I'm in Scotland this week for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. Since they moved this tournament back onto a links course I have played in it because, as far as I am concerned, there is no better preparation for The Open Championship than competitive rounds on a links course.
There is no doubt in mind that playing the Irish PGA Championship at the European Club the week prior to my Open wins had a huge bearing on winning them, as it is such a different form of golf than what we normally play. More and more players are realising the benefits of playing this event the week before the Open, especially after seeing Phil win back-to-back events last year.
I got here on Sunday night from Paris. On Monday I played twelve holes, which was the first time seeing the course since 1989 when I played the Doug Saunders World Boys Invitational. I have to admit that I couldn't remember much of it. It is similar to Royal Dublin in that it goes out and then comes back in. You generally get one nine downwind and the other into it. On the nine into the wind you are pretty much hanging on for dear life! Pete Cowen walked around with me to have a look at what I was doing on the course.
I played the nearby Trump Links on Tuesday - Ronan and myself took on Phil and his caddie, Bones, in a match, but sadly for us we didn't perform and were beaten. We will be hearing about our loss for quite a while!
On Wednesday I played the morning pro-am; like Monday it was very windy but in a totally different direction. It's always good to see a links course in different winds as you never know what it is going to be like in the tournament, but I struggled on the holes into the wind.
Pete was walking with me again so he got to see what I was doing - he thought that in my effort to hit it low I was getting ahead of it. We went to the range afterwards and worked on it - I hit quite a few balls but by the end I couldn't say that I was happy with it.
It wasn't the ideal preparation as I hit quit a few balls but it needed to be done. I would have preferred to hit just a few and call it a day but I needed to try and figure out how to fix it, however I am a little unsure what it will be like tomorrow.
This is a super course in great condition. I may actually play tougher than Hoylake as the fairways are pretty narrow and the forecast is for some high winds. The way the course is designed you will see low scoring on whichever nine is playing downwind.
It is a course where strategy comes into play given that the fairway bunkers are penalties and so must be avoided, meaning laying up well back of them or hitting it over others and taking your chances of playing from the rough. The rough is generally heavy and best avoided if possible but there are plenty of areas where it is playable from.
I am unsure what to expect on Thursday after how I hit it on Wednesday, however I know that the key factor on links courses is course management, which comes into play even more when you are a unsure about your game - it is even more important when you are struggling.