2004 is being a very challenging year for me. I have been involved in a swing change for the last three years and that means a lot of work, physically and mentally.
In 2001 I decided to start working with Domingo Hospital, the former European Tour player. Since then I have been making some changes in my swing to improve it and get a more consistent game.
Last year, I won the Volvo PGA at Wentworth, which was the most important moment of my career. The swing was not definitely ready, but I played great moments of golf.
Since that victory I kept working on my swing trying to finish the long process we started three years ago. At the beginning of 2004, we decided to make the last change in the swing and this has come to be the most difficult one.
I started to play tournaments late this season to have enough time to assimilate this last change and the season started really well, with a fifth position at the Algarve Open de Portugal and real chance to win. After that, the results did not reflect the way I was playing. Sometimes my short game did not help and sometimes I lost my confidence.
During this year I have played some very good rounds of golf, Portugal, Wentworth and Royal Troon, followed by others not so good. I'm at the last part of the season and there are still very good tournaments to come and I expect to recover my confidence and to obtain some good results. During the next weeks I will play the Omega European Masters, Linde German Masters and The Heritage.
I knew it was going to be very difficult to qualify for the European Ryder Cup team this year. I decided to make the last changes in my swing and that was going to make it even more difficult to be in the team, but I thought I had to focus on my swing and if I was not able to play in the Ryder Cup this year, there will be more opportunities in the future.
In three weeks from now the Ryder Cup starts and I believe it's going to be a great week for all golf fans. The U.S. has its team already decided and it looks to me like a very strong team.
U.S. coach Hal Sutton made two good picks for his team, although it is always a tough decision for the captain - Todd Hamilton, Scott Verplank, Fred Couples and Justin Leonard, did not qualify. Jay Haas is a very experienced player, having played twice in a Ryder Cup and Stewart Cink is in very good shape this year, winning the MCI Heritage and most recently the NEC Invitational.
Although they are playing on their home turf and three of their players are ranked first, third and fifth in the world ranking standings, I believe the Europeans will have a great team and it will be very hard-fought tournament.
The first five players to qualify for the European Team - Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Lee Westwood - have good Ryder Cup experience and they will be a great help for the team to retain the Cup for Europe.
At the end of this week we will know the rest of the team. Bernhard Langer, European captain, has great experience in Ryder Cup competitions.
He has participated in 10 Ryder Cup Events and has played plenty of matches. He will have a difficult decision to make with his picks, there are so many good players to choose - Colin Montgomerie, Fredrik Jacobson, Alex Cejka, Thomas Bjorn - but I'm sure that we will make the best picks for the team.
From high-tech gadgets to clever, low-tech stocking stuffers, more great gift ideas have come across my desk this season than in the past five years combined. If you can't find something above for every golfer on your list, I'm going to chalk it up to Grinchiness.
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