I have yet to break par on my home course for 18-holes, and that goal is once again on my list as I start the 2009 season. I wasn't really expecting to have a low round this early in the season, so the idea of breaking par on Monday sort of took me by surprise.
I was playing with one of my favorite golf buddies and every round we play is a competition. I sort of go into match play mode and often forget about how I'm even scoring. The rule of thumb for me is that I need a lead at the turn to have a chance - the back is my worst side, and for most guys I play with the back is their easier nine.
I've been working hard on trying to hit down on the ball (with mixed success) and a nice divot led to a 10 footer for birdie - a good pep talk with the Craz-E and my Titleist led to a birdie and an even par 36. I was also 3 shots up on my friend...phew!
Heading to the back I knew I had to just give myself chances at pars. The par-4's are longer and with only 1 par-5 on the back side, I can often count on a couple of bogeys on my card.
We headed up the 10th and the wind was behind us - just what I needed! I was able to hit an iron instead of my usual hybrid into the green but wasn't quite able to get it back to the pin. My friend hit a great wedge and was about 10 feet straight up the hill compared to my 25ft side hill. As I was taking my practice stroke I was remembering that my putt would break just slightly and I could actually see the line I wanted to hit - now it was just making myself hit the putt hard enough to get to the hole...and I did! My first birdie of the year on 10. A missed putt by my friend and I'm up 5...we both commented that this was not how we saw the hole playing out - that was also the beginning of a bad putting round for my friend...which was totally unusual (he is the putter I want to be!).
Off to the 11th - still downwind and I have to keep the driver in the bag - my newly shafted 3-wood and I have been struggling, but it was the right club to use. I didn't quite get to the bottom of the hill, but was still able to hit an iron to a front pin. With a sand trap right in front, I took one extra club and found myself safely on the back of the green. A too-aggressive birdie try led to a 3-putt and just like that I was back to even.
Good pars (thanks to my putter) on 12 & 13 brought me to the par-5 still even. I got off a good drive into the wind and took out a trusty hybrid to get me to about 80-100 out. I have been cutting these this year so I aimed a hair left, and wouldn't you know that I hit it straight?! A bad kick off a hill and I find myself in some thick dead grass on the tree line about 75 yards out. I contemplate for a bit and the pull out the 10-iron and hit a punch...another bad bounce right in front of the green leaves me short and I'm on some winter kill grass. I should have known the green was hard, and my bump and run ended up about 15 feet past the hole. I say out loud that I do not want to bogey my easiest hole on this side and then promptly drain my par putt. PHEW!
The 15th is another long par-4. I probably hit this green in regulation 1 in 10 times...even with a good drive I often get the yanks and end up on the left side of the green...I don't know why. A good drive got me 175 out and I decide to go with my Callaway 5-wood. I wasn't sure if I could get it there, but I decide just short isn't bad - and it's better than a bad shot with my 3-wood. I hit it on the screws, going just left of the green...it gets a great bounce and I find myself just past pin high uphill about 15 ft. The green was a bit bumpy with some winter kill, but I could see a good line...best stroke of the day and it dies in the hole. I even do a little Tiger fist-pump! I realize I'm now 1-under with 3 to play and my brain goes into overdrive. Just 3 more pars I tell myself. Just 3 more pars.
The par-3 16th is now playing into a decent wind and I club up to a hybrid - I hit it good but the wind knocked it down and it lands on the front of the green with a back pin. I say to my ball, if you don't go in, just get close enough for a tap in. It's an uphill 40ft. putt and I'm more concerned about the speed than the line...and darn it if I didn't almost make it! The tap in made me feel good. At this point my friend asks me if I am 1-under and I say yes - he knows I haven't broken par yet and he tells me he's rooting for me now (I've secured our match)...it's a good feeling.
I've had more than my share of good rounds go bad on the 17th hole - water on the left, and trees that can block a shot if you avoid the water but are still on the left side. Too far right, and you're playing your approach shot over a greenside trap or you find yourself in a fairway bunker. My driver has been good all day so even though a 3-wood would be a smart play I hit the Big Bertha and give myself about 95 yards to a front pin. I'm right in between clubs and once again realize that short is better than long - I hit a wedge and got a great bounce...pin high about 8ft. I know this putt. Left edge, firm. I've been putting pretty good all day and I just have to trust my line. I hit the putt and I think it's good, but it hit the right side of the cup and it lips out. It was pretty clear that I had opened my face just a hair and it probably never had a chance.
I'm a bit deflated but know that I still have a chance to make a par on 18. We're dead into the wind and this is another challenging drive - pond on the left, really wet fairway that will get no roll down the middle, and right means I might not be able to get to the green. If I challenge the left side I could get some decent roll, but it could also mean splash city. I opt for down the middle (and thankfully it goes there) and end up about 140 out, playing about 150. The green is hard, middle pin...with a right greenside bunker that runs right into a pond. I pull out my hybrid...I aim for the center of the green because I figure the wind will keep it straight if my slight cut shows up. Short is not terrible here. The wind worried me just a little and for some reason I felt like I needed to swing harder - and I did...and as I looked up I could see my ball going right - the wind didn't knock it down and it was hard to tell where it was. As I approach the green I see my fate - I'm 1 foot from the water in the bunker. It's wet compacted sand and all I was thinking was, I don't know how to hit this shot!! My friend gave me some advice, to hit down and about 2 inches behind the ball, but I had no confidence. I hit it about 4 inches behind and it went about 15 feet, still in the sand. I got out on my second attempt, but was still about 10ft away - a missed putt was a double and a 73.
I've been thinking about that round for 3 days now - I know I should be excited about a great round, but all I can think about is "what could have been"... and the funny thing is, being the over thinker that I am, I would have expected me to pull the 2nd shot on 18 left, or chunk it short, or even hit it thin and go long - the bunker was not an option for me but I didn't play against it, which may just be a small miracle. I didn't take the easy way out, I committed to a good shot, but at the last minute let some second guessing in my head - the course got me ...but I've got a feeling I may get the best of my home course yet this year!
Filed under: sand trap, confidence, goals, home course