My tee time today was 1pm. I liked that time because it gave me half a day to sleep in and drink coffee in the morning. These days with my non rock & roll body clock sleeping in meant about 7:30am though. I got to mill around, clean my clubs, mark my balls (so to speak), and eat lunch. I took off for the course about 11:30 and got there at noon.
I putted on the practice green and hit about 10-15 balls on the range, enough to get the feel. I’ve already beat up my golfer’s elbow this week bad enough and if my swing wasn’t ready by today I’d have to dance with what I brought to the prom.
I ended up paired with a guy I played with last year along with another I’d never met and of course my pal Jim.
I was not as nervous as usual. No butterflies in my stomach and not hyperventillating on the tee. I hit a nice draw down the fairway. I’m in the short grass on my first shot. Then I felt like I’d just had 15 shots of espresso and I had to calm myself down. I debated 4 or 5 iron for a while in the fairway on this par-5 and decided that long was dead. I hit a 5-iron to the front of the green and two putted for a birdie! Great start, but there are 35 more holes to play.
Hole 2 is a short par-4. Usually I have a sand wedge to the green. This time though, I nervously hooked my drive toward a water tank which lay OB. I hit the OB fence. Didn’t know if I was in play, so I hit a provisional. My original shot stayed in play and I had to chip back to the fairway where I hit a 6-iron to about 20 feet. I two putted for a bogey and turned a double or worse into a bogey. Damn. Damage control on the 2nd hole. I didn’t panic like I might have in years past though.
Hole three is a tough par-4. It is crucial to get on the right part of this green or it is a putting nightmare. Did I mention that these greens are slicker than Anna Rawson’s legs after a fresh shave? That is mega-slick.
With the memory of the previous hooked drive, I then proceed to push the next one into trees. Brilliant. I have my first chance to make a stupid decision. I’m in deep rough as they let it grow thick for this event. I have an opening about five feet wide where if I hit the perfect shot I can go left of one tree, right of another and underneath the hanging branches of a third. It would be a hero shot. Well before this tournament I told myself I wasn’t going to hit hero shots. I safely chipped to the fairway.
From there I get on and two putt for a bogey. Again, damage control.
The par-4′s keep coming and they keep getting tougher. I hit a decent drive in the fairway and have a 175 yard shot to the green. I pick a 7-iron because once again, long is dead. I hit the front left of the green, 2-putt and move on. My first par.
Hole five is a bugger of a par-5. It looks easy on the card, but there are many places you can screw up. The green has a giant tier and you never want to be on the wrong side of it.
I hit the left rough and I’m 260 out with a buried lie, a tree in front of me and a severe upslope. This is NOT the time to hit a hero shot so I pull a 7-iron. I hit it more solid than I realized because it ended up about 45 yards from the green after catching a downslope.
I’d practiced 40 yard shots yesterday but this didn’t feel right with the lob wedge. Too tight of a lie and too many bad things can happen if I miss it. I trapped a sand wedge and ran it up to the green where the pin was on the front tier. My shot rolled forever and trickled to the tier. I thought I hit a good shot, but then my ball disappeared. I’d gone down to the bottom tier. Didn’t I say not to do that? Dammit.
I manage a great two putt of about 40 feet up the tier and leave with another par, at +1.
This is a 180 yard par-3 with wind in our face. I chunked a 6-iron and went OVER the damn green? My six is my 180-190 club and it just went 200+ into the wind? WTF?
At green level I realized the wind is going the other direction.
I now have about a 60 foot chip from the back fringe. I chip it about 50 feet. My friend Al is now in the gallery up on the hillside. Well, actually he was the only person in the gallery. Good times for me because Al saw me make a great 10 foot par saving putt.
Short par-4 and I hit a light driver down the fairway. I hit a gap wedge on a good line but it gets a horrific kick left. It landed right of the green but rolled all the way across the green and learly OB to the road next to the hole. Bad break to say the least. I then hit a terrible chip and just gag the ball onto the green. Al saw that too. Fortunately my putter saved the day again and I drained about a 15 foot par save. At this point all putts feel like they’re going to drop.
