The last few holes, I started adding the putts up and realized I had a chance to maybe post 18 putts in 18 holes, which is like the 59 of putting. When I hit into the bunker on 17, I thought if I could hole that bunker shot, and one-putt the last, Id have my 18 putts, but it didnt work out like that. I wound up two-putting the 18th for a par.
It was a very atypical week for me. I just bought a new home in Northfield, Ill., so I was unpacking boxes early in the week. It wasnt until Wednesday morning that I arrived in Dublin, Ohio, and when I got there it was raining hard. I played nine practice holes and hit only a few balls on the range. On Thursday, I made sure to arrive 10-15 minutes earlier than usual to get some work in on the putting green, but that was the extent of my preparation. I certainly didnt expect to putt like I did.
Im going to need a hot putter for all four rounds if I want to compete at Bethpage Black this week. I remember the greens being extremely pure and fast the last time we played the Open here in 2002, some of the fastest we play. The Memorial was a good tune-up because the greens have some similarities; theyre pretty firm and fast. I think the big difference between Bethpage and Muirfield Village is that you have a lot of holes where youre hitting up to the greens. The greens are elevated, so someone like Tiger (Woods) who can launch the ball up in the air has got a big advantage.
One of the things my coach Pat Goss and I have been working on is getting the club in and more open at the top; thats going to allow me to hit my long irons a little bit higher and softer. Youve got to make the ball come down softer when youre hitting to elevated greens like those at Bethpage. Im also experimenting with some MP-52 3- and 4-irons that Mizuno sent me. These have a lower, deeper center of gravity than my MP-62 irons, which should get the ball up in the air a little easier, and are slightly more forgiving.
I got my first look at the Black Course since the 2002 U.S. Open about six weeks ago at an outing for one of my sponsors, RBS. I only got to play 10 holes (holes 14 through 5), but it played like a U.S. Open course. Its long, youve got to drive it well, hit long irons into elevated greens and short-game it well. You also need a lot of patience and have to think your way around there.
While the long, high-ball hitters will definitely have an advantage at Bethpage, theres no reason why a medium-length hitter cant win here. I can only speak for myself, but I know if I play my best golf I can win. Looking at my results this year, Ive played consistently but I havent played up to my standards yet. My advantage will be that I played here in 02 and played well. I tied for 18th (76-72-70-72-290), and thats with a few bogeys coming in. I went out in 3 under on Sunday and for a moment I was well inside the Top 10. It was a good start to my U.S. Open career. I just hope I finish a little stronger this time.
Editors Note: Two-time PGA Tour winner and European Ryder Cup team member Luke Donald will be writing a monthly column for GolfChannel.com throughout the remainder of the 2009 season. The focus of the column will be What Im Working On, and will give you an inside look into life on the PGA Tour from one of the games elite players.