Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Second Evaluation

Well it had to happen sooner or later. I needed another test. I’ve been going to the range every weekend and working on my game as best I can, but just like English Dave and the rest pointed out earlier: at this point, I need to be playing golf rather than practicing.

And today I did just that. The course is a Jim Fazio design, and although I’d like to act like I know the significance of that fact, I really have no idea how he’s different from other course designers. If you were to say Pete Dye, I’d probably expect that the greens would be a bitch. If you say Robert Trent Jones, I would say ridiculous undulations all over the freakin’ golf course, so be prepared to hit off of uneven lies. But Fazio? It’s funny, but when I used to caddie I worked at TWO different Fazio designs, and I still don’t really know his signature traits. Although, the courses were TOM Fazio, and today I was playing a JIM Fazio design. Oh well. It’s too confusing to continue this rant.

I arrived at the course at the crack of 10 am, and, seeing how the weather was 72 degrees and sunny, the course was mobbed. But, I was just a single, so I figured I still had a good chance to get out. I approached a fossilized old lady at the computer and asked when the hell I could tee off. She radioed over to the starter’s shack, and the guy verified that I could get out with a twosome at 10:30. He advised, however, that I would need to “move my ass” (over the radio, no less) in order to make it in time. Surprisingly, I didn’t really feel rushed until the old bag with eyes asked for my name. I told her “Tom,” and for the next 5 minutes she struggled to spell “Tomlinson.” I would’ve corrected her, but after her long journey at the keyboard I didn’t want her to have a heart attack and die in front of me. I had some freakin’ golf to play, and I wasn’t going to be late.

So I fetched my clubs, threw them on the back of a cart, and rushed over to the first tee. Then a familiar thought smacks me in the face: I haven’t stretched or hit any balls. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but during my last round I made the same mistake and spent the first 9 holes crawling out of the 7th layer of hell for a decent golf swing. Well, here goes nothing.

As I pulled up to the first tee, I looked at the card: “Championship Tees – 6,709 yards; Rating – 71.8.” Sweet. At least it’s better than that other course I’m used to playing…Ahem…3,300 yards for 18 holes from the BACK tees. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

When I looked up, I noticed that the older couple joining me was playing the forward tees, a good 50 yards ahead of where I was. I felt bad they had to kick their cart in reverse to greet me, but then again, it was probably in their best interest. I really had no idea where that first tee shot was going.

For some reason I was nervous, stepping up there in front of old-man-starter, the twosome I was paired up with and the foursome of young-guns waiting to tee off after me. I took a quick stretch, a practice swing, and tried to keep my balance. Surprisingly, the drive ended up alright. Maybe a little right of where I wanted it, but I wasn’t ready to play a draw yet and potentially over-cook the bastard into the trees on the left.

Wouldn’t you know it: I finished the first hole with a par. On in regulation and two boring putts.

The second hole was just stupid. I hit a fantastic drive up the left side and was sitting pretty with 160 to go. The pin was up towards the front of the green, and it didn’t even really look that far. I decided to try an 8-iron, working on a nice smooth swing just to keep warming up.

Oh, wait: did I say nice smooth swing? I meant a horrific shank-ass tension-laced-juicer that flew off of the hozel so hard I thought I had broken my left wrist. The ball went dead-right with a gorgeous fade, and flew over into the high weeds and brush out of bounds, never to be seen again.

I just laughed. It’s a shot I didn’t know I had in the bag, and honestly, I may need that shot someday. I dropped another ball and hit a fine shot, but I had ignored the stiff headwind and my ball ended up a little short of the green. And, with a mediocre chip and a crowd-pleasing two-putt, I carded a 7. I heart triple-bogeys.

But I have to say that getting a 7 on the 2nd hole really helped me focus. I ended up with pars on the next 6 holes. Not only that, but my short-game was spot on. A beautiful flop shot on 4 put me within gimme range. My putt on 8 from off of the green took the crazy right-to-left break perfectly and curled up to an inch from the cup. I even carried a 4-iron 210 yards and stuck it to 10 feet on the par-3 5th, which looked like a tunnel of evil trees from the tee. I’m serious—I didn’t even think there was a landing area.

On the 417 yard 9th, however, reality hit me again. I put my drive into a fairway bunker on the left, and, seeing how I’m only in a fairway bunker once every 6 months, I did the best I could, but couldn’t get it onto the green. Worse yet, I wasn’t able to get up and down from there. So I finished the front 9 with a 4-over 40, which in my opinion could’ve easily been 1-over. But, I know that repeatedly speaking in terms of “ifs” can drive you mad on the golf course, so I’ll shut up. But that 8-iron on 2 was just silly.

I snagged a free hotdog and a soda at the turn, and completely butchered my tee shot on 10. The landing area was rather small to begin with, and I think the food caused me to sway a little more than normal. I keep forgetting that I really should only have a banana or granola bar, because any overdose on food screws up my next few swings. But, I’m always hungry, and I never learn.

