Saturday, 4 May 2013

When Good Times Go Bad

Following on from the club match against Maidenhead last weekend, I hit the practice ground at Royal Ascot on Monday night. I felt the driving had been excellent and the lynch pin to the way my partner Pat Quaid and I were able to sneak a one up win having been two down at one stage but my iron play had let me down and perhaps made the victory harder than it should have been.

The session was as bleak as it has been in a long long time. I couldn't get club on ball and there was an appearance of the one word any golfer fears, the shank. It felt as though everything moved as the club went back and through. Fortunately, my teaching professional Rhys ap Iolo from the Downshire Golf Centre was able to give me a drill to try and get the train back on the tracks. I hit Blue Mountain Driving Range on Tuesday and for a while it was much better. There were still socket rockets in there but I felt a little more in control although everything was still moving. Thursday night and another session and it was much of the same. Fortunately I had managed to persuade Rhys to book me in for a lesson on Friday and get this sorted.

I got a bit of a verbal kick up the backside from Rhys who was disappointed I hadn't kicked on from the work we put in over the Winter. I pointed out that the driver was behaving and that the short game like the buds on the trees was starting to bloom but he wasn't having it. I've said on here many times that it is bubbling away and tantalisingly close and I stand by that. I'm happy that Rhys feels comfy being frank and honest and if he feels I'm not performing that he says so and we can rectify the problems. I thrive on proving people wrong and have been doing so since my single figure days as an assistant pro at Wimbledon Common in the early 1980's.

I had stuck the swing on camera on Tuesday and it was noticeable that the posture had become slouched and I had already begun to adjust it on Thursday night which may explain how the ball striking had felt a little better even if the swing was still errant. As soon as I started hitting balls and Rhys captured it on film it was clear posture was key. The solution felt radical as these things tend to do. I had to take my normal address and then feel as though my head and chest were being pulled up (without lifting using the arms) and stand tall and feel as though the heel of the club was almost off the ground. Think Bubba Watson at address.

I need to feel as though I'm much taller at address
The other part of the fix and perhaps the crucial aspect was to feel as though I was hitting a fade on every shot. I need to do this to get the club working in front of me better and not getting trapped inside which was causing all sorts of flippy, unwelcome actions with the hands and body. It wasn't the greatest session I've ever had and with the monthly stableford today Rhys was keen I didn't get too worried about how it reacted. In his words "it could all come together or you could have a horror but treat it like a medal and don't give up on a hole just because it's a stableford"

So to the stableford. Let's start with the basics. I scored 26 points, 15 going out and 11 coming home. That however doesn't tell the real story. I hit the ball much, much better especially my irons so happy days are here again. It didn't start well with a double bogey on the first. I lost a ball out of bounds off the tee on the second although the shot was well executed and it was perhaps five-ten yards too far right. I made a good par with the second ball.

My putting was pretty good on the front nine and on another day could have had a couple of par saves and a birdie or two. I made a poor club selection at the fourth to drop a shot, lipped out for birdie on five and made a good up and down for par on the sixth. I dropped shots on the last three holes of the back nine but the ninth in particular was into the teeth of the wind and even though I hit a good drive and fairway wood I was still twenty yards short and couldn't scramble.

A good par on the tenth was followed by a shocking triple bogey at the par three eleventh and was a badly played hole from start to finish. It happens but what came next was a real kick in the teeth. For those that don't know the 12th hole it is a 409 yard dog leg left to right and the tee shot needs to be left of a line of trees that flank the right side. The big hitters can take these on and get closer to the green for their approach

The ideal line is on or left of that bushy tree to the right of the picture
I hit the tee shot perfectly and both my partner and I were confident it had missed the tree and would be nestling on the fairway. When we got there it was nowhere to be seen. It wasn't in the trees and hadn't made the carry, wasn't through the fairway on the other side. I could have gone back to the tee but to be honest the card had gone and I was seething.

I buckled down and made a great up and down at the next but then threw in a nasty double with a three putt. After that it was the bogey train home but aside from a poorly struck eight iron at the last the shots were only marginally off line. It is such a tightrope between it coming together and shooting a low score and coming in with a score like the one today which would suggest a total nightmare.

On the downside, the 0.1 coming my way takes me back to 10.5 and therefore off 11. However the game still feels close and tomorrow is the Jubilee Cup which is a better ball stableford pairs event. My partner Mike Stannard tore it up today shooting 41 points so is clearly a man in form. If my game can come through tomorrow and he can pull me along we could be on for a good round. I've won this event (with a different partner) and it takes both players to be on form to really get the under par score required. I know it is in there and Rhys is probably right to be frustrated but what can you do? I'm working hard on my game, grinding my rocks off when I play and to be honest don't feel I'm getting the rewards for the work I'm doing. Not a whinge but a heartfelt assessment. It is in there and I just need to crack the combination.

At least I feel Rhys has got me back on track and the bad times I've had this week are a memory. I guess it goes to show how important the fundamentals are and how easy they are to neglect. Address is something I need to focus on more. With the swing changes we've made it needs to be right to let me get the club out in front at impact and compress the ball properly. As someone once said"tomorrow is another day" and hopefully it will be the one where I find the spark and it comes flooding out in a barrage of pars and birdies. If not and good times go bad, I'll keep grinding, keep believing and keep pushing Homer's odyssey towards single figures.

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