Saturday, which was a pretty intense contest, to say the least. Shame the result didn't go our way! Elsewhere, I've been going to the gym at Wentworth, seeing my personal trainer Josh, but golf-wise it's been a bit of a non-starter. Queenwood, the club where I'm a member here in England, has been closed a lot because of the bad weather. I guess a lot of golf clubs in this part of the world are having the same problem; the ground is freezing overnight and the daytime temperatures aren't high enough to thaw things out. Man, it's been cold! Luckily it's a little milder here in London this week so I'm going to start practising hard, leading up to next weekend when I'll be heading off to Qatar to defend my title. Really looking forward to that, obviously.

As you'll have gathered, I'm starting my season later than I have done in previous years. Part of the reason for that is due to the fact that I obviously missed half of the 2005 season on the PGA Tour and wasn't able to qualify for the Mercedes Championship in Hawaii, which is where I usually start my year, doubling-up with the Sony Open. I love those two events, but not playing this year is probably a bit of a blessing in disguise. I can use the extra couple of weeks to make sure I'm 100 percent fit.

Actually, I've got a great schedule for 2006. I really like the way it's shaping up. There are going to be times when I miss the family a bit more than in the previous four or five seasons, which is obviously tough. But I wanted things more geared towards being ready, physically and mentally, for the majors.

Leading up to the Masters I think I've got it just right. I play in Qatar and Dubai at the end of January/beginning of February. Then it's a week off, followed by a two-week stretch in California at the Nissan and the Accenture Matchplay. And then it's a three-week stretch in Florida, at Doral, Bay Hill and the Players Championship, with a week off in between.

That's fairly easy on the travelling, especially when you compare it to last year where I did Hawaii at the start of the year, then California, Australia, Dubai, Qatar and back to the States. Looking back that was probably a bit too much, but you know, it's easy to say that in hindsight. You live and learn. Anyway, I think this build-up is good; these are tournaments that I want to play in and it's also organised in a way that's going to get me in the best shape possible for a shot at The Masters.

The middle part of the year hangs together really well, also. Again, the focus is on playing the tournaments on golf courses that I enjoy and tend to do well on, and at the same time trying to peak for the majors. Later in the year I might yet change a few things, but it's pretty much set.

Anyway, my full tournament schedule for the year is on the website now. Check that out, if you're interested. Just go to the WORK dropdown menu on the homepage and click on SCHEDULE.

Bye for now, then. I'll write again from Qatar next week and let you know how my preparations are coming along.

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