My Transitions Championship win was very gratifying. I had no doubt that I would get back on track. Hard work always pays off.
I’d got off to a slow one this year but you just keep on the path of what you need to do to keep on improving and trust what you are doing. It was always going to be tough to start as quickly as I did last year but it’s now nice to get back into the winner’s circle. The rewards are great – back to world number one and great preparation for a couple of weeks’ time and the Masters.
The first time I got to world number one it was a big deal. There was a lot of shifting and changing in the rankings and suddenly I had an opportunity to do it. I was a lot more nervous trying to do that than I’ve been in trying to get it back. For a good while it was like a carrot dangling in front of my nose and I couldn’t quite grab it at first. This time, because I’d been at number one for 40 weeks, I’d experienced it all, so it wasn’t my sole focus for sure. I was more intent on winning. World number one was just an end result.
It was my fifth PGA Tour win and 16th top 10 in the last 22 tournaments. Consistency is the key to being number one. I don’t think anyone would argue with me that in the last two years I’ve been the most consistent player on the planet. You put yourself into contention every week and the results come. My short-game, my iron play and driving, are all starting to come around again.
I really enjoyed that seven-iron shot from the rough on the first playoff hole which set up the putt of just over six feet to win. I got just about perfect control. I was probably in the worst position (of the four) after the drive and then I was in the best position after the second shot. You always need a little bit of luck out of the rough; sometimes it comes out hot and sometimes dead, but that came out perfectly. The equipment definitely helped me out.
The 18th was the toughest green on the course – they don’t come much tougher. But I work very hard on my putting and I felt very confident standing over the ball. I left it in a great position so it was a reasonably simple putt for that green. But it’s nice to be able to hole them when they really matter. That’s another thing that will give me more confidence going into Augusta.
Another good thing that came out of the playoff win was the way I handled the nerves and the pressure. I aimed to be as relaxed as possible. It’s important to have a little bit of a laugh and John, my caddie, and I did that before we went out. I’ve seen myself on replays in the past and I look a bit too serious. I had a good feeling, even before the week started, and that showed in my body language. John made me laugh because he told me he had a flight at 8.45 that night – he said: ‘If you could birdie the first hole I might be able to catch my flight’. I was glad to oblige.
So now the plan is to stay number one. Losing it for a couple of weeks, well the only person I can blame is myself – for not playing as well as I should at the beginning of the year. Rory played great and that’s the way the rankings work. If you have a little bit of a lapse you’re going to lose some points. The game’s in a great mix at the moment, you’ve got Rory, Tiger coming back into world reckoning, Phil Mickelson having a great run. Now I’m the one getting attention again and I like that. It’s great to have someone like Rory pushing you and making you find that next level.
Augusta is the immediate goal now. I’ll be keeping up my practice on the full swing, working on getting my takeaway a little bit more solid. I tend to get my legs moving a little too quickly. I want to really get the head of the club moving first. That allows me to get my right shoulder at the top of the backswing to really get down in a strong position, where I have a little bit of cup in my left wrist. And I’m working on the transition again. Perhaps it was ordained I should win the Transition Championship! I’m working on letting my body start the downswing a little bit sooner so I’m able to deliver the club in a more neutral position, with the hands coming back to where they were at address. I’ll obviously be putting in a lot of work on and around the greens. The short-game and putting speed work will be important before Augusta.
Rory and I are planning to practice together. There’s a chance we might go up to Augusta together in the middle of next week. We have different games and we go about it differently. He’s already figured it out how to win majors. I certainly know my game better than I did a few years ago and I’m ever hopeful I can figure it too now. They’ve done a little work on the eighth and 16th greens but I’m sure that will be hard to spot. Apparently they’ve created a few more pin positions. I’ll have my coach Pat with me and then we’ll do a bit of work back in Florida afterwards.
For this break, too, I’m looking forward to being with the family. Little Sophia is wonderful. We’ve been very fortunate with both our girls. They both sleep all through, so no sleepless nights. I’m sure that’s part of my success. They’re a joy to be around.