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My Journey Towards The Top Ten - 02.03.04            

The two-hour drive from La Costa to Los Angeles was followed by an 11-hour plus flight to London where Nick, my occasional driver, was there to pick me up in my brand new Jaguar XJR.

Itís one of the nicest cars Iíve ever been in and after the short journey home and reacquainting myself with Heather and the boys, Tyrone and Conor, it wasnít too many bedtime stories later before I was back on the way to Heathrow and a seven-hour flight to Dubai.   Thankfully Iíd been able to check my luggage all the way through so I was spared that hassleÖ and BA managed to deliver, for a change.

The 8.30 a.m. arrival in the United Arab Emirates just gave me enough time to check into the hotel, freshen up and then get to the course where my partner, Ernie Els, was waiting for our shoot-out against Tiger Woods and Mark OíMeara and Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington.

At least the air time gave me time to reflect on the past few weeks and particularly La Costa which seems a very good venue for me having won there in 2000 and now finishing third behind Tiger. Itís not the first time in my career that Iíve gone into a tournament without form and done well and generally it was a great week.

My ability to play good match play golf and hit the right shots at the right time helped me a great deal considering that I could have been out at the first hurdle - being two down with three to play against Eduardo Romero before eventually winning on the 25th.

Iíd been working a little bit at the beginning of the week with Bob Rotella on my pre-putting routine and it worked well in all my following matches against Alex Cejka, Kenny Perry, Jerry Kelly, who reminds me of Bill Murray in Caddie Shack, and then in the semi-final against my good friend Davis Love 111.

Such was the level of support for me that when I got on the tee I wasnít sure who the home hero was.   The match was played in a great spirit and after being two up with two to play, Davis finally prevailed at the 21st.

The highlight of the week for me after that disappointment was managing to get back up to win the third pace play-off against Stephen Leaney because the extra 10 world ranking points I got meant as much as anything had all week.

Unfortunately although I won 29 points in total they still werenít enough to move me up in the rankings although the gap now between 13th and 9th is very small.  Iím hopeful of breaking into the top 10 very soon.

Things are indeed looking up for me and the changes I have made in my game and lifestyle - all geared to having me in the best possible shape come TPC and The Masters - seem to be working out just fine.  Watch this space.

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