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Remaining upbeat despite play-off misery

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Martin Laird | 09:53 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

As I head into the 2nd event of the Fed Ex Cup at the Deutsche Bank Championship, I thought I'd look back on what turned out to be some weekend last time out!

I guess golf fans wonder exactly what it's like when you're top of the leaderboard in the closing stages of what is a massive event. This may provide a little insight.

I'm taking a ton of confidence out of the way I handled going into the final round in the lead and particularly the great start to the round I had.

My lead had sort of snuck up on me as it wasn't as if I'd been playing flawless golf all week.

I played great on Saturday but over the course of the tournament I drove the ball pretty badly; that's normally one of the best parts of my game.

I was surprisingly calm going into the final round on Sunday with that three shot lead, especially considering it was the first time I'd been out in front after 54 holes on the PGA Tour.

Despite the position I was in, I had no problem getting to sleep on Saturday night or relaxing on Sunday morning.

I was nervous but not to the extent that it was getting to me. I was confident enough that I could go out there and take care of business on Sunday and knew if I played the way I had all week, I had nothing to worry about.


The week definitely had a much more intense feel to it than most regular season events.

The media interest was magnified and, as is well known over here in the States, the New Jersey and New York fans are about the loudest in the country.

They've no problem telling you exactly how they feel about you... good or bad!
I love playing in front of crowds like that as it's what we play for.

The atmosphere was amazing in the last group with every walkway, from green to tee, packed with fans screaming and shouting.

Most of them were rooting for Dustin Johnson, which in a way made it more enjoyable for me.

I love being the underdog as it makes me even more determined.

When I won in Vegas last year, I played with Chad Campbell and Scott Piercy in the final group.

Chad attended the University of Las Vegas and Scott grew up there, so I was definitely not the player the fans wanted to see come out on top!

I never realised how much I would jump in the FedEx Cup standings with a win last week until I caught a peak of the projected rankings on Saturday.

It's something I was definitely aware of before I went out but it didn't really enter my mind at all when I was on the course on Sunday.

That's despite the $10m prize on offer to the number one ranked player at the end of the Fed Ex play-offs!

I think that might be one of the reasons I felt very comfortable in the position I was in.

I never get too ahead of myself and think of the money or anything like that. I just want to win. It's what I work hard for all year.

All I was focused on was staying as aggressive as possible and sticking to my game plan.

I knew guys were going to be firing at me with low rounds and that I definitely couldn't relax at all on the golf course.

When you're out there with a chance to win, you really focus on taking one shot at a time and staying aggressive to give yourself the best chance to pick up the trophy.

Obviously, I never imagined I would get off to the start that I did in the final round. I nearly holed my shot on the 1st and then nearly did the same on the 2nd.

It shocked me a little as those were probably the two closest shots I had hit all week!

I obviously didn't want to make a 7 on the 3rd hole but that's why golf is such an interesting and unpredictable game.

I hit a poor layup on the par 5, was kind of snookered from there and couldn't get myself back into a good position.

To be honest it didn't really shock me that badly as I had only really hit one bad shot. If I had chopped my way down the hole and made 7 it would have been a different story.

Walking to the 4th tee I said to my caddy: "Even par after 3 holes isn't bad. Let's go get the rest of them."

As things came to the crunch, the back to back three woods that I hit into 17 were two of the best consecutive swings I've ever made.

The way I was driving the ball I knew that I could reach with two of my best struck 3 woods.

If I'd hit driver off the tee I could have driven it through the fairway into the rough, something on that particular hole you definitely don't want to do.

I'm sure there were some people watching thinking to themselves that I wasn't being aggressive enough but it definitely wasn't the case.

You have to draw your tee shot on 17 and that's easier for me to do with a 3 wood. I knew that if I got it on the fairway I could still knock my second on the green and make eagle or birdie.

After making those two swings, I didn't think that I would still have to hole a 7 footer for birdie!

My eagle putt on 17 was definitely one where the adrenaline got to me. The ball came off the putter face way faster than I wanted.

When you're out there you have to forget about putts like that immediately, so when I was reading my birdie putt I had already forgotten about it.

My complete focus was on the shot that was in front of me. It was brilliant to see it disappear right in the middle of the hole.

Standing on the 18th tee with a one shot lead was a fantastic feeling. I had battled hard all day and holed some great par putts just to be in the position I was.

I played the hole exactly as I had in other rounds by hitting driver off the tee and staying aggressive.

If you try to change your game plan it means you are either too nervous or getting defensive.

You need to keep firing all the way to the end.

I hit a great second shot from the left rough that ended up on the back edge of the green and I knew walking up there that 2 putts would get me the win.

One of the reasons I'm not overly upset about what happened on the last is that I don't feel that I hit a bad shot. I just seriously misjudged the speed of the putt I had down the hill to the hole.

Unlike on 17, when I knew I had hammered my eagle putt as soon as I made contact, I really felt like my birdie putt on 18 was fine when I hit it.

It just kept rolling out and ended up a little further past than I wanted. My par put was also a good stroke as I read it to break left and played it outside the hole on the right. It just didn't break!

I can live with a misjudgement of speed and a misread. If I had left my par putt short or pulled it badly left then I'm sure I'd be a lot more frustrated and annoyed right now than I am. I hit two putts that I thought were pretty good.

That's all you can do when you're out there, hit the shot you want to and wait to see the result. I can live with the miss as that's exactly what I did.

Going into the play-off, I was still in a pretty good frame of mind. I definitely thought back to Las Vegas and how I had pulled through a three way playoff to lift the trophy. I knew I could definitely do it again.

However, what I didn't predict was that Kuchar was going to pull off a fantastic shot to two feet from the left rough.

When something like that happens you just have to take your hat off and congratulate your opponent.

I gave my birdie putt a run but ended up making par and lost on the hole that ranked the hardest all week. That's definitely not something to be ashamed of.

I can take a ton of confidence out of last week. I led going into the final round and never relinquished the lead all day. I'm now third on the FedEx Cup rankings with a chance to win it all at the Tour Championship.

I've moved up to 61st in the world rankings, only 11 spots away from one of my major goals. And most importantly, I've proved to myself that I can win on one of the biggest stages in world golf.

Even though I'm now playing my sixth week in a row, I can't wait to tee it up again in Boston this week. I feel I can play even better here than I did at The Barclays, if I drive the ball better.

This course should suit me more on paper than Ridgewood did last week. Hopefully, I can keep those putts rolling in over the next few weeks and give myself another chance to win again.

All I can do is hit my shots the way I want to and see where I end up. Everything else is out of my control.

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