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On the Road with Ernie: Verizon Heritage

It was another near-miss for Ernie at this past weekend's Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head, SC, where he finished T-7. Find out what elements of his game are strong and what he'll be working on in the next few weeks. All that and more, in this edition of On the Road with Ernie...

I’ve had quite a few near misses in this tournament over the years and I guess you’d have to put last week’s Heritage in the same bracket. After nine holes on Sunday I was right in there with a shot, but I wasn’t able to push on and post a winning score. I’m having my struggles here and there, but I just have to keep putting the work in. It’s going to pay off sooner or later. I was hoping this would be the week, especially after making nine birdies in a third round 65. But I have to keep grinding away, doing what I’m doing, and the good stuff will come. I have to stay patient. It’s really close.

It’s obviously frustrating to get into a good position and not take care of business, but in many ways this was a positive week. I love this tournament and it was the right decision to play here after the slight disappointment of the Masters the week before. I came down with the whole family, we rented a lovely house and we have the bikes, and go down to the beach; basically, do the tourist thing. It means I can properly relax in between rounds, away from the golf course, and I think it’s important to be able to do that at tournaments.

I certainly played a lot of good golf this week. My iron play and putting have both let me down in recent weeks, but here at Hilton Head there was a bit of an improvement in both departments. I had a spell from the end of my second round through to the start of my final round where I made something like 16 birdies in 34 holes. There can’t be much wrong with my game if I can produce those numbers on a course like this, where you really have to hit the shots to get results.

This was after I’d had a pretty slow start to the tournament. I was three over par after 10 holes on Thursday, but slipped-in an eagle and a birdie in the space of four holes to finish with a level-par 71. That was a pretty good rescue job.

Then, as I was saying at the start of this report, I got things going around midway through my second round and produced a stretch of golf which really got me in the hunt for the weekend. The 67 on Friday was a nice solid round of golf.

Solid Weekend Play

Then I started Saturday’s round by making birdies on four of my first five holes. It was the strangest round, actually. I must tell you about that. After a hot start I then had a bogey on the par-3 7th and a double-bogey on the 8th, where I had ‘fresh air shot’ as the say! I was trying to blast out of the greenside trap and my club caught the wood tie framing the bunker…and the clubhead just bounced clean over the ball. I totally missed it. Don’t think I’ve done that for a long time.

Anyway, I managed to regroup and played probably my best golf of the week down the stretch, with five birdies in the last 10 holes. That was a very satisfying way to finish. You know, my mistakes these past few weeks have been costing me, but I guess this time I was determined not to let it get to me too much, and I played a good back nine. That was a nine-birdie round of 65. Taking only 25 putts helps! When you get it going on a roll like that, you really feel like you can keep it going.

And I did for a while in Sunday’s final round. I had four birdies before I’d even got to the turn and then had a great opportunity on the 9th. Right there I was 13-under par and only a couple of shots off the lead. I figured if I could get to…I don’t know, maybe 16-under par in the clubhouse, it might be good enough. But that putt on 9 slipped by, as did a few other putts coming home. Basically, my putter went cold on me. I ended up shooting 71, to finish the round where I’d started, on 10-under par. That was only good enough for tied-7th place.

It was a disappointing end to a weekend that promised a lot. But like I’ve been saying many times to some of the guys in the media centre at the last three or four tournaments, I honestly feel like I’m playing well right now and I’m starting to swing the club great. I haven’t made my share of putts these past few weeks, but I kind of turned that around at Hilton Head, which felt good. I don’t have too many weaknesses in my game at the moment.

Hey, maybe I’ll get my hands on one of those Heritage jackets one day!

Coming up this week…

I’m not playing tournament golf for a while now. In fact, my next event isn’t until the BMW Championship at my home club Wentworth, which starts on 25th May. But I’ll be working very hard on my golf between now and then. As I said before, my game is really coming together and if I can keep working on the same lines, I’m still optimistic that I can turn my season around and have a great summer.

You know, a lot of it is all about confidence. You keep grinding, keep building on what you’ve got and believing in yourself. Eventually it all clicks into place.

Fitness-wise, the leg has been holding up well, even on the up-and-down fairways of Augusta National. As you all know I’ve been doing a lot of work in the gym this past six months, so I’m physically quite fit at the moment. I’m not saying I don’t feel some discomfort from the knee from time to time – anyone who’s had this type of injury knows it takes a while to completely heal. But I feel like I’ve got past that point where it’s an issue as far as my golf swing is concerned. And that’s the important thing. I only need to look forward from here on.

Anyway, I’ll obviously keep writing my regular reports over the coming four or five weeks, to keep you posted on what I’m up to.

Until next time, then, bye for now.

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