I learned long ago that no one wants to listen to a golfer recap a round shot by shot. I’ve been known to stop people (not my students) who start in with the commentary and say, “hold on, should I grab a cart?” However, since this is my website and part of the reason you subscribe is to see what’s on my mind when it comes to just about anything regarding the game I will give you a detailed account of my second two rounds (you can read about the 1st round in my previous blog).
My playing career has been on a downward trajectory since about 2009. My back got worse after I turned 50 in 2007 and my results suffered. I considered further fusion surgery in 2011, but decided against it and waited until late 2014 to have the two discs above my already in place two level fusion worked on. It took about 8 months to get back to full strength and I continued to feel better incrementally with constant workouts and therapy until last November when my right elbow blew up and needed surgery to correct tendinitis and ulnar nerve entrapment. That cost me another 4 months on the shelf, and since April I’ve been able to practice and play more than in the recent past. My results this year have been somewhat encouraging, but I have been subject to finishing poorly in my multiple round tournaments. In the Maryland State Open I shot even the 1st day and was 1 over for the day going to the 12th tee, needing to play the last 7 in 2 over to make the 36 -hole cut. I played them in 7 over, which turned out to be good news for my caddy, who was able to pick up a bag in the Senior Players Championship, one that turned out to be tournament winner Scott McCarron (if he got 10% of the win he made $45,000 instead of the $300 extra he would have made had I made the cut). In the National PNC (this was the last year of my exemption for winning in 2001 since I just turned 60) I needed to play the last 3 holes in even par to make the cut but finished bogey, double bogey, bogey to miss. I did manage to shoot even on the final 9 at our section senior championship to grab a spot in this week’s Senior PNC.
My one-under 71 in the first round was my first round below par in forever, and when I turned in one-under in the 2nd round on the brutally hard Geronimo course (the first round and the final two rounds are played on the Cochise course, a bit shorter and less penal) I was 2-under for the tourney and in the top 15 on the leaderboard. On the 10th hole, a 580-yard par 5, I hit a great drive and scorched a 3 wood that went all the way into the greenside bunker on the correct side of the hole. I thought I hit a good sand shot but there was little or no sand under my ball and the club bounced, the ball skidding over the green and into the left bunker, now on the wrong side of the hole, from where I would make a bogey. It was an unexpected momentum changer, and when I 3-putted from 70 feet on 11 my brain was like “un-oh, here we go again”. Now I was in survival mode, battling negative thoughts of screwing up another event. My goal coming into the week was to make the 36-hole cut (there would be another cut after 54, but that was not my concern at this point), and it looked like 4 or 5 over would be the number. I made a couple of pars and then a bogey on 14, and standing on the 16th tee I was 2 over for the day and 1 over for the tournament and in good shape. I hit the wrong club on the par 3 and knocked it over the green, then hit a nice pitch to about 12 feet, from where I proceeded to 3-putt for double. I’m thinking that this round can’t end soon enough, and after a good drive on the short par 4 17th I had a 58-degree wedge to the hole. I didn’t quite get down to it at impact and semi-bladed it, but luckily there was mounding over the green and the ball stayed on about 70 feet downhill over a ridge. I made a good first putt and knocked in a 3-footer for par, then hit a good drive on the par 5 18th. I went for the green with my 3 -wood but tugged it left into the greenside bunker about 40 yards from the pin, then proceeded to leave the ball in the bunker. My next bunker shot ended up about 8 feet above the pin, and the downhill putt sat on the left edge of the hole then dropped in to complete a 5 over par back 9 and a 76 for the day, good enough to make the 36-hole cut by 2 shots. I don’t need to explain the relief I felt in having enough of a cushion for the poor back 9 not to ruin the week. It just seems that once I get a bit tired and things start to go in the wrong direction I have had a hard time righting the ship and getting back to a positive frame of mind. Whatever the case, I had made the cut and now could relax and play the 3rd round with a clear head.
My back had been pretty fired up all week but it hadn’t really affected my swing any more than usual, and my warm up felt mostly normal, although found myself aiming well right of where I thought I was and worked on my alignment a bit. I hit a nice drive and what I thought was a good wedge to the 1st but the ball rolled over the green into the gnarly rough and when I pitched short and missed from 15 feet I was 1 over. On the second my 7 -iron off the tee wound up short, and when my hybrid chip was 5 feet short and I missed that now I was 2 over, a poor start to the day. The 3rd is a strong par 4, and when my drive kick to the right I was left with 180 yards that I had to negotiate with a low cut. I miss-hit the shot into the desert wash to the right, and my 3rd was bladed over the green from where it took 3 to get down, a double that left me suddenly 4 over after 3. The 4th is a layup par 5, and after a nice drive my hybrid layup bounced left into a fairway bunker 70 yards from the pin, a bad miss. I had been getting poor results on my fairway bunker shots all week (hitting mostly fat), and this was no exception as I chunked it into the desert wash in front of the green, where it plugged. The next one went well over the green, and when I failed to get it up and down it was a double and now I was 6 over. Another bogey on the 5th and the train was off the rails. There is not much you can do when everything goes wrong, so you just keep teeing it up and hitting the ball, hoping that your form will return and things will turn around. I parred the 6th (finally), then birdied 7 and 8. Standing on the 9th tee I was back to 5 over for the day and my only thought was to keep plugging and see how many shots I could make up the rest of the day. That’s when the weirdest thing happened: at the top of my swing I heard a crunch, and the next thing I knew the ball was taking off directly to the left, actually hitting my cart that was parked just to the left of the tee. My shaft had snapped at the grip end, and by the time the clubhead got to the ball it caught it on the heel and barely made contact. The official came and the ruling was that I had made a stroke, the ball hit my cart which means a stroke penalty, and the ball was in play in the desert by the tee. From there I made an 8, my comeback quashed and my mindset on finishing the round without hurting myself. I made 3 more bogeys and a double coming in, shooting 87 and finishing last among the players who made the cut. But the key was that I had made the cut, and when a bad day happens it just happens and you have to move on. I have a very good idea of what I need to work on going forward, which is what playing is all about. One good note is that when I was forced to tee off with a 3 wood on the last 9 holes I started killing it, driving it next to or past both my playing partners. I’m not sure what that means, but I will get a new driver with the same shaft as my 3 wood and make it a bit shorter (44 ½”) to see if I can get the same sort of feel with it.