Today marked the 5th and final day of the guru’s golf marathon. Today found me playing a league match for the first round of my club championship. With a couple of crappy rounds in the books this year I got a tough seeding, playing against the #4 seed. My back is stiff as a 2×4 and I took a prescription pain pill just before the match.
River Oaks in Sandy Utah is the course. This is the toughest par 70 you’ll EVER play. 85% of the holes have fairway, five feet of rough and then red staked swamp everywhere else. Miss short, long, left or right of target and you are in a hazard on almost every hole.
Today was like a hurricane. It was at least a 4-5 club wind. Most of the holes go North or South and the wind was a South wind. So you either had a five club wind in your face or a five clubber at your back.
The match, hole by hole
Hole 1 Par 5
Dead into the wind I push my drive into the five feet of rough between the fairway and a lake. Lucky the ball stayed dry. My opponent hit the fairway with a hybrid. My 2nd shot barely carried the lake and once again ended up between the fairway and the lake. My opponent’s 2nd shot ended up in a fairway bunker. He hit a good shot to the short right fringe where he 3-putted. I hit the green with my 3rd shot and two putted for par. ONE UP.
Hole 2 Par 4 460 yards
I hit an OK drive and ended up 145 out. Yes with that tail wind my OK drive went 315. I hit a sand wedge to the back of the green. My opponent hit fairway and ended up middle left, about 15 feet. I had about a 50 foot downhill putt which I blew by about 10 feet. My opponent birdied. MATCH EVEN
Hole 3 Par 3
My opponent flew the left side of the green into some very long grass. I hit a laser 9-iron from 172, going to the back of the green. I two putted to the middle pin and my opponent didn’t get up and down for par. I’M ONE UP.
Hole 4 Par 4
I hit 7 iron off the tee on this 435 yard par 4. I then hit a 9-iron onto the back fringe. My opponent did about the same and we tied with pars. I’M ONE UP
Hole 5 Par 5
Now we’ve turned and we’re going straight into that hard wind. I hit a great drive and barely even made it to the fairway. I then punched a 4-iron but it didn’t clear a hazard on the right. My opponent kept it safe and cleared the hazard which I didn’t. So I’m now 170 out, hitting my 220 club for my 4th shot. I hit it too well and ended up on the back of the green. My opponent’s 3rd shot gets rejected by the wind and he’s in the greenside bunker. He doesn’t get up and down for par and I two putt for a bogey to tie. Good bogey. I’M ONE UP.
Hole 6 Par 3
Tailwind now. From 195 I hit an 8-iron to the front of the green, middle pin though. My opponent is in the middle of the green where he 2 putts. I hit my first putt way too hard and three-putt. MATCH SQUARE.
Hole 7 Par 4
Still a tailwind. At this point I’m liking teeing off on 400 yard par-4’s with a 7-iron so I do it again but pull it into some rough. Opponent is in the fairway. I hit a shot way to solid and go off the back up onto a hill. My opponent is on the fringe and gets up and down for par. I can’t get my downhill chip close and make bogey. I’M ONE DOWN.
Hole 8 Par 3
Back into the wind now I play my 210 club from 168. It’s a perfectly penetrating 5-iron which finds the middle of the green. My opponent came off his a bit and pushed it into the right greenside bunker. He couldn’t get up and down for par and I two putt to win the hole. ALL SQUARE.
Hole 9 Par 4
Still into the wind I pull a solid driver into the left rough but I’m only 100 out. My opponent hits the green and has major spin, taking him off the green. I do the same damn thing. He gets up and down and I don’t. I’M ONE DOWN AFTER NINE.
Hole 10 Tough Par 4
Dead into a major wind my opponent cranks his shot through the fairway into the left hazard. I hit a British Open 4-iron punch and hit fairway. He makes a good bogey and I lip out for birdie. My par wins the hole. ALL SQUARE
Hole 11 Par 4
Still into the wind but on an easy and short par four. We both hit the green in regulation and make par. ALL SQUARE
Hole 12 Par 3
This is one hole which goes West to East so the 500mph wind is going right to left. I hit an 8-iron from 168 and FLY it over the green into the back trap. My opponent misses left and gets his chip to about six inches. I concede the par. I putt out of the sand trap because it’s just too easy and flat. I come up about 10 feet short though and I have a downhill par putt to tie. I push the putt and start walking with my head down in disgust. I look up and catch my ball ramming into the back of the cup for a par! ALL SQUARE.
Hole 13 Par 5
Now we’re into the wind but this is still a short par five. I pull my drive into U.S. Open rough. I hack it out about 120 yards down into more U.S. Open rough. My opponent hits the green in reg and I make bogey on a damn par five. I’M ONE DOWN.
