Following my first experience of the FedEx Cup this year, I’ve realised it is possible to still make an impact in the play-offs playing my minimum number of events on the PGA Tour. So I think it will be pretty much more of the same for me in 2012, although I will want to weight my schedule a little more towards Europe as it’s a Ryder Cup year. I’ve been pretty happy with my schedule this year, though it’s been tough to really judge because I haven’t played my best and struggled with my form for a few months. I played well at the start of the year, and I’ve played well towards the end, but my mid-year form was way off the boil. I perhaps need to play a few more ‘chunks’ of events in 2012 – this year I haven’t had those nice ‘two weeks off’ that you need. I’ve had too many ‘two-on, one-off’ or ‘one-on, one-off’ – too many single weeks off really. So I want to get my schedule next year to where I can have blocks of time on and off, so I can really switch off, then reset and get going again.
Most players experience peaks and troughs so what Luke Donald has done this year – finding that level of consistency – really is the Golden Chalice. That’s what players are looking for. It all comes down to understanding your swing and the mechanics of what makes you tick: rest, scheduling, the head, the physicality of the golf swing, family life, private life, making sure you’re happy on and off the course – having all your ducks in a row! It’s just everything that makes you a complete player, so every time you turn up on a Thursday you’re ready to go.
I’ve had as many peaks and troughs as most, and learning from them is something I’ve always tried to do. I’ve certainly learned a lot about myself during this slightly frustrating year – how to handle what success brings and what 2010 did for me, which was to thrust me into the spotlight and under the microscope instead of letting me just fly under the radar! I’ve been having to talk to the media about what I was trying to achieve every week, and I think that’s just taken my focus off my goals, what I was trying to do, my own preparation. I certainly feel I’ll be better equipped to deal with great success next time it comes along.
I look back at the big crossroads in my career and most of them have been borne out of tough times and the big decisions you make – trying to change your coach, trying to change your management, in my case, along the way. I’m not saying that playing badly means you automatically have to change things, but it certainly allows more room for self-reflection. You look inside and ask yourself every question under the sun: “Am I working hard enough?” “Am I working on the right things?” “Am I working with the right people?” “Am I playing too much?” “Am I playing too little?” “Am I happy at home?” “Have I got my life where I want it?” “Am I happy on and off the golf course?” “What’s bothering me?” “Am I fully focused on what I’m doing?” When you’re playing well you don’t ask yourself those questions, you just go with the flow – you don’t learn much in the good times. When you’re playing badly, there’s a lot of internal chat, but at some point you will come up with the answers.
Maybe it is possible to think about it too much and, funnily enough, that’s exactly what my caddie Ken Comboy said to me recently: “If we could just strap a really unintelligent head on your shoulders for a while, I think we’d be okay.” There’s no doubt I am an analytical person. I do have a reasonably academic background, and maybe I do think about things a little too much. But that’s the type of golfer I am. I feel like I’ve learned a lot this year, and have certainly turned the corner of late with third-place finishes in both the Dunhill Links and WGC – HSBC Championship. So I’m now really looking forward to the Christmas break before gearing up for another big season again in 2012.