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On the Road with Ernie: EDS Byron Nelson Championship

Ernie finished T-13 at last week's EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Find out what aspects of his game were strong and what he'll be concentrating on this week as he heads back to England to work on his game and help prepare his home course for the European Tour's BMW Championship.

The way things have been these past few months, I basically set myself the target of achieving a good, solid top-10 finish here at the Byron Nelson. That’s not a case of setting my expectations too low; it’s just being realistic, focusing on playing good golf and trying to build some momentum whereby I can start challenging for victories this summer. Anyway, finishing tied-13th I guess in one way I failed to achieve my goal. But on the plus side, I feel like I was more consistent this week; no disasters, no silly holes, just four steady rounds of golf in the 60s. My long game wasn’t always the best, but I putted well and overall I’d say it was a step in the right direction.

Shot a first round 68, 2-under par, on the tougher of the two courses here, the TPC. There were 37 rounds under par on Thursday, but only 13 of them on the TPC, so I was reasonably satisfied with my efforts. Especially as in the last couple of months it seems like I’ve ruined quite a few decent scores by making a bad finish to my round, whereas this time it made a nice change to reverse that trend by turning a mediocre day into a decent score courtesy of three birdies in my last six holes.

So, over to the Cottonwood Valley course for round two. You might remember this was my undoing last year, when I shot a very disappointing 72 – my only bad round of the week, and it happened on the so-called easier of the two courses. This time…well, it wasn’t great to be honest with you. I made eight straight pars from the 1st hole, which I suppose you could say was at least steady, if a little unspectacular. Unfortunately, I broke the sequence with a bogey, not a birdie, on the 9th.

I made a few putts coming home to shoot 69, but realistically one-under par was a disappointing effort on this golf course. Most of the guys ahead of me in the top-10 were making the most of things, shooting in the mid-60s and even the low-60s. Geoff Ogilvy shot 62, and Arron Oberholser had a 15-footer on the last green to shoot 59. He just missed, but 60 was a good enough score to beat the course record that I’d set here in 1995. They’re all exceptional rounds, obviously, but a low score was out there today and I felt like I missed my chance.

The Weekend

I guess it’s just as well the last two rounds are played on the TPC layout. These past few years it seems like I shoot lower scores on that course, even though it is the tougher of the two! Anyway, on Saturday I drove the ball a little bit better, but I didn’t hit enough greens in regulation to shoot a really low score. You know, my iron play just wasn’t quite there. Okay, 69 wasn’t a bad round of golf, but it left me seven shots behind the leaders, with a lot of players ahead of me. A win was out of the question, but as I said at the outset, if I could play a good last round and finish in the top-10 I’d consider that not a bad result. That was my goal on Sunday, then.

For some reason my long game wasn’t in the best shape in that final round. It wasn’t way off, but I struggled to hit fairways and greens. On the plus side I putted really well. Having had 27 putts on each of the first three days, which itself is pretty good, I had only 23 putts in the final round which is excellent.

So that meant only 104 putts all week, tied-1st for the entire field, and obviously a really good sign for me. I mean, if I can start to get some consistency on the greens, day-to-day, week-to-week, then I can start to contend in tournaments again.

I’ll see if I can keep working on the same things in practice next week, leading up to the BMW Championship at Wentworth. Be nice to make some putts there. Hey, it’s my home track – so no excuses if I don’t!

Coming up this week…

I arrived back in England from Dallas this morning and I’ll be here at Wentworth for the next couple of weeks. The first of those is a week off, but I’ll be busy working hard on my golf game; I need to keep giving 100 per cent and eventually the results will come. I’ll also maybe have a few commitments with Chris Kennedy and his team, to get the West Course ready for the BMW Championship next week. I’m really looking forward to that tournament, for several reasons.

Obviously it’s my home and I feel like that’s an advantage in many ways. And the West Course is very special for me; it’s somewhere I have a lot of good memories, especially from the six World Matchplay titles I’ve won here. And I’m also excited about the guys coming here and playing the golf course for the first time since we made the changes; I think most of them will like what they see.

Anyway, I’ll tell you much more about that in my preview story next Monday.

Until then, have a great week.

Bye for now.

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