Saturday, 6 August 2016

Club Championship Weekend - Round Two - Yang

What a difference a day makes. Five words that accurately sum up the second round of club championship weekend at Royal Ascot. The opening round had seen your narrator in a cool, calm place, in warm up and especially on the course. There were still some poor holes (isn't there always) but I'd let these sweep over me. Mistakes were forgotten and by and large I was extremely happy with how I'd played on one of the warmest days of the year.

However, sitting out in the heat of the afternoon sun enjoying a few cold ones and then adjourning to the in-laws and spending several hours entertaining my niece and nephews who are over from San Diego for the summer wasn't clever. I got home and knew I'd been out in the sun and was already feeling the effects.

Having had a good first round and sitting comfortably in sixth place, I was out towards the end of the field in net score order and just in front of the final twelve in the filed in contention for the gross prize. I work up feeling tired and listless and definitely paying the price for my exposure to the sun. I usually get to the club about ninety minutes before my tee tine, prepare slowly before going out to warm up and hit a few chips and putts. On the practice ground I couldn't find a spark. I was bored, dis-interested, lacked timing and cohesion and to be honest the warm up wasn't going as planned and I was getting edgy.

Walking onto the first tee, I wasn't feeling it. Where my opening drive twenty four or so hours before had found the green, this was a weak push straight right towards the line of trees that protrude some forty yards right as you can see below

The view from the first tee - an intimidating 229 yard opener
While I wasn't happy with the opening shot, we all assumed it hard at least got through or over the trees and shouldn't too bad. How wrong we were. Clearly it had scurried through, just where the trees rise in the middle of the picture, and had stopped and then rolled back down the bank the trees are perched on and was nestled firmly against the trunk of one of the trees. I had no shot, no option. I couldn't even get into it to make an attempt and so already at this early juncture in the piece I was taking a penalty drop. I salvaged a five (double bogey) but it had done nothing to help and my mind was definitely not on the task at hand.

I found the safety of the fairway at the next and then pushed a five wood perilously towards the out of bounds that runs the length of the hole. On the plus side it was in play. On the down side I had an overhanging branch ten yards in front, a bunker short, some forty yards from the green that took out the low running shot and a lush lie play from. I elected to hit nine iron from 112 yards and it came out well but missed the green left. I chipped and two putted for net par but I was making this hard.

The pattern had been established. Fairway at the next, missed green, this time into sand and although the recovery was good it was a net par when better was there for the taking. I went left off the next, and left on my approach but a fine chip and run to six feet and a putt made a par. Was this the catalyst? I was only a shot back off my handicap and so despite everything I wasn't too far off where I needed to be.

If you've read part one (Club Championship Round One) you will be aware that the fifth had caused issues when I found the bunker right of the green and then thinned the bunker shot miles too far and into deep ferns and a lost ball. What a difference a day makes. I was safely on the green in regulation this time. Granted I was forty feet away and had two tiers to negotiate but what could happen. Walking off some five minutes later having taken four, yes four putts it was another double bogey.

I had a head full of chocolate frogs coming to the sixth. It's a hole that historically I've struggle with. I try not to carry any baggage with me but this 178 yard par three just gets inside me. It doesn't suit my eye in any way and I will always take a bogey four and move on. A par always feel like a half shot gained for me. In truth, having pulled a hybrid, I simply put an atrocious swing on it and sent it sharp right out of bounds. Reloading I hit it better but sliced it and it failed to clear the trees right and suddenly I'm out of bounds again and five off the tee. Switching to a four iron. I simply stood there and swung. Ugly, quick and so many moving parts and feeling my face flushed with embarrassment I hit it forward short left. I chipped it up an two putted for a snowman (8) and a five over par score. That was my day done. My head was a mess. I had no swing, no timing and my head was anywhere but on the course. I threw another double in at the next, a bogey at the eighth and did finally manage a par at the ninth having found fairway and green in regulation. All in all my front nine was 49 shots (+14) and all my handicap allowance had been swallowed. It was a back nine simply for pride.

I had to swallow a large chunk of that at the tenth. Right off the tee and left in my approach into sand, I then repeated the error from day one and thinned a sand shot miles over the green. Given the length of grass, lack of options even if by some miracle I'd found it and the fact I was mentally shot, I took a penalty drop played a far better shot and walked off with a seven (+3).

The golfing gods have a macabre way of mocking the struggling golfer and so it was no surprise my tee shot at the par three eleventh would find sand. It's one of the deeper bunkers on the course but I played an exquisite recovery to three feet and saved par. My driving was the only thing holding together and I found the short grass again. I made bogey, net par but at least I had hit the ball better momentarily. In fact I started to look like a golfer. Par on the 186 yard par three, having found the green off the tee and the fairway at the next which should have led to par but for a poor second, and the card looked a little smarter. It was too little too late of course.

On the fifteenth I found the fairway and my second was in prime position about eighty yards short. Nothing to worry about. And then the idiot golfer returned. I chunked my approach and came up short, chipped on and walked off with another bogey from nowhere. I managed a par at the seventeenth thanks to an up and down and managed to hit the last in regulation. Given the ragged nature of my round it was no surprise when I then three putted. I was back in 43 shots. All in all it was 92 (net 79 +9). Another 0.1 back on the handicap and I went tumbling down the leader board to finally finish 27th place in the net event.

Club Championship Statistics - Round 2

Definitely not my finest moment on a golf course. In my defence, I wasn't feeling it and was definitely off colour. It started poorly and never got any better. The funny thing is as you can see from the statistics is that off the tee I was great. It hit 83% (8/10) in regulation and even my greens in regulation was better than normal at 22% and equates to my handicap. Sand saves was 33% (1/3). Despite that nightmare four putt on the fifth and the obligatory three putt at the last I only had thirty six putts in total which wasn't a disaster. Not as good as I'm use to but still two putts per round. What it does show, was that when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in grand fashion and is still something I need to eradicate from my game.

It wasn't my year but I'd done well in round one and need to simply park the second day and move on. There was enough out there to keep me interested and happy. I am still working hard on my short game and feel that sooner or later the improvements I'm seeing in practice will translate to saved shots on the course. My driving was as good as it could be. I need to continue to find a level of consistency in that area. From there I need to find more greens. Of course I'm disappointed and the effects of the sun the day before didn't help.

I'm not a million miles away from where I want to be. There are still health issues that are simmering below the surface which aren't helping and yes, the mockers will point to the ever increasing handicap, but while the pursuit of single figures remains parked until I get the clear health bill, I am actually encouraged, nay enthused still. In practice I am hitting it well. I just can't take it to the course and that's an area I need to look at and something Andy Piper and I will work on as part of a winter programme to strip away the imperfections layer by layer.

Definitely a ying/yang weekend and a competition of two halves. Keep the good stuff and find a way to make a score, eradicating the rubbish. Get the head right, even if I'm not feeling it. Learn to make a score. All stuff to keep working on. As you'd have gathered I love the journey and I'm not going to stop. I'm still going to get to where I want to go.

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