May 7, 2016

Days until Goodboys Invitational weekend: 69
Location: Superstition Springs Golf Club
Score: 55 + 46 = 101
Handicap: 25.7 / Trend: 25.4 (-0.3)

Fifteen feet.
Six feet of rough, two feet of fringe, seven feet of green.

On the fifth hole at Superstition Springs, a sharp 291-yard dogleg left, I’ve just finished splitting the fairway with a 190-yard 3-hybrid and getting away with a 110-yard 9-iron that landed in between two deep sand traps behind a narrow green when I really should have pulled pitching wedge, and am in a damned fine position for at worst a bogey five. I’m feeling pretty frisky about my game right now, sitting at 3 over (par, bogey, par, par) and a rocking chair one at that.

The chip I’m facing is decidedly downhill, and nothing to get too aggressive with: on the other side of the green is a sand trap, then a pond behind that. I’m not worried – after all, I’m, like, in the zone, right? Looking back, the easiest play would have been to take my putter and leave it on the green for at worst a two-putt for my bogey. But I feel good about my short game and pull my pitching wedge.

Bad idea. Shelter me from the powder in the finger, as they say.

I chunk my chip into the deep sand trap no more than two feet to my right. I know what I’m now facing – I’m the golf equivalent of Prince right now. With a downhill lie I catch too much ball with my sand wedge and it flies the green and the sand trap behind it, and lands in the pond. I take my drop and duff that one into the deep sand trap protecting the green. An out and two putts later I make a quad bogey snowman. Talk about throwing away shots.

The rest of the front nine is just bad golf, being in the wrong position – something Superstition Springs will penalize you for greatly – on every hole. I go triple-triple-double-double and limp into the clubhouse with a 55. I’m ready to call the day quits, but then I start thinking: what else am I gonna do – go back to work? So I drive over to ten, committed to going as low as I possibly can, recognizing that the back nine at Superstition Springs and The Great White Shank have never really ever seen eye to eye.

I tell myself to hang in there. After all, a little poor course management at SS goes an awfully long way, and truth be told I hadn’t been striking the ball badly at all. I par the difficult 10th hole, then, after going a little loose off the tee on the par 5 11th, I put some good iron shots together to make bogey and feel my short game finally starting to come around. I make par on the par 3 12th. After a triple-bogey on 13 (in which, attempting to get out of a deep sand trap with a 8-iron, my ball almost tore my head off when it ricocheted back at me), I par the 14th, then make a miraculous bogey on the par 3 15th with an unearthly chip from nowheresville (applause from the guys playing the adjacent hole). I then par the 16th following an unearthly 5-iron approach. With two holes to play I’m lying 32 – 32! Not half bad, eh? Unfortunately, I put two balls in the drink on the brutally tough par 5 17th for a quad bogey nine, then make a rocking-chair bogey on 18 for a crowd-pleasing 46.

The numbers don’t lie: a 55/46=101. 6 fairways hit. 27 putts. 9 holes at bogey or less (including a career-high five pars!). And all that on a brutally tough course, and on a windy day. Not a bad day’s worth of work.

Right now I feel I’m in a good spot. I’ve got a little over two months until Goodboys Invitational weekend and all the work I’ve done on my iron play over the past month is really starting to pay off. In prior years that front nine score would have done me in, but I’ve got enough confidence in my game now that I know if I just execute shots the way I need to and hang in there with my short game as it is I’m gonna be OK.

More than anything else, I’ve changed the way I approach my swing. In past years everything was about feel – the good days could be pleasant enough, but they were few and far between. With the help of Hunter Mahan’s iron-hitting philosophy from GOLF Magazine’s February 2015 issue I’ve become much more of a technical golfer. It’s like anything else: if you apply the same axiom to every shot you’ll get a predictable outcome; the only variables are the wind, the lie, and overall course conditions.

I really feel as if I’m ready to take my game to the next level, which to me is bogey golf. The only question is how and when that will happen. I’m coming on strong, y’all.

Filed in: Golf Quest,Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments Off on Getting Closer
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