It's been a strange few weeks. Not that much golf and when I've seemingly not produced I've had good results and in the rounds I've felt I've hit it well in, I've had nothing to show. That said, playing has been at a bit of a premium recently and so I'm happy just to be out and golfing. I have to say the course at Royal Ascot is standing up well to the heavy rain we've had over the last few weeks on and off. The new drainage works on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th are working well and these areas are much more resilient to the wet and standing up well. The greens are also putting wonderfully well considering the time of year. Congratulations to the green staff on the state of the course.
Regular followers will know that I've a new golf partner for the Winter knockout at Royal Ascot called Adam O'Neill playing of a very dangerous 14 handicap. My old partner of the last five seasons or so, Mike Stannard has moved to pastures new at Blackmoor Golf Club, a place well worth the green fee to play. However it's not the last we're hear of him on here.
We had our second round match a few weeks ago. If you missed the epic first round encounter, where were you? (http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/that-winning-feeling.html). After surviving extra time, we were now faced with the deadly Dave's, Messrs Wild and Groves. Both Dave Wild and Dave Groves are long standing members at the club and both are single figure golfers and no mugs. This would be tough.
My partner had been texting about how well he'd been playing. I on the other hand was suffering. The contact had been good but I was losing shots both left and right and my driver had started to behave very erratically. I'd had a quick lesson with a guy called Andrew Piper at Lavender Park Golf Centre a while back. He'd already given me an assessment and tweaked my set up and address and very little else and gotten me on the right track so I just wanted him to look again. I was hitting it well enough but unable to control direction.
|Andrew Piper, the man charged with getting me back on track for the winter knockout|
All he said was I was way too fast. It's a problem I've spoken about on here before and I've had lessons and done work at reducing my swing to a mere blur. What he said was I simply wasn't giving myself to finish the back swing before starting the down swing. He wanted everything slowed right down and to be patient and give myself time. I made what I thought was as slow a swing as I could and yet he still said I was too quick and the ball was still not on a string. In the end it came, but to me it felt like I was going back in super slow motion but the ball flew long high and further so you couldn't argue with results. It was all well and good in the lesson but the first test would be on the course in the second round match against difficult opposition.
As it happened I found the green with the opening tee shot and my par was enough to secure a win at the first. It certainly helped calm the nerves I was feeling and affirmed the words of Andrew and that the swing was sound if I gave it time to flow. From then on though, my secret weapon was unveiled and Adam played some fantastic stuff over the front nine, driving in particular, being very impressive. Getting several shots helped and by the turn we were in a comfortable lead and it was just a question of not doing anything too silly over the closing holes. I had jokingly told my partner I planned to just loiter with intent. I was needed at the 12th hole, stroke index one, and my par, net birdie was much needed having lost the previous hole, an innocuous par three with consummate ease. We weren't home and hosed and Adam needed a testing five footer putt on the 13th for a half and to keep momentum and a two hole advantage. He thought there was only a slight break, but using Aimpoint to make a read, I thought the break was significantly greater and told him to allow more. A perfect read and perfect stroke and it dropped.
What happened next shows how matchplay can change so quickly. The 14th plays 430 yards and I got a shot, being stroke index 5 and both opponents being off 5 (compared to my 12 and playing 3/4 handicaps). I hit a terrible drive. It hit a tree about a hundred yards in front of the tee but right of the target line and was fortunate to drop straight down and that I could get a short iron on it. I moved it forward but still had 199 yards left for my third shot, needing to move the ball left to right in the air to get it around the trees guarding the right side of the dog-leg. That shot shape is not my favourite but I executed well and thought the ball had a chance of running in off the bank to the left of the green.
Sadly, I'd over clubbed and the ball flew well out the back of the green. Dave Wild had found the green in regulation. My short game has been hit and miss and well documented on here but now was a moment I needed to execute. I hit a chip and run to six feet and it had shaved the hole on the way past the hole. My opponent had left his first putt from the front well short and had missed the next for a bogey five. Here I was with a six footer for a five, net four, and a win that had seemed impossible after the tee shot. All those hours working on holing out from this range. All that practice. I made it and we were three up and four to go.
We secured a half at the 15th and to be honest the game petered out in an anti-climax when both Dave's made a hash of the tough sixteenth to gift us the win. To be fair to the opposition, neither played anywhere near their best on the day and had come up against my man in scintillating form. I was just there when needed.
To be honest though I didn't play well and had Adam not played as well as he had the result would have been different. I felt I was doing what I'd worked on with Andrew Piper but not getting the results. I went out the following week in Saturday roll up and I played shocking golf. It was all over the place and anywhere but fairway and greens. And yet, despite this I was playing Seve like recovery shots and somehow managed to find a way to amass enough points in icy conditions to win the money.
I played the roll up yesterday and felt finally, after plenty of range work, the change to the tempo, completing the swing was beginning to work. Starting on the 10th, I went out in 20 points (two under handicap) and was driving well and my long shots in particular were excellent. In the end, I petered out on the other nine and made a few mistakes to finish with 35 points and a round that felt it had gotten away.
Mike Stannard was making a rare foray back to the club as his membership technically hasn't expired and I was sitting in the club house in pole position until he came in with an excellent round of his own of 38 points to pip me. In the end, some else in the final group trumped us both but with payout on the first two positions my old comrade had deprived me of a few quid! Talk about smash and grab. That said it was great to see him back and I'm sure he and Adam swapped a few notes on just what a heavy weight I am to drag round as a golfing partner.
And that's all folks. Another golfing season been and gone and with Christmas just around the corner, it's time to move on to 2015 and the year Homer's odyssey reaches its goal of that single figure nirvana. I have it in me. The short game is still the weakest link but I've plans afoot to sort that out, along with pitching and bunker play. Get those areas firing, the work I've done in 2014 on my swing, and now understanding that patience in the swing is key, will reap rich dividends. Of course that's all to look forward to in the dawn of a new year but for now I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas, and whatever you hope for in 2015 it comes to fruition. If you want to give me a present, then simply spread the http://threeoffthetee.blogspot.co.uk link as far and wide as you can. If not, see you anyway in a new year. Homer out