Short par-4 with an elevated green which is a bugger to hit. I push my drive right. My driver is normally very accurate, but I’m so nervous that my driver swing is very shaky. From 140 out I hit a 9-iron from the rough and absolutely nail it. In fact, I hit it too well. My ball ends up on the back of the green with a front pin and a big tier between. This is a guaranteed three-putt and I do just that. A shot which I hit too well costs me one stroke.
Nine is one of the toughest par-3′s in the state. It is only 195 yards, but the tier in this one is so severe it is bogey or worse if you miss the green or hit the wrong tier. It is brutal. This hole I shot a triple bogey and double bogey in the two days of this tournament last year. This hole by itself knocked me out of prize money.
This time I tried to play it smart. The yardage was a 5-iron, but I pulled a 6. I figured even short of the green is better than putting down the tier from the top to the bottom pin placement. My 6 faded though and I ended up in six inch deep rough. I hacked it up the tier past the pin and it rolled back down to about eight feet right of the pin. It almost rolled off the right side.
I have a hard breaking right to left putt over a saddle. DRAINO. Par. My putter is absofreakinlutely on fire. I just bettered this hole by three shots over last year. The other guys in my group missed the green and like I said, all made bogey.
I turned in +2, not too bad. I turned at even last year after a TRIPLE on #9. Yes I was -3 after eight holes then. But I’m feeling good about much of my game, especially putting.
From the left rough I hack a 6-iron to about 10 yards short of this uphill par-4. This is one of the most severely sloped greens on the course and being below the pin is everyting, even if that means missing the green and chipping. That’s just what I did. I hit a great chip, best of the day. The gallery, Al, watched my chip roll up to about two inches from the cup. No-brainer par. Whew.
This is the easiest hole on the course. A very short par-4. I usually tee off with a 5-iron. I horribly miss my shot and go in the right rough. The pattern today is that I just couldn’t hit decent shots from the tee.
I have no shot at the green now from 158. I tried to carve a 7-iron left-to-right but miss the green left. I putt from the 1st cut but don’t get it far enough. Two putts for bogey. I just bogeyed the easiest hole one the course. No panic though.
12 is a par-5. For this tournament only, they extend the tee boxes another 40-50 yards and make the hole much tougher. I finally hit a fairway with a solid drive, leaving me 230 out.
I’m analyzing my clubs and all I can conclude is that my 4-iron is the only club close to that yardage. My hybrid would go too long and I’m not carrying a 5-wood or a 3-iron. I visualized what I wanted to happen. I wanted to aim at the left side of the green and cut it back to the middle.
I proceed to hit a perfect 4-iron and cut it back from the left side of the green to the center, just like I envisioned. This doesn’t suck at all. I took the right green side bunker out of play by doing so too. My 4-iron not only reaches the green, but it is long right! 235 yard 4-iron! I ate my wheaties this morning I guess. I nearly make the eagle putt but settle for a five inch birdie putt. I’ve now got two 2-putt birdies on the card.
13 is a bugger. Very long par-4 and there’s this damn tree in the fairway that I love to go behind. I did it again today, but this time with a heavy headwind. The winds are picking up now to a 2-3 club level. This is unusual for this course.
I tried to carve my hybrid and that was a bad choice. I wouldn’t try that again. I hit that damn nemesis tree and went straight down. Now bogey is looking good because I’m 170 out in deep rough with a head wind. I pound a 6-iron to the back of the green, lip out my par and make a “solid” bogey if there is such a thing.
I’m leaking oil in my swings and my confidence. On 14 I do something which I haven’t done in so long I can’t even remember when I did it last. I drop-kicked a drive. Holy ship sinking batman. My drop kick puts me at 220 out in deep rough on this par-4. Terrific.
I hit a shot which could rival that 235 yard 4-iron. This time it is my 5-iron. I haven’t hit solid long irons since last year and surprisingly I did today. Welcome to the ever confusing and unpredictable game of golf. I actually REACH the green and make par. That hole had double bogey written all over it.
Very heavy winds now and there’s lighting in the distance. This is a 245 yard par-3. Normally this hole is 230, but for this special event the squeeze a few more yards out of it. The damn hole isn’t hard enough?
