Yesterday (Sunday) I had my now weekly grudge match. The Sunday game is a foursome which includes the director of golf at my home course, me and two brothers. The two brothers are very entertaining. One of the two is a senior player, but possibly the most consistent player and best putter I’ve ever played against. This guy is deadly, though he’s 30 yards shorter than me. Not all about length.
We took our grudge match to a cool course next to Utah Lake called Talon’s Cove. Talon’s Cove can play very tough if you don’t hit the tee ball straight. There are links style rolling hills everywhere, but the rough is FAR deeper than that of Scotland. Miss a fairway and you’ll be lucky to even find your ball. If you do, you are looking at bogey or worse.
After starting with a bogey on the first hole I plugged along to hole #6, where I hit a poor tee shot. I ended up in the greenside bunker, short left of this par-3 green. The sand was as hard as Interstate 15. I hit my bunker shot to about 30 feet. I showed the guys how hard the sand was by pounding the back of my wedge into the ground. Right when I did that, something very bad happened. I knew it the second I felt it. I pinched a nerve in my lower spine which sent an electric shock to my lower back. I then felt the tingling of the muscle tissue around the nerve, which was beginning to spasm. I knew what I was in for. Soon I’d need help putting my own socks on. My back was toast.
I turned to my buddies and told them, “I have a problem.” They inquired. I told them my back just went out. I tried to bend over and putt, but I couldn’t even do that.
The next set of problems arose. I drove myself and my pal the director of golf, and we are about a 45 minute drive out in the middle of nowhere. I opted to ride in the cart until the group rounded the turn. Then I’d drive home and the two brothers would take the 3rd player home.
I tried to walk around and stay loose. By the 10th tee I actually felt like I could swing a club. I’ve been working out and the last couple of smaller back tweaks had healed much quicker as a result. I decided to give it a shot, so to speak. My tee shot on the par-5 9th was fantastic. I hit a high draw which easily flew over the left fairway bunkers, cutting the corner and shortening the hole. I looked and my buddies and they looked at me with the same surprised look. When I got to my ball, I was about 215 yards from the green. I pulled out my 5-iron and hit it just as pure as the drive. It sailed right at the green, hitting the front fringe and bounding some 40 feet long. I’d just hit my 5-iron about 230 yards, with a tweaked back. I two putted for birdie, which put me at +1 on the round if I were to count #6 as a bogey and the two holes I skipped as pars.
On the 10th hole, a long par-4, we had a tail wind. I pulled out my 3-wood and hit the most pure shot I’ve ever hit with that new club. It was almost as high as a Rory McIlory shot and ended up in the middle of the fairway about an 8-iron to the green. I hit that 8-iron pure and the ball finished about 8 feet from the pin, though in a very tough placement as the pin was on the back slope. I two putted and made par with ease on a hole I rarely par.
The rest of the back nine was like a fantasy. EVERY shot I hit was dead center in the club face. Some shots were so pure that they went too far. But my short game and putting were just as good and I didn’t make a single bogey. In fact I reached another par-5 in two with a NINE IRON. I was cleaning up on skins, dots and crushing my opponents, all with a tweaked back.
By the time we got to the 18th, my partner (the oldest of the two brothers) and I were laughing. Our opponents were down big and they pressed the works. With a strong wind in my face I hit driver with a perfectly penetrating ball flight, slight draw. I’d hit it miles past the other players, who were hitting hybrids into the green. I was once again, an 8-iron out. The approach was uphill and into a very strong wind. As I set up and looked down at my club face and the ball something happened. Everything looked absolutely perfect. The blade was perfectly square. The width of my stance was exact. The ball position was perfect. I was aligned perfect. I can’t remember more confidently standing over a shot and KNOWING I was going to knock it stiff, despite the difficulty of the shot and the high winds.
I didn’t think of any mechanics. I pulled the trigger on the 8-iron. It never left the pin. The ball hit about three feet short and finished two feet left of the hole. My partner looked at me and laughed with joy. While my opponents were struggling to get their 3rd shots even close to my 2nd, I realized I’d played 10 holes in a row where I NEVER missed a shot. Not even by a millimeter. All the while I was in back spasms and could hardly bend over. Since I threw my back out I’d gone -3 on a very tough track in winds which were easily 2-3 clubs. I figured I’d count #6 as a bogey. If I count the two holes I sat out as pars, the round would be a 70.
Of course, the final birdie putt went straight in the center of the hole. I collected the largest take in “dots” in the history of the Sunday game.
By Sunday evening my back was so stiff and painful I couldn’t even reach down to untie my own shoes.
I’m now some 36 hours or so after the injury and I’ve been in a lot of pain. A few hours ago I received a deep tissue massage. I’m ahead of where I usually am on the road to recovery and I’m sure I owe that to working out and losing some weight.
I’m not sure if I can make my men’s club tournament tomorrow and I may miss the Wednesday game. But when I come back I really need to tap into what was going on with my swing, both physically and mentally. I CAN do it, even in duress.
THE PLAYERS Championship Week