During my first (and only) round at the WGC. Didn't quite work out as planned.

by Chris Wood on February 24, 2010

I have one great advantage going to the Masters

Let's start with my equipment.  My first year as a pro i wasn't contracted to anyone, so i had a sort of pickamix' set.  Towards the end of last year, though, I started using Mizuno irons. Straight away, I got at least half a club’s difference. I was hitting the ball half a club further. I’m using the MP-68s. The three- and four-iron I use are MP-62’s with a smallish cavity.

And I’ve always struggled with fairway woods. The ones I used last year with another company were OK, but I was never really happy with them. I’ve tried a lot of different fairway woods but the MP Titanium 5 wood and MX-700 3 wood (moved a touch open) are the best I’ve ever had. Their flight and consistency of strike...they just feel so good for me. After all the problems I’ve had with fairway woods I’m really surprised that I’ve taken to them so easily.

I’ve been trying the new MP-630 Mizuno driver with the FAST TRACK weights. I started practising with it this winter but I’ve not really quite had good enough weather to really put it through its paces. I’m not one for changing much during tournaments so I’ve not taken it when I’ve gone away. Once the weather warms up and I’ve got one or two weeks at home I can get back to testing. I’ve got four or five versions that I’ve been testing and it all looks promising. I’ve found an extra six or seven yards on the launch monitor. So there’s definitely some potential there.

It's a good time to start up with Mizuno.  I was so proud to be Europe’s rookie of the year last year and the plan this year is to kick on from that. My third place finish in the Open Championship pretty well secured it for me.  This year, though, I can almost look upon it as ‘playing with the men’. I’ve got into a couple of big tournaments early on and that’s great experience. I’m only in my second year but I feel like I’ve got so much experience already. I’ve already played in three majors and I’m playing in the Masters soon.

It’s all happened very quickly. Two years ago I was preparing for the Spanish Amateur! After my fifth place in the 2008 Open and silver medal, there wasn’t any point in staying amateur. Even though the Walker Cup is hugely prestigious there’s not much of a bigger stage than the Open. And I’d done that. I knew I was ready to turn pro and it proved it when I got my card fairly comfortably at tour school. It was all I’d been working for over the last seven years.

Then last year - coming so close at the Open again, just missing out on the playoff. Whenever anyone mentions it, it’s horrible really. A lot of people have said to me “shame about the bogey on the last...” But it’s not every day you can judge 230 yards for a nine-iron. I hit a great shot right at the flag and the ball just ran through into the thick rough. That left me with a real tough shot. I felt like I took the course apart on the last day and didn’t hit a bad shot. A 67 was the worst I could have expected. It just wasn’t meant to be.

There can be nothing like holding the Claret Jug knowing you’re Open Champion, though. Stewart Cink’s locker was near mine last week in Arizona, so I bumped into him quite a lot. I thought “He’s Open Champion. That could have been me.”

I got another Turnberry reminder by playing Lee Westwood in the Accenture Match-play first round. He could also have won the Open. It was great to have someone like Lee around in Arizona. He’s in the same management group, ISM, as me. He’s a player I’ve talked to a lot since moving up from amateur. It was a little weird playing Lee in the first round. I played OK but just didn’t seem to score at all. I missed a few putts and it didn’t really quite happen. Just getting into the Accenture on my world ranking was an achievement, though. My goal from the ‘Desert Swing’ had been to force myself into the world rankings well enough to get to Arizona.

In between the Malaysia Open and Andalucia Open I’m probably going to take three weeks off and go away with my coach to somewhere like southern Spain. It’s difficult to get the sort of practice you need here at home at the moment. That will be the start of my preparation for the Masters. I’m very excited about it all. I can’t wait for it.  I’ve never been to Augusta before so I’m hoping to go out there on the Wednesday a week before the Masters. I don’t think you can be too early going out because, from what I understand, you can never say you’ve learned enough about Augusta. Billy Foster, Lee’s caddie of course, says he went one year and they’d moved a bunker a yard further on. He says they make little changes like that every year, just to try and catch the players out. I played with Chad Campbell in the PGA. He’d lost the playoff at Augusta. He told me that every year he’s gone back to Augusta his results have improved. He said it’s all about the greens, hitting them in the right place but also missing them in the right place, just getting your head around it all. I guess Augusta could be a learning curve that never ends. I hope I get plenty of years learning. I’ll certainly be putting in a lot of time chipping and putting with my coach before Augusta.

I have one great advantage going to the Masters with a great caddie – Dave McNeilly. Dave’s caddied with the best and I’m really lucky to have him. It took me a while to realise I needed a great caddie and Dave ticks pretty well every box. My first tournament with Dave was the Open last year, so that speaks for itself. Apart from his experience he’s great company on the course. I just wish he wouldn’t keep mislaying the laser in the bag during our practice rounds, though.

Apart from the excitement of looking forward to the Masters I’m expecting a lot from myself this season. I feel I’m ready to start winning tournaments and get into the top 50 in the world. I had a taste of it at the Accenture. World events and majors are where you have to be. I feel like I’m good enough to compete at that level now.

It would be amazing to play in the Ryder Cup but there are probably 40 players have got that in the back of their minds. At the moment I’m not seeing myself as one of the top 12 in Europe. The team looks so strong already. A big win could change all that of course.

This week I’m enjoying spending time at home, especially with my girlfriend Bethany. It’s nice being with friends, some of whom I haven’t seen for seven weeks, just doing things 22-year-olds do. Before I go out to Malaysia I’m hoping to have found a new home. I’ve just moved out of the flat I was renting in Clifton. It’s all pretty manic at the moment.

share using:

Author Chris Wood

After a top-5 finish as an amateur in the 2008 British Open, Chris Wood proved his future is bright by following up with a 3rd-place finish in 2009, putting him on his way to earning the Sir Henry Cotton award as the 2009 European Tour Rookie of the Year.