I hit my hybrid over the green. From there I putt off the fringe leaving a testy 8-footer for par, which of course I drain. Putting… if this tournament were putting only, I’d win the damn thing going away.
This is a par-5 which has not much trouble. It isn’t an easy green to reach in two when you have what is now a 3-4 club headwind and getting worse by the minute.
I hit a solid drive and a solid hybrid to 70 yards. I go full out on my lob wedge, a swing which would normally go 100 yards. I end up about 12 feet for birdie.
The birdie putt looks so good I almost started doing the Tiger walk. But with the severe speed of these greens it grazed the lip and shot by about 5-6 feet. I jumped in the air but my body English didn’t help. I wanted that birdie bad. One of the players in my group, Dave, said “nice jump.” My putt which looked like a birdie is now a par putt in “throwup range.” No problem. I drain it.
17 is a very short par-3. Probalby about 150 yards. Though it is downhill, the hill never seems to have a bearing on the distance the ball travels, which is odd. But that’s a different story today because that mega wind is now a tail wind. 17 is also the most subtle and difficult green to read.
I hit an easy wedge over the green and find my lie to be sitting down in a sort of bird’s nest looking situation. Though I had a short game lesson last week, there’s no shot for this. The ball came out way hot and went by the pin about 20 feet.
My 20 foot par putt was in all the way, until it didn’t go in. It hit the left lip and picked up speed. They’d put this hole in an absolutely brutal spot. Once you go past that hole where I did, it is downhill and fast. I’ve not got a five foot bogey putt. Not good. My putt is in all the way, until the worst lipout I’ve ever seen happens. My ball hits the lip and spins 360 degrees, plus about another 80 degrees and the ball flies out and comes back at me. The ball was in the hole for at least a second. The guys in my group all agreed this was the worst horseshoe lipout we’d all ever seen. Double bogey on a 150 yard hole.
I couldn’t stop shaking my head. My solid round of 75 just turned into a 77, if I parred 18, which I did. At least I stayed focused enough to make that par on 18 and not let 17 do more damage than it had already done.
I had many nervous tee shots. The butterflies were gone after the first hole or two, but my normally solid driver was a mystery on every hole. It was a bit of a nervous gag swing. I put myself into trouble with my tee shots and recovered well with irons and short game. But you can’t recover all the time and finally it bit me in the ass on 17.
My putting was SO good. I was rolling the ball so well. On the last hole, one of the guys I didn’t know told me, “I love watching your putting stroke. It is so pure. If I had that putting stroke with my game I’d be on the PGA Tour.” Wow, nice words from a scratch player.
I shot the lowest round in my foursome.
Normally I’d be down with a score of 77 (five over par) in this tournament. But the winds were howling and the greens severe. I checked the leaderboard when I turned in my score. The players who teed off before us got the best of the weather conditions. There were some low 70′s scores and one 71. NOBODY had shot in the 60′s. About 2/3 of the field was yet to post, but they were playing in the heavy wind. If anyone shoots in the 60′s it would be amazing. One player who could was a few groups behind me. His name is Tyson. He plays out of my home course and we play golf together all the time. He’s 20 and the #1 amateur in the state.
So I’m probalby in the middle of the pack right now. I can reach my goal of being in the money if I shoot a mid to low 70′s round tomorrow is my guess. That’s the goal. I feel in control of my nerves better than I’ve ever been, though they still affect me. During today’s round I thought of some of the stress and tough times I’ve had over the last year. I used that to calm my nerves by speaking one word to myself outloud just before hitting the shot, “perspective.”
UPDATE 5.31.09 8:00am: Checked in this morning. I’m teeing off early in my flight, which isn’t good. There were two rounds in the 60′s, a 67 and a 69. I’ll probably have to play a stellar round today to break into the prize money. That’s the plan.
UPDATE #2 5.31.09 10:00am: My buddy Jim just called to see when I tee off. I shot better than him by four shots, yet he is teeing off an hour after me. I suspect they’ve got something messed up because I thought the tee times were based on where you finished the day before. Earlier start times for worse scores. It doesn’t matter when I play. I have to play a great round no matter when I start.