I feel so much different going into this year’s Open compared to last year at Carnoustie. I was ranked about 90th in the world then, didn’t really enjoy the Irish Open in Ballyliffin before it and posted a disappointing opening round in Scotland.
My putts lipped out on about four of the first five holes and I double-bogeyed from 100 yards, which you just can’t do and hope to contend.
It’s well known now that I split with my then caddy, Dermot Byrne, and I regret doing that mid-tournament. It’s something that I felt I had to do, but I should have waited until after it was over.
But that’s the way it is, we all make mistakes. I’ve never said it to him personally, but I’ve said it publicly. If I was to do it again I would probably do it a little bit differently because Dermot is a very good friend of mine.
It put a bit of a spotlight on him which he didn’t need. We’d built a great friendship over the years; nine years together is a long time. Dermot wasn’t the problem. It was more that I wasn’t the person I wanted to be on the course.
It needed a change.
To be honest, that Friday evening 12 months ago, when I was thinking about caddies, ‘Bo’ (Brian Martin) was the first person in my head. My brother did a few weeks first and then Bo started with me in Portugal and it’s been good ever since.
He’s back on the bag this week after Darra Lernihan deputised at Lahinch, because Bo and his wife have just had a baby boy.
But as I’ve said before, I’m playing much better this year and I don’t feel like I’m going up to Portrush trying to find something – my game is all there and I’m excited going into Thursday’s tee off.
It’s going to be one of the great Open Championships and my game is where it needs to be for me to try and compete at the weekend. I owe it to myself to go deep in the final Major of the season as I’ve missed the last four cuts at the Open after a top 10 finish in 2014 at Royal Liverpool behind Rory McIlroy.
Getting off to a good start is very important.
Generally, when I’ve started well this year, I’ve played well for all four days. It’s very important not to shoot yourself in the foot the first couple of days. You’d want to be sniffing around the top 20 come Saturday and then try and push on.
Obviously if you’re up higher the leaderboard, that’s even better. My average weeks this year have come from bad first rounds so it’s important to get out there and get off to a nice, steady start and play from there.
I don’t want a lot of rain, but I wouldn’t mind the wind to blow. High winds take a lot of guys out of it as we just don’t play as much links golf anymore like we used to on either tour. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be able to handle the challenge – but it’s a fact.
There are 156 guys teeing off this week and if you get a 25 mile-per-hour winds, it’ll take out at least 50 of them and then you’ve only got 100 to beat. Using the Brooks Koepka analogy, you take a few more out because it’s a Major.
Suddenly, you’ve got way less lads to beat as the old-style links courses are very difficult.
I definitely feel I have the ability to win, but in a Major, especially on a tough course with the best players in the world, you need everything to go your way to claim victory. I need to play well and get a few breaks along the way. Then when it comes down to it, I need to man up and get over the line on Sunday.
That’s the way it works. I could go up there and play great and somebody just plays better than me and beats me. That’s just the way golf is. But if I go up and give it my best shot, get a couple of breaks and have a chance going into the back nine on Sunday, then I’ll just have to man up.
And I feel like I could get the job done.
I’ve always said I’d love to win the US Masters ahead of the Open Championship. That might change though if I’m thereabouts come the weekend!