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Getting into the new club groove

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Martin Laird | 22:07 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

This is one of my favourite tournament weeks of the year. I get to type this blog sitting on my sofa after just finishing a nice home-cooked meal. When you have to eat out as much as we do it really doesn't get any better!

With the newly titled Waste Management Open played at the TPC Scottsdale just down the road from my house I have the luxury of staying at home while teeing it up this week.

The WM Open is the last week of the west coast swing on the PGA Tour and I'm hoping for a good week here in the desert to make up for the last few weeks on the California coast.

It was a frustrating four-week stretch for me with two missed cuts and my best finish being a T27th finish in San Diego. Most of the problems (and frustrations) came on the greens, as I just did not putt well enough to get in contention.

Lob wedge with square groovesNew rules affecting the type of grooves on a golf club came into effect in January. Photo: Getty
You know going into the west coast that the greens are not going to be the best surfaces that we putt on all year due to the combination of the poana grass and the unfortunate wet weather that we seem to get every year.

So that is my excuse - it was the greens!

Professional golfers rarely like to blame themselves for missing putts or hitting bad shots - just ask my caddy (or in fact, any tour caddy!).

Although, as I pointed out to my caddy at Pebble Beach when we passed a leaderboard and saw a bunch of guys at 14 under par and better, guys are making tons of birdies so obviously it is possible to hole putts.

I didn't figure out how to get my ball in the hole quickly enough this year on the west coast and my results showed that.

I am not taking too much from my finishes, though, as I feel like I am still playing pretty well and am close to having a really good week again.

So far in my career I have tended to be a slow starter to the season, but this year has been better, with a fourth-place finish to open up the season and a solid showing at Torrey Pines so I am relatively happy with where I am at.

One change on tour that everyone was talking about to start this year was how the new groove regulations were going to affect play and scores.

It seems to me, after the first couple of months, that the answer is not very much!

The fact that we have been playing on soft courses all year may have something to do with it, but I really don't think that there is going to be the massive difference that the R&A and USGA thought there was going to be.

There was lots of talk of players hitting their driver less and course strategy changing but I have yet to see any real evidence of that. Although, come summer when the greens get firm it could begin to change.

I know that some players had a little trouble getting used to new clubs with conforming grooves but I have not really had much of a problem at all.

Taylor Made did a great job of making me up a set of irons that are pretty much identical to the ones that I had been playing the last two years so I didn't have to adjust to a new club.

In saying that, there is definitely a little difference in how they play and react from the rough.

One thing that has surprised me is that it isn't the lies in the deeper rough that are the ones to be careful with; it is the ones that just run off the fairway into the shorter semi-rough that you have to watch.

With the old grooves these were never a problem and the ball would come out almost identical to a shot from the fairway, whereas now you have to be a little more cautious with your club selection.

Using a softer golf ball was something that I messed with in the off-season to try to minimise the fliers and increase my touch around the greens.

But with the new grooves reacting the same from the fairway as the old ones I was spinning the ball way too much with my mid and short irons.

It's the short stuff that you're supposed to be playing from so I stuck with the ball that suits me best from the fairways.

Now I just have to get my ball there...


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