A climb up the world rankings, victory in America, a visit to Santa and a lucky escape in a crash - that was the year that was… and I’m really looking forward to bigger and better in 2004.
Last year started with my goals set at improving a ranking of 29th. So to finish the season in 11th place was particularly pleasing, especially since I had started it making several changes to my game, attitude, caddie, fitness etc. etc. When everything came to fruition with triumph at the WGC event in Akron against all the world’s best players, I felt satisfaction and vindication, but there was still no room for complacency. No fewer than 18 places higher in the world rankings was a good performance, but my play in the Majors meant that there was still plenty of room for improvement. That’s where I will be aiming to advance in 2004 and I will have to because my goal for the new year is a place in the world’s top five. I will have to perform very, very well, but I know what I am capable of and it is not beyond me. I did a great deal of travelling towards the end of the year and Tiger Woods’ tournament in Los Angeles just before Christmas was probably one event too far. A first round 80 meant that my Christmas was about to start earlier than planned.
And what a pre-yuletide it turned out to be in Lapland with Heather and the kids, Tyrone and Conor, plus my manager Chubby Chandler and his family, wife Justine and children Thomas and Romy.It took us two days to track down Santa, but we eventually all had our pictures taken sitting on his knee. I actually hovered above it, but Chubby, who is somewhat heavier than me, actually rested his full weight. We had a great time in the snow and at one stage the temperature was minus 37... and that was without the wind chill factor. We needed the hot air blowers and de-icers on the plane before we could take off.
Fortunately we got back in time for me to do my Christmas shopping in Harrods… and for me to take delivery of a present to myself - a German made trike called Boom, Street Fighter. It had not been off the trailer that long before it was back on again and heading back for repairs. My foot slipped off the break and the machine hurtled forward. I had to make a quick decision. Do I crash into the car or the side of the house. I felt the house might take the impact better and opted for the wall. Thankfully escaping injury in the process.
We had a very quiet, but extremely enjoyable time at home for Xmas and then finally got the clubs out for the first time since LA on New Years Eve, when a bandit by the name of Hugh Grant showed me that he is almost as good a golfer as he is actor - beating me 4 & 3 at Sunningdale off a more than useful handicap of 10.
Now I’ve just arrived in Hawaii where I will be playing the first two events of the US Tour and I can’t wait to get started again. I feel 2004 is going to be a big year for me. I will be pulling out all the stops to ensure that it is. Finally, let me wish you a very happy new year and keep watching this space for regular updates throughout the season.