I was delighted to start the month of April by being named European Tour Golfer of the Month for March. With the level of talent and competition out there at the moment, getting that honour is a great indication of where you are at. It is testament to my good start to the season, but the main goal is to have my name there when it all comes to an end.
Its been an exciting and busy month. My play-off victory at the Ballantines Championship in Korea earned me a late entry into the WGC-CA Championship at Doral. The WGCs are the biggest tournaments behind the Majors and its essential to be competing in them in order to find my way back into the all-important top 50 in the world. It also gives me the opportunity to measure my progress against the top players on the planet.
I needed a top-three finish at Doral in order to make it into the top 50 and hence also make it to the Masters. Sadly that didnt happen, but given my schedule flying in from Korea to Miami it was always going to be a big ask.
I ended up tied 47th at Doral, which wasnt great, but I enjoyed the week.
Had I not qualified for Doral, my schedule was bringing me Stateside anyway. Right after I putted out, I jumped into my jeep and headed north to Orlando, where I was teeing it up in the illustrious Tavistock Cup, at Isleworth G&CC.
The Tavistock Cup is a two-day event played between two high profile clubs: Lake Nona and Isleworth. The teams are made up of some of the best players in the world, all of whom have houses at either Lake Nona or Isleworth. The tournament is pretty much played in a Ryder Cup style format, but there are loads of novelty prizes which make this tournament unique. For example, there is a Cadillac Escalade jeep up for grabs for a hole-in-one, but the added bonus is that everyone on the team gets one!
I have to say, it is a real honour to be a part of the Tavistock Cup and it is an event I enjoy immensely. I bought a house at Lake Nona three years ago, as I was spending an increasing amount of time in the US. I actually bought it from Trevor Immelman who was moving into another property on the same estate. Hopefully his outstanding recent Masters win will be a good omen for me!
Trevor is a great guy and works extremely hard. At Lake Nona, there is a large practice area right beside the clubhouse and on any given day you could find anyone from Trevor to Justin Rose, to Retief Goosen, Ian Poulter or Henrik Stenson slogging away on the range. These guys all spend the bulk of the winter months at Nona. We all work hard, however I have to say that Trevor does seem to put a huge amount in and it is great to see him get the ultimate reward the Green Jacket.
The Isleworth team also reads like a whos who of world golf led by a certain Tiger Woods. I played with Henrik against Tiger and John Cook on the first day. While I was tired after Doral, it doesnt take much to get the adrenaline going when you are playing against the world number one. The Tavistock may not count for world ranking points or anything like that, but it is still quite competitive, with a fair amount of cash on the table and each winning player making a $100,000 donation to a charity of their choice.
At the Tavistock I was asked the question: What makes a great club? My answer was: great members. Thats what I love about Lake Nona. Some of the members are great friends. I play golf with them a lot and we regularly travel to other courses in the Florida area for skins matches when we are all there. Its the members and the atmosphere at a club that really does it. The same very much applies to my home club of Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
I could have returned to Europe straight after the Tavistock Cup and tried to make my way into that damn top 50 by playing in Spain and Portugal, but again that would have been a big ask.
I am determined not to burn myself out this season. I have made some bad decisions in relation to my scheduling in the past and I am really trying to stick to the plan that I put in place with my management team at the start of the year. Things are going well, I am happy with how things are panning out and playing in every competition available to me is not what I am about. I have discussed this with my manager and we both know what works best for me. The three-week period following the Tavistock was always pencilled in as downtime at Lake Nona in order to recharge the batteries before we get into the meat of the season back in Europe in May.
Now that I am well-rested, I am desperate to get into tournament mode again. I have done some great work with my coaches, fitness trainer and sports psychologist during my time off and I feel that Im in good shape and ready to compete all the way into a Sunday afternoon again.
While I always enjoy watching the Masters on television, it was difficult not being a part of it. My goal is to get myself into a position where I play in all four Majors every season. Focusing on the European Tour is how I hope to achieve this and I very much liked the sound of being named Player of the Month for March but Player of the Year in November would sound even sweeter. Thats the aim.