So I over-cooked my draw and ended up in the lateral hazard. And, after a flubbed pitch shot from 63 yards, I carded a 6. I always hate it when I try to get “cute” with a wedge and end up coming short. It’s those decelerations that really kill you.

But, just as before, the crappy 6 really helped me to focus. I played the next 6 holes even par, with a great faded iron on 15. My drive ended up 20-30 yards short of a group of trees, which were directly in my line. Problem was, they were tall enough to impede the flight of my pitching wedge. So I took a 7-iron and played a low fade, which I was able to get on the green.

On the par-5 17th, I had 213 yards left to the center of the green for my second shot. The green was elevated and there was a stiff wind in my face, and for some strange reason I decided it would be a good idea to play my 220 club. Not surprisingly, I came up about 20 yards short. But I was able to get up and down for the birdie.

The 18th at this course—a 418 yard par 4—is named “The Spoiler.” It wasn’t hard to see why: a tight landing area from the tee with water left, right, and long. For the second shot, you were faced with a narrow, elevated green with water on the right hand side. I was 5-over going into this hole, and I was most definitely thinking birdie. Unfortunately, the hole had other plans for me.

Without a doubt, I smacked the hell out of my tee shot. Straight down the middle, perfect placement in the fairway. When I approached my second shot, however, I once again ignored the wind in my face, and played an 8-iron from 160, when in retrospect I probably should’ve played a smooth 6. The wind caught it and carried it right, my ball rolling down a hill towards the water. Surprisingly, it was actually playable when I found it. The weeds had suspended the ball above the ground just short of the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of this good fortune and proceeded to get under it a little too much. I put the ball in the trap, then on the green, then another crowd-pleasing two-putt and another crappy 6.

So 79 was the verdict for today, which frustrates me because it could’ve easily been a 75 if I had actually warmed up or focused and realized what wind can do to a golf ball. But I’ll take it. It was a beautiful day, and it felt great to encounter different scenery rather than the same old view from the range.

But I suppose things are starting to come together. I just need to nail down a quick but efficient warm-up routine and stick with it. Well that, and work on my putting some more. I couldn’t seem to hit any of my intended lines today. At least working on putting is something that can be done from the comfort of my home.

Take care everyone.

3 comments:

English Dave said...

Tom!

Always good to hear from you, old pal. Sorry it's taken me a while to drop by, but I lost my job at the end of last week and my mind's been all over the place.

Sounds like a terrific course and a lovely day to play. It is still pretty cold over here, although all the snow has disappeared and it hasn't rained for over a week now.

I wouldn't worry too much about the one out of the Lucy Locket on 2 - shit happens occassionally and, as long as you aren't doing it regularly, it isn't a big deal. I saw Luke Donald hit a shank at the Buick the other week - didn't even get half-way to a 175 yard par 3 and finished up about 60 yards to the right. He did the same at Tiger's tournament at Sherwood, too and it doesn't seem to hurt him too much. Mind you, I did laugh like hell both times and I'm sure I would have laughed at you, too.

Sounds to me like if you just concentrate and think about yardages and what the wind is doing and what you are trying to do, you will be able to give Father Par a decent scare without too many problems. It's always worth taking 10 seconds to go through the process before stepping over the ball, I find.

I can't hit a deliberate low fade with a 7 iron like you described. I would have just whacked it as hard as I could with a wedge and hoped for the best. If in doubt, kick the tree over and then play the shot - that would have worked. Don't matter how big the tree is.

You'll get there, old pal. Sounds like you have a shitload more natural talent than me and I can get it round most tracks ... eventually. Do you want me to talk you through how I was 2 under gross after 10 holes at St Andrews? Thought not.

PS. Driving relatively straight and consistently is fucking brilliant. It don't half make the game easier and more enjoyable. Kiwi, if you're reading, I did see your other comment. It's the best, isn't it? God bless Anthony Kim.

Take care old pal. Speak to you soon.

David

Kiwi said...

My God I'm depressed. Tom finally gets his ass off the range and wannabe golf courses onto a real one. Chops it up on a couple of holes and finishes with a 79, and he's pissed.

Dammnit, maybe practicing does actually work, I was kind of hoping sitting the 19th for a couple of pints before heading out was working for me.

Tom sounds like a great round for a new course to you, playing with 2 guys you don't know. Now get your butt back out there and tell us all about it.

#English Dave, sorry to hear about the job loss mate, anything on the horizon for you, hope you can still get out on the links.

Tom Collins said...

Great to hear from you guys. Really sorry to hear about the job, Dave. I wish you the best of luck in the job search. I wish I had the money to hire you just to write comments on my posts. I love reading them.

And 2-under through 10 holes at St. Andrews? That's awesome. I would love to hear about that. Talk about memorable.

Kiwi, about the 19th hole...it's just about the greatest place on earth. If it weren't for the 19th hole, I might never close out the round with a birdie.