If the European Tour had asked me to write the Player Blog three months ago, there is no denying it would have been very different indeed. We were going through a tough time then. There were a lot of doubts. A lot of unknowns.
A place in the Ryder Cup team is never a given, it’s never a done deal. We all know how difficult it is to make that team. But at the beginning of 2018, I think I took it as a given that I would be there in Paris.
However, three months ago, it was a very different story.
We knew it was going to come down to a pick and at that point it is completely out of your control.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had worse years. But I haven’t had years when I have missed so many cuts. That’s a killer.
I’ve had years when I have just made lots of cuts and eventually finished 50th, or 60th and although that is in no way a good week, at least you get some rhythm out of it. You feel like you can change the momentum because you’re playing the weekend. When you play the weekend, you only need one or two good performances and everything changes. You grab a couple of top ten finishes and your confidence goes straight back up.
But that wasn’t the case the first half of 2018. I was missing cuts by one. I couldn’t get that rhythm. I couldn’t change those dynamics. You know the kind of golf you can play, the kind of golf you should be playing but it’s just not happening.
It felt like I couldn’t get anything going to change that.
I thought of my baby daughter Azalea a lot at that time. I would talk to Angela, my wife, or Carlos, my manager, during those months when things weren’t going as great as we wanted and I would say, “I really want to win a tournament so she can see me win. So she can be proud of her dad.”
I know she doesn’t understand at this point, but I wanted her to be able to grow up and see the pictures, the TV clips, the trophies and know that I won those after she was born.
Fatherhood is great. It’s tough. But it’s amazing. Becoming a father earlier this year definitely brought about something of a change in focus and meant that golf was just one of many different things to concentrate on.
She is amazing, though. We’re so lucky. Angela has been great since Azalea was born and I’ve helped as much as I can. She says I’ve done great!
But as anyone who is a parent will tell you – it’s hard work. Not even just changing diapers, or waking up in the middle of the night. Don’t get me wrong, that is tough. But what has been harder for me is the deep, emotional feelings. It takes so much out of you because you are so focused on that little baby.
People told me I would understand this feeling when I became a father and they were right. I realised it straight away. It’s hard to believe how you can love someone so much that you’ve never met in your life. Just instantly. As soon as that baby comes into the world.
It’s like at a click of a finger everything changes. You love them so much. Your attention just switches completely.
But I’m not going to sit here and lie. In no way does it stop the competitive feelings. That’s not to say it doesn’t help. Coming home and seeing her, it makes you laugh, it makes you feel amazing and it does help to forget about things and put things in perspective but at the same time we still have the heart for the game.
We do this for a living. We’ve been doing it for a long time. We want to do it well. Not only for yourself, but for her, for your family.
There was extra motivation. Extra fire to get back to where I wanted to be.
Thomas put his faith in me, despite all my challenges this year, and I will be forever thankful for that. As everyone knows, The Ryder Cup is so incredibly special to me so for him to give me a wildcard for Le Golf National meant everything to me.
Every single Ryder Cup I have been involved in has meant something special but this one, I really, really enjoyed for so many reasons.
Not least because for a long while I didn’t know if I was going to be part of the team.
The weather was amazing. The course was amazing. The crowds were amazing. The chanting we were all getting, the chanting that I was getting every hole was unbelievable.
And then there was the element of history.
I knew I had 22.5 points going into the week. I knew I was tied with Seve. But once you get to Ryder Cup week you don’t know how many matches you’re going to play let alone win. You hope you are going to win as many as possible but you don’t know.
But that week more than ever there are so many things to think about that you almost don’t have time for too many individual thoughts. And I kind of think that’s the way it should be too.
I have always said I would rather go 0-5 and the team win than go 5-0 and the team lose. It’s all about the team spirit, the team thinking.
But it happened.
I will be honest. It’s very cool. To be on top of that list, with all those legendary names below you, it’s amazing.
But it was never a goal. In 1999, I was just a boy who loved The Ryder Cup, who got to play in his first one. I thought then, “I want to play in as many of these I can,” but you can never know how many you’re going to play, how your game is going to be, how your health is going to be.
I haven’t thought about it all that much since. I don’t want to be arrogant but when I do stop and think about it I can’t help but go “Holy s**t! I am officially the highest points scorer in the history of The Ryder Cup!”
I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been fortunate to be able to play nine of them, which is already amazing. But also how well you have to do in pretty much every single one of them to be able to get to that number.
You won’t find me bragging about it. But I’m sure that the people will realise how big an achievement it is.
And after that I headed to Valderrama with confidence high.
I have always said, to me it’s the Augusta of Europe. Everybody knows how much I love Valderrama so that, coming so soon after the highs of Le Golf National, was perfect.
It’s my favourite golf course bar none.
To be able to go back there; where I’m an honorary member, where the history I have there, where with my foundation hosting, with the year I had had, with the journey I had been on, both on and off the course in 2018…
And to win…
Yes. It’s safe to say my Player Blog three months ago would have been quite different.