This week saw the Japan Tour head to Fukushima. It's probably most well known for the nuclear plant meltdown after the earthquake in 2011. It's always slightly concerning coming here as we actually aren't too far away from it although definitely still outside the exclusion zone. Yesterday in the third round I played with a guy called Go, yep Go. Imagine that was your name, so many difficult situations as a kid growing up!! Standing at the side of the road waiting to cross and someone yells your name.....Go was a really great young guy and without doubt had some stories to tell. He came from Sendai which was flattened by the tsunami that followed the earthquake and had friends that unfortunately passed away. Four years on and he says the rebuild is going so slowly and bit by bit. He was telling me that he flew out of Japan to America the day before the earthquake for a golfing holiday....talk about timing. Fascinating guy.
My week was a hot one this week. I knew it was going to test me this week after re injuring my knee on my week off at home last week. I actually did new damage but was told I probably couldn't make it worse by playing. 9 holes on the first two days to ease it was probably a very wise thing, I know, not usually associated with me!! It was hurting afterwards but good management meant I completed the week and actually think the knee is in better shape than it was when I arrived.
I can honestly say that this week I struck the ball as well as I ever have up here and that part of my game continues to go forwards to new levels. I was consistently ranked in the top 20 for both driving and greens in reg all week. My putting actually felt like at times it was the best it's been for ages too, although nothing seemed to drop. Fortunately my ball striking was on song and that meant lots of short birdie putts and eagle putts too. I really didn't make the extra putts you need to if you really want to contend this week and certainly my focus moving forward will be on that 5-20ft range to help that process along.
Today, the final day was the most pleasing day of the week, I was determined to look forward and not dwell on anything that was past. I was also determined not to make a bogey which would allow an under par round as I was making birdies! It was incredibly pleasing to tap in on my last hole for birdie and sign for a 5 under 67, making four sub par rounds for the week. I may not have finished high up the leaderboard but that was a very solid week for me up here and the first time I have done that.
I think my highlight for the week was today as I was heading to the first tee. Walking off the putting green there were two young Japanese boys standing there inside the ropes. They were looking like they were nervous for being allowed in there, standing with some officials. There were great crowds out today but somehow these two had "backstage passes!" As I neared them I threw my ball down in front of them and gave my wedge to one of them motioning for him to have a chip onto the putting green. He looked around to see if it was ok but I just encouraged him to have a go. He gripped it and nervously started to swing, to my horror he didn't stop his backswing for a chip and continued three quarters of the way back. Before I could stop him he started down, I looked to the putting green where one of the leaders was putting, right in line with this "full swing!" Thankfully he had an air swing and I breathed a massive sigh of relief as the club head flew over the top of the ball!! A little coaching and he tried again, this time a small chipping motion making contact and sending the ball to within about 10 foot from the hole!! I led a big round of applause from the gallery watching on as I went to pick up the ball. As I turned to walk back off I looked at him and his nervous face had changed into a beaming, smiling face that lit up my face! A high five and my day was underway as I went to the first tee and ripped it down the middle!!
I'm lucky to be able to have a crack at this incredibly demanding sport as a profession and today I didn't do a bad job of it. I've learnt things this week and look forward to the next opportunity that comes my way. For now though I look forward to home and my awesome family!!!!
Home for a week after 3 weeks up in Japan always creates a slight dilemma, keep practicing hard after three big weeks and plenty of fatigue or rest up and prepare to go again next week.
For me it was about family time as my number one priority. Having been away for nearly all of the school holidays my wife was exhausted and my kids were ready for some "dad time!" I loved that fact and couldn't wait to get involved. Golf was momentarily on the back burner until maybe later in the week.
The plans for the week changed slightly when I fell playing soccer with Jack and Jonte on Monday. I didn't do the damage that Rory did but it looked like my right knee ligament that was repairing from a tear some 4-5 weeks ago was re-torn. This changed my plans for the week and meant it was all just about hanging with the fam and maybe, knee permitting I will hit some balls later in the week. Lounge room putting and backyard chipping will be the order of the week now!
