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On the Road with Ernie: WGC-American Express Championship

Ryder Cup Thoughts

Like most golf fans, I spent a lot of this past weekend in front of the television watching the Ryder Cup at the K Club in Ireland. I’ve always thought it is one of the best sporting events in the world, but even by the normal high standards you expect in this event, I reckon this year’s Cup was really something extra special. The Irish put on a great show out there. And it’s hard to imagine a team playing better together than the Europeans did this time around. It was an incredible performance.

If you think about the millions of people who would have been watching at home, this was a great advert for the game as a whole. The golf was very competitive, but it was played in the right spirit, which is always good to see.

I thought the standard of golf played was incredible – I mean, the European team put on the best short game show I think I’ve ever seen. Man, the chips and putts were going in from everywhere! That’s always going to be hard to live with. But I thought the Americans were very classy in defeat. And the galleries were amazing.

Time At Home

For a while I thought about going over there myself to experience some of that atmosphere, but in the end I decided to stay at home and carry on working on my golf game. Earlier in the week I’d driven up to The Grove in Hertfordshire, venue for this week’s American Express Championship, and I played a couple of practice rounds. I’d not been there before and I must say I was impressed with what I saw.

Then on Thursday I was at Sunningdale Golf Club, just a couple of minutes’ drive from our house at Wentworth, to take part in an SAP golf day. That went well. And of course on days like that I also get a chance to play some golf, too.

All in all, it was a pretty nice week. You know, I got to spend some time with the family, share some nice meals together, do the school run – all the normal things, I guess you could say. But these are things that I don’t get a chance to enjoy very often, with me being away from home such a lot.

Anyway, I’ve had 11 days off now and it’s time to get back to competitive action.

Coming up this week…

Fortunately, this week’s tournament doesn’t involve me flying off anywhere. It’s the WGC American Express Championship – obviously a big event on the golfing calendar. And one of the nice things is, this year it’s virtually on my doorstep. Well, by my standards it is, anyway! When I went to The Grove last week it took me only about 30 minutes in the car, which means I can easily stay at home all this week. That’s always a bonus for me. You might remember this is a tournament that I won in 2004. How I’d love to get my hands on the trophy again.

As I was saying earlier in this report, I was very impressed with The Grove when I went there last week. Kyle Phillips has done a nice job on the design and I liked the layout of the golf course a lot. And right now the guys have got it into great shape. Playing conditions are perfect, basically.

To do well here, though, you’re going to need to hit some fairways. The rough is seriously thick. I went in there a couple of times in my practice rounds last week and it is very punishing – it’s lush after all the rain we’ve had and you’ve got to be lucky to draw even a half-decent lie in there. So driving is going to be key.

And obviously putting is always a big factor. As we saw at the Ryder Cup, knocking in the putts is what makes all the difference. It’s just the same in strokeplay as it is in matchplay. You can play some great golf, but if you don’t finish it off on the greens you’re going to struggle to get into contention come Sunday afternoon.

That’s really what has been holding me back for most of this year. I’ve played a lot of good golf, especially in recent months, but I haven’t got things going on the greens. It’s been frustrating, to be honest with you.

I’ve been working hard on getting it right, though. I divided my time last week between hitting balls and practising my chipping and putting. And I’ll do the same again this week. The good thing is, having played a couple of practice rounds at The Grove last week, I’ve kind of given myself a head-start in terms of my preparations for this tournament. That means I’ve got more time to do the things I want to do – you know, if I want to spend an extra couple of hours on the chipping and putting, I can do that without having to worry about fitting in an extra nine holes, or whatever.

Anyway, I’m obviously really looking forward to it.

I’ll write again next week and tell you all about it.

Until then, bye for now.

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