I sit down with my manager and my team every December and we try and plan out a schedule. This year it was like I was 71st in the world or something and not in any of the big tournaments. I was setting out a plan from January to the end of May or something like that.
Winning Abu Dhabi meant my ranking went up. I moved up to 41 in the world and my schedule just completely changed. It’s almost like with my schedule changing my expectation levels changed.
When you’re playing the bigger tournaments maybe you think you should be trying to do things to be better. I had a good chat with my caddy last week on the course and I think we figured out what it is: I’m just trying too hard, getting too angry and upset over bad stuff. I said to Bo, who caddies for me, “Look, I just want to have a bit of craic and play some good golf and see what we can do.”
That’s what we did at the start of the year and then all of sudden when you get into bigger tournaments you almost stop doing that.
Sometimes I sit back and pinch myself about what I’m doing.
The Masters will be like that – when I’m walking out on the fairway next Thursday. Even at the golf club of which I’m a member, I walked into the locker room yesterday and Gary Player is sitting there and Jack Nicklaus is on the range. Dustin Johnson is hitting balls in the range. You pinch yourself. Hey, look at where I’ve come from, a small town in Offaly. To be doing what I am on the world stage is pretty cool.
Preparing for the Masters
I’m trying not to do anything different for the Masters. I don’t practice loads of hours every day; I play a few holes and I go to the gym and get ready that way, but this week I’ve had to find myself. If I go out and beat balls for 10 hours a day, I will just tire myself out and it just won’t be me. My coach Neil is very good at tapering back what we do and doing constructive stuff as opposed to just doing it for the sake of it.
I know exactly what I’ll be doing next week. It’s mad because you just get so used to it. We fly up Sunday. We have a house. Only myself, my coach and my caddy will be allowed to go up to the course on Sunday – my dad won’t be allowed in. So, I’ll just go out and play nine holes and then we come back and I’ll go out and I’ll do a big shop for the house for a week getting some food. We might cook maybe a barbecue that evening, relax and then Monday will be a full day at the course. Nine holes – if you were to play 18 each day it would take too much out of you.
As long as I feel like I’m hitting the ball well and doing everything okay I’ll leave. Then maybe the week of the tournament I like to get two or three gym sessions in, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s how it will work each week and then every evening is literally in the house cooking some food and just chilling. Bed by 10 o’clock every night and up and at it the next morning again. Then from when the Thursday comes around it just depends on your tee time.
I’d love to play with Tiger
Obviously I would love to play with Tiger. I’m not going to get drawn with Tiger next week and if I did it might be a bit of a distraction, so you’re probably better off not.
It’s different playing in the same tournament as him. It’s just different. People don’t understand. During Masters week it’s always full and there’s always 40,000 people there every day, so it doesn’t make any difference with the crowds.
But you go to a regular event, like some events that might only have 10,000 people there on a Thursday. If Tiger is playing there might be 30,000. He just draws a crowd. It’s always a bit louder when he’s there. You always know where he is because you see the crowd on the course.
Can I win it?
I know if I put myself in the position I’m good enough to win it, but it’s just all about getting myself into position. I’m not going to sit here and say I’ll take fifth or second or tenth – I’ll just be happy as long as I go and put in a good performance. As long as I go out and don’t try too hard and don’t get too upset with myself and just try and play some good golf and enjoy it.
I don’t think I’m in the category of golfer to focus on majors. I think there’s top five, top 10 in the world, that their prime focus is majors. I’m not doing majors. I think when it comes around if I’m playing well enough and I would fancy myself to do well, so I’m just trying to have the best career that I can and I feel that way.
If I go to Augusta next week and do well in the first three rounds, I won’t be afraid to win. I won’t be afraid to go out and give it a go. If you go out with a strategy, you’re putting a lot of pressure on yourself.
All that said, I would love to be the first Irish player to win the Masters.