After eight weeks off I am back in action. This year I am starting back at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. I am looking forward to getting back to tournament golf after my winter break; when I finished last year I was ready for a good break but I am chomping at the bit to get back playing.
As always when I am coming out for my first event of the year I would like to be more prepared for playing. I suppose I would like to be sharper; the first tournament of the year brings an element of the unknown.
As much as you have practiced over the winter you are just not sure what to expect - you have to get into a competitive situation and be under a little bit of pressure before you find out how your winter practice went.
My winter break was great for a number of reasons: I spent a lot of time taking it easy and doing very little, just hanging out with my family at home and enjoying that. I also spent a good bit of time working on my swing, working on the things that I put on hold for the second half of last year and I am happy with the work I have done - I am now coming out to play golf and not thinking about my swing changes.
Last year I wasn't happy with the changes, I felt that my swing was a work in progress and I kept on working on them. This year I still feel that it is a work in progress but I am more comfortable with what I have worked on and am here to play golf.
The big issue here this week is the new groove rule and the fact that the some Ping wedges are legal to use. It seems that any Ping club made before 1990 is legal to use in any tournament that is governed by the USGA, after Ping won a court case against the USGA back in the early nineties.
As a result of this, a number of players have used old Ping Wedges with box grooves this year. It has caused much discussion on the PGA Tour; some players are unhappy about it and have come out and said so and others are using the club.
I have brought some of the Ping wedges with me this week and have tested them against current day wedges with the "new" grooves that are allowed nowadays.
There was a huge difference in the spin imparted on the ball when it was coming from the rough, about 40% more spin on the Ping wedge than any wedge that is made with today's grooves, which is a huge difference when it comes to distance control.
I was never in favor of the groove change; I feel that it is penalizing aggressive players like me. It suits the players that hit a lot of fairways and greens as they don't have to chip as often. As far as the Ping issues go, my view on this is that the rules are there and you abide by them; in this situation it means that they are legal and can be used. It is no different than getting a drop; you will always look for the best option available to you. I am not going to use the wedge this week as I am waiting for guidance from the Tour as to what will happen going forward.
I have played 36 holes in practice this week, trying to get myself back into the swing of things again and forget about the work I have been doing during the winter. It is hard to put it out of my mind but I have been working hard. Bob Rotella is here this week so I have been working with him. It's a great week for Bob to be here as it has enabled me to get straight into working on my mental game and away from technical practice.
By Wednesday, pro-am day, I was definitely getting more into my routines and getting away from technical thoughts. I am happy with how my practice has gone but I am still unsure what to expect for the week. Until I get into a competitive situation I won't really know where I am at.
Riviera is one of the best courses of the year; there really isn't a bad hole on it. It has everything that you would want in a course and this year it is in brilliant condition. It i s playing longer this year than previous years as the fairways aren't running. The ball is not rolling too much when it lands, however the greens are probably in the best condition that I have seen them in.
I often get asked what my favorite course is and what is the best hole that we play; this course definitely ranks high on my list. It also has in my mind the best hole that we play all year, the 10th. It is a short par four, easily driveable. In fact it can often play as little as a five wood; however it is the green that makes it such a good hole. If you are out of position then you will more than likely make a bogey; even from a good tee shot par is not safe. This is a hole that you feel you should birdie every time but will bogey a lot more often than you think. I only wish that there were more holes like this nowadays.