I’m off in the first group in a field full of superstars at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament in China on Thursday and deep down I know I’m not going to be competitive.
For an elite athlete in any sport, that’s the toughest pill to swallow.
Last week at the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama I was 11-over through 11 holes and knew I had to quit.
At the start of the week, I needed to finish in the top three in order to keep my European Tour card so with that hanging over my head, my wrist injury and technically not swinging the club very well it all built up into this crescendo in Spain.
It was the lowest point of my career.
It wasn’t that I was playing completely horribly – Valderrama is a course that can do that to you if your game is not sharp – but I knew I had to preserve my wrist to give me a chance of playing OK this week.
I’ve had wrist issues going back to 2013 when I hurt it hitting balls off a mat. I had my third cortisone injection in my right wrist at the start of the year and a fourth a couple of months ago that didn’t take.
There hasn’t been a round this year where I haven’t played in some kind of pain so given I wasn’t going to make the cut last week my priority had to be to give my wrist two or three days rest before flying to China.
Now that I’m here and getting ready to play I honestly don’t know what to expect.
It’s a tough challenge for me. Not having your mindset in that competitive state and thinking about winning the golf tournament has been the hardest thing for me to come to terms with this year.
I just feel as though my competitor has been a little bit suppressed.
I know within that for me to go out in the right frame of mind, I need to do X, Y and Z. If I can work on my game and prepare the way I know I can prepare to play my best then I give myself the best opportunity of going out and playing my best.
But truth be told, right now I just don’t feel like a competitor, and that’s the hardest thing.
I don’t even feel like a golfer at the moment.
I just feel a little bit removed from the intensity and the mindset of going out there to play and win a golf tournament.
You feel as though you’re something of a third wheel in amongst the machine.
Even your competitors and the guys you hang around with are wary because there’s this mindset that if you’re playing bad – you’ve got the snap-hooks or you’re shooting big numbers – that you’ve got some disease that they don’t want to catch.
Subconsciously you’re being held at arm’s length.
How do I pick myself up? That’s not really something I can do at the moment.
It’s not the first time I’ve experienced this feeling.
After I came back from having 12 inches of my small intestine removed in 2015, being out of the competitive environment for so long made me feel as though I was viewing it from a third-person perspective.
Everything became very visible to me whereas normally I’m very pin-point with my focus. The distractions and other competitors dissipate and disappear amongst the concentration of what you’re trying to do.
I could see the intensity in others that I couldn’t see in myself and that became very, very evident.
It gave me a greater appreciation of how like-minded everyone is out here.
The one thing that I noticed at the elite level is that everyone is singularly minded. They’re going about their business their own way and very selfish about what they are trying to accomplish personally.
It took me a little while to be able to get back into that mindset again. I feel again now that I’ve been a little bit removed from it and that I’m an outsider looking in.
To be honest, I may as well be spectating along the gallery ropes.
I don’t know really what I’m expecting out there tomorrow. I’m just taking it one day at a time, hoping my wrist is manageable and that my game is manageable as well.
Some weeks the course sets up to suit your game and other weeks it doesn’t.
Valderrama is not a course where you can go in under-prepared because the golf course will destroy you. This week is more a resort style course but the rough is actually quite heavy so that’s going to be an issue for me.
At the end of this week, I’ll take three weeks off and play both the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship and then look at getting the surgery I need on my wrist.
I know if I can get healthy I can and can put the work in that my mindset will shift automatically and I’ll become that competitor.
I can’t wait to be that guy again.
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