It's a tough tour to play on, especially when you live in Australia. The Challenge Tour is so cut throat, 2 rounds with a one round cut. I missed the cut today but played pretty good. I was off in the third last group which today was definitely a disadvantage in a couple of ways. What was a beautiful calm morning turned into a very windy afternoon and the greens took a hammering and as third last group they were heavily footprinted all the way through the backnine. As they are coming out of winter here the greens are not quite back to their normal standard and were soft and slow this week, meaning lots of footprints and tough putting. There were very few putts holed in our group throughout the whole day.
In saying that I saw some very interesting putting techniques in my group today, stuff I have never seen before, maybe thats why none of us made the cut. There were lots of positives for me today though. My ball striking was again excellent, hitting 15 greens in reg. Unfortunately for me of the 3 greens I missed I made 2 bogies and a double bogey. It seems to be the way for me at the moment, play so well and not make the birdies and when I finally hit a shot off the green I don't get it up and down and make a bogey. Incredibly frustrating and very hard to keep the round going when that is happening. I was really encouraged by my putting which sounds strange given that I had 34 putts. The aimpoint technique worked really well today and I really read the greens superbly today, I just didn't get the speed of my putts spot on and subsequently didn't make too many and the ones I got right somehow found a way to miss, a good goal keeper in the hole today!! So my 1 over 73 was actually a very solid round, just needed to make a couple more putts and tighten up the short game a little.
I will finish today by telling you about one of the best shots I have ever hit. It was on my 18th hole, the 9th, which was a par 5. It was playing downbreeze from the left, so not straight downwind but certainly helping. I hit my drive down the left side and the wind was bringing it back nicely, looking like it would land just off the fairway and maybe finish in the light rough or with a nice kick the edge of the fairway. As was the flavour of my day would have it, my ball instead of landing in the rough caught the cart path just off the fairway (very common here in Japan, every course is fully cart pathed) and bounded an extra 30m into a deep fairway bunker. When we arrived at our drives I could see that my ball was only about 10 feet from the steep lip in the bunker meaning I was no chance to reach the green in two. I grabbed a wedge and was resigned to the fact that I was going to have to just pitch it out and reach the green for 3. When I got to my ball I looked at the distance and figured I only had 176m to the green. I had a perfect lie and was on a slight upslope even though it was close to the lip. Surveying the situation and figuring that eagle was my only chance to make the cut, even though I thought I would still be a shot or so short with an eagle, I decided that I was going to go for it, what did I have to lose? I decided that I might be able to get a 6 iron over the lip, 7 iron definitely but there was no way I could hit my 7 iron 176m, even with a little wind help. So 6 iron it was, not overly confident I could clear the lip I let fly, hitting a "moon ball" as I like to call it, a high shot I have been working on. It cleared the lip and sailed towards the green but unfortunately found the greenside trap to the left. It was an incredible shot just to clear the lip and it was so close to going on the green. Certainly one of the best shots I have hit and I have no doubt I wouldn't have been able to hit that shot a year ago. I went on to easily splash it to about 2 feet and make and easy birdie.
So much to be happy about, it is just the nature of these events where you miss a cut after 1 day that makes it a little sucky!! I would have loved another day on the course tomorrow but instead I will start the journey home to Brisbane where I can't wait to get stuck into the practice to continue to try and improve my weaknesses and
I have made it to Japan for my first time in 2013 and the good news is that it isn't freezing like the last time I was here, back in December and touch wood, no kidney stone or stent either!! It is a short trip this time as I have just come up for a Challenge event which is just a 2 day tournament with a 1 round cut. I couldn't be more pumped to play especially after the awesome Masters win by Scotty!!! I was telling anyone that would listen that I thought he was going to win this year!! Probably the first time I have ever picked a winner!!!
I flew in yesterday and spent the day at the course today getting to know it and coming up with a game plan. I think that was pretty simple, make a thousand birdies!!! It isn't too tough and I think the lads up here will eat this place up, particularly as the only defence, the greens, are not fast enough to cause too many problems. I am going to go out on a limb and say that unless I shoot 12 under minimum I won't win this week.
So with that number in mind I have been hard at work trying to figure out how to shoot that sort of score. I hit the ball pretty well today, no real problems at all but need to be a little sharper out there tomorrow if I am going to hit the ground running. I have done things a little differently today in my practice round and it is all aimed at improving on the greens, where you can really pick up strokes. I spent alot of time mapping the greens today during the practice round and less time chipping and putting on them. I worked hard on the putting green after the round but spent my on course time mapping. Now that I am using the Aimpoint putting technique, ( for those interested in what that is, go to www.aimpoint.com ) I have spent valuable time working out the gradient of the slopes so that I know how much the ball is going to break. It is a complex process to begin with but the more I do it the better I am getting at it and with a concerted effort I am really going to improve my putting to make it an absolute strength this year.
The course itself doesn't really present too many problems, particularly if your ball striking is on. The green have lots of slope and tiers in them but if you are hitting the ball well you will be putting for birdies from fairly close range. I think the highlight for me is the par 3's. Three of the four of them are over water ranging in distance from 6 iron to possibly a 3 iron depending on the conditions, great fun!! I'm sure you are all thinking that!!!
Well that might do me for tonight, hopefully I will be back tomorrow night telling you I made the 1 round cut and am in the last group going into the final round!! Check out some of the photos below as usual and don't forget to get out there and enjoy yourselves!!
Catch up with everything from the tour as I let you know about the course, conditions and my thoughts and feelings on how I am playing.....also some cool stories from the tour!!