Hole 14 Par 4
Tail wind on a 380 yard par four. I hit a hybrid and land it in the middle of the green. The ball bounces up the big tier and ends up in the rough over the green. My opponent pushes his hybrid which hits the cart path above the green and kicks his ball toward the green. If he didn’t hit that cart path he’d have a lost ball or at least an unplayable lie. Instead he’s got a tough downhill chip over a huge tier in the green. He goes over the tier and over the green on his 2nd shot. I make a delicate chip which creeps to the top of the tier and goes down to about three feet. He chips up and makes par. I make the three foot birdie putt to win the hole. ALL SQUARE.
Hole 15 Par 4
#1 handicap hole, 438 yards but uphill and dead into a 547mph wind. The pain pill is wearing off and my back is getting stiff. I crank a drive to the 200 yard marker. My opponent pulls his drive left. I can’t really see where it ends up. He hits a provisional ball because there are some new white stakes left of this hole. When we find his ball we see one white stake. We start walking North and find another white stake laying down. His ball is one foot out of bounds.
I hit a 17 degree hybrid from 200 out and end up pin high but left of the green with a tough chip. My opponent hit his 4th shot (provisional ball) from the fairway to about eight feet. He can make bogey with a one putt and I have a tough chip coming up. I make bogey but he doesn’t make his bogey putt. I win the hole with a bogey! I’M ONE UP.
Hole 16 Par 4
Tail wind. This is a short hole and I tee off with an 8-iron which ends up one foot from the 100 yard marker. My opponent is about 110 in the fairway. His lob wedge flies over the green but somehow spins out of the rough and to about six feet from the back pin. I lay off my lob wedge which hits the front of the green and nearly spins off with a tail wind. I’m in a bad position, wrong tier, quick green. I almost make the birdie but send it a good 10 feet by. He makes par and I 3-putt for bogey to lose the hole. ALL SQUARE.
Hole 17 Par 4 CRUNCH TIME
Tail wind, elevated tee on this 375 yard par four. He hits a hybrid to about 100 out in the fairway. I hit five iron to the right rough, 100 out. Yes I hit a 275 yard five iron (don’t forget the 472mph tail wind). My opponent hits the middle of the green. It’s a front pin and if you want to get it close you have to hit in the rough short of the green and bounce it up. My lob wedge came out fluffy and ended about 15 yards short of the green in deep rough.
I’m in deep trouble here now. The match is all square, my opponent is putting for birdie and I’ve got five feet of green to work with from 15 yards out in deep rough. I lay open my new Vokey Spin Milled 60 and take a swing. It comes out perfect and soft. It lands on the fringe and slowly rolls to about two feet right of the pin. Had I not forgotten to aim I might have made the damn shot.
My opponent then proceeds to leave his birdie putt (to put me dormie) five inches short and in the jaws. I make the two footer to tie. What a major tie. The great thing I happened to notice at that time was that I wasn’t nervous at all. For one of the first times ever in a high pressure situation on the course, my heart rate and breathing were normal. This is good. ALL SQUARE GOING INTO THE FINAL HOLE
Hole 18 Par 3
181 yards and the wind is left to right now. My opponent’s shot gets gobbled up by the wind and he ends up on the front of this two tiered green. He’s in line with the pin but about 40 feet short. The pin is on the left side of the green and on top of the tier. My tee shot looks better than his but then gets gobbled by the wind and pushed to the lower tier and right. I’m about 30 feet right of the pin, putting sideways across a tier.
My opponent putts first and his ball barely makes the top of the tier. He’s 5-6 feet short. This is my chance. If I can read this putt right and get it in for par, I can guarantee a playoff. If my opponent gets too nervous and doesn’t make the par putt it could be the match.
I line the putt up. It’s going to travel on the lower tier about 2/3 of the way. Then it will hit the tier which will throw it left as it goes up. I hit the putt on the exact line and speed I picked. The putt goes up the tier turns left and pours right into the hole for birdie! I WIN THE MATCH WITH HANDS DOWN THE BEST PUTT I’VE HIT IN AT LEAST A YEAR. Under that pressure and in that situation I hit the perfect putt.
At that moment my opponent’s posture sunk and he said “congratulations.” I move on and my dejected opponent goes home.
Within about five minutes of finishing the match my poor back seized up. I can hardly bend at the waist right now. I’m icing it.
I’m very happy about winning the match. I’m also thrilled to find that I was totally calm during the whole match. One thing I’ve fought in tournaments and matches is that on course anxiety which can start to produce bad shots. That feeling is turning into a distant memory.