Today was the first round of the prestigious Stone Cup at Royal Ascot. It's a stableford event where you can elect which two days of the long weekend you want to play on and is one of the clubs honours board events. The weather was set fair, sunny but with a gusty wind. The course looked superbly laid out and there was nothing to do but go out and play well.
What followed was a story based on a familiar theme. I started off well finding the edge of the first green for a solid par. I followed it a nasty double bogey. My drive found the left rough and I could only move it forward a hundred yards or so and left 205 yards in. I hit a great five wood but it found the right hand trap. Not a problem. Splash out, two putt and get out with a bogey and move on. I hit the bunker shot too clean and it sailed over the green into thick rough. I got it out and two putted but the damage was done. I recovered with a fairway and green in regulation for par at the next and then followed it with another poor bogey.
I made a scruffy par at the 503 yard par five. Another pulled drive and a poor escape left well over two hundred yards. I hit the approach wide and right and faced a tricky chip over sand. I played it well and rolled in a cheeky eight footer for par. I missed the green at the next, a par three but as this hole is my real nemesis on the front nine no surprise there. Another fine pitch from the rough and another putt. I was making a score and hadn't hit a shot of note.
The seventh is a tricky 398 yard par four with a ditch running across at the 230 yard mark meaning a lay up is the only option to leave a longer approach in. I nailed a decent hybrid and was facing 198 yards from the fairway. Playing down wind I pulled the four iron and struck it well but it went right towards the next tee. When I got to my ball it was on a side hill lie, bare and with a bunker to negotiate and I was short sided. All in all it had everything going for it. I tried to be positive and put a good shot on it but I hit it fat although it avoided the sand. I played a good chip to five feet but couldn't make the putt and registered another ugly double bogey.
I came back with the first shot of the round I thought was properly hit. Playing 138 yards but into a breeze I elected to club up to a six iron and deposited it safely on the green for a simple par. A good drive at the ninth and I'm left with a simple five iron. I hit it well but tugged it left. A good chip but again I couldn't make a putt. Out in one over handicap or seventeen points. Having not swing the club well or hit it great I was chuffed at how I was scoring without playing.
I wanted to get out of the blocks quickly on the back nine. I get a shot on the tenth and so a par would give me a nett birdie and back on track. I found the fairway and hit a good six iron but it came up short. In truth I probably didn't get all of it. I had to settle for a nett par. The eleventh is a 178 yards and playing downwind. I hit a good four iron and it was coming back on the breeze but found the bunker right. A good splash shot, especially given the poor execution at that last visit to sand on the second, and a downhill ten footer for par. It hit the left edge but didn't drop.
After that I'm not entirely sure what happened. I fell apart. I lost any feeling in my swing and had no confidence over any shot from a simple tap in to the tee shot on a tight driving hole. I three putted the twelfth for a nasty double, missed the green at the next, the par three and then went into meltdown on the fourteenth. The drive found thick rough left. I moved it forward and then carved an iron way right. A pitch on and two putts. Another double bogey. I made a par at the fifteenth. I hit the drive on sixteen straight but it lacked any power. I hit a fat ugly five wood approach and pitched on. I putted to two foot but missed the putt. My short putting from between one and two feet has been abysmal. In truth my whole putting action feels shot and I'll be getting a lesson to let Rhys ap Iolo my teaching professional look at this in due course.
I came up short at the seventeenth. I felt it lacked power and to be honest I kind of just swung and hoped for the best. By this time my head felt all over the place almost as though I couldn't focus. I was still trying to grind a score and anywhere within a point of the buffer would have been a good return for a poor display. However, I hit my first duffed chip of the day and when I missed again from two foot I made another double and no points.
One hole left. I made an acceptable drive but again I was twenty yards behind my partner and it had no oomph. I finally nailed a shot and hit a great five wood into prime position. A closing par would gloss over a lot of what had gone before. I was left with 98 yards in, playing down wind. I couldn't convince myself to hit the 52 degree wedge and tried to grip down and play a three quarter shot with a pitching wedge. I hit it way too clean (thin) and it went to the back fringe. I rolled a good putt down to two feet but standing over the ball I had no conviction in my putting stroke. I'd almost conceded I was going to miss before the club met the ball. The outcome was no surprise.
All in all it was a nasty twenty nine points (seventeen out and twelve back). I really didn't feel I was in control of my game, especially on the back nine. In truth I feel I'm going backwards and that the swing changes from the last lesson aren't really gelling. Actually that may be unfair. I hit it well enough in my recent defeat in the club singles knockout and got it round to take the money in the roll up last week. I just don't have any confidence over the ball and really know where the club is on the way back. I feel I'm fanning it open on the takeaway and I'm a long way from the work I did over the winter on the back swing. The one thing that is killing me is my putting from short range. I just can't find a putt and I'm starting to get so focused on the stroke everything else is falling apart.
All in all the cautious optimism of recent weeks is beginning to ebb away. On the plus side I've a lesson with Rhys this Wednesday. He has been talking about winter changes already and I kind of want to almost write off this season and my pursuit of single figures and strip the swing down. I'll let Rhys see the swing in its gory majesty and let him guide me. We seem to have come away from the one plane methodology and while I've been happy with the progress and the results in terms of direction and reliability I can't help feeling I was happier with this type of swing.
I'm playing my second round tomorrow and not full of warm and fuzzy feelings. I'll turn up and you can be certain I'll be trying as hard as ever. Try to keep the mid quiet, not think about technique and just play and see what happens. After that I'll sit down with Rhys and see where we go. I promised Homer's Odyssey was never going to be a smooth passage and that we'd encounter choppy waters. I'm trying to keep positive and the short game is coming. Maybe I want to much too soon and the swing is still a work in progress. Maybe it was just a bad day on the course. What I do know that if you look at recent performances in competitive play, especially the last two medals, I'm not cutting it.
I'm not a happy golfer right now. I don't want to bash balls to try and work through it. I want to let Rhys guide me, get the swing back on plane (metaphorically and literally) and give me a drill or two to work on. I definitely don't feel on the course I'm getting to wrapped up in swing thoughts and ironically think my head has been as empty over the ball as I can remember it. Perhaps I'm worrying too much over a minor dip in form all golfers experience. Time to put today to bed. Tomorrow is another day.