I head back up to Japan next Monday for my next event and despite really looking forward to it I know it is a hilly course which will certainly place a fair amount of stress on my knee. It will be a test physically as well as the usual mental challenge.
I am always inspired when the majors are in TV and sitting here watching the British Open has without doubt charged the batteries. If ever there needed to be something learnt for my game from watching the guys play, it couldn't be clearer watching the contrasting fortunes of the man of the moment Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods. What I'm learning is that when you play golf with a clear mind and a mind that is solely focussed on the next shot only and technique free, as Spieth is doing, you increase your chances of playing well. On the other hand when you have too much going on and the confidence is low meaning more thinking, as in Tiger's case, you increase your chances of playing poorly. So for me, and for all my readers you need to find a way to focus simply on the next shot and the process to hit that shot. Immerse yourself in that shot and do the absolute best job you can of seeing, feeling and hitting that shot.
That will be my challenge next week too, with the added challenge of accepting that physically I won't be at my best. The more I can focus on that the better my week will be in Japan. As for the rest of my preparation until I fly on Monday, I will possibly have an MRI tomorrow on my knee and then hit some balls and do some practice, coach my sons soccer team on Saturday before watching Man City play at night and then head to watch my beloved Broncos on Sunday at Suncorp. That should have me fresh and ready to go next week.
Enjoy the British Open people, my tip was Adam Scott but seeing the weather worsening before he has teed off on day one with low scores already in, makes me a little nervous about that prediction. Speith and Dustin Johnson look great already as does our own Jason Day!!! Love watching!
What do I write here...I am somewhat lost for words and everyone who knows me knows that is a rarity.
I felt nervous today for some reason which was weird, I have been on this position before but not up here, maybe that was it.
I started ok, pars at the first couple before hitting a great drive that put the par five 3rd within reach. I got home but was just left of the green, but an up and down for birdie. My game felt off but an approach from the rough on the next to a foot meant that I was -2 thru 4. Just the start I wanted. I had chances at the next 3 holes but made none of them before making a good save for par at the 8th. Birdie at 9 saw me turn 3 under for the day and in the mix with 9 to play.
Missed greens at 10 and 12 left two par putts that both ran over the edges. Birdie chances at 13 and 14 slid by too. My putting that had been so average all week was contributing to a poor back nine. At this stage though I was hanging in and playing solid, how the next 40mins will affect my year only time will tell. I made bogies on the next three holes followed by a birdie on the last to close in 4 over par for a sole destroying 1 over day. Throw in all the words like devastated and shattered and I felt like all of those in that moment walking off the 18th. In a world where I am ranked by what I earn, I just cost myself some $20k on that back nine.
You have any number of emotions running through your mind and believe me I had all of them.
What I am able to say though is that despite the finish to my week on that back nine the reality is that for the first time up here I got myself into contention with 9 to play. Yes I did a really poor job of that situation but what I need to do is turn my attention to why and also focus on the positives from the week. Getting kicked in the guts up here hurts but only if you aren't wearing armour. I am going to get stronger from this, I am going to let that kick in the guts bounce off and I am going to be better the next time I play myself into that position, hopefully next week. I could have shot 4 over on my first nine of the week and I may not have been playing at all today. The fact that I did it on the closing nine just means I need to do more work on my putting, more work on my stock or go to shot and more work on my routines to place all my trust in those when I start to get tight. I failed today but I will be getting up tomorrow and going again, working hard to be better for the sucky 2 hrs of the back nine from today.
Sorry for disappointing any of you following along online today but I'm also glad I was able to make your Sunday morning a little more exciting for a few hrs when I was moving forward. I hope to do a better job for you next week.
A trip up to the north island of Japan is always a good thing, especially if you are coming up to Hokkaido in winter!! Traditionally it has incredible snow falls each year and this year despite having less than normal they still got some 18m of snow!! I have never been up during the winter but it is definitely on the to do list for me.
This week however sees us venture nth for the Sega Sammy Cup at the North Country golf club. It is a regular stop on the Japan Tour and a great course. It's testing with the wind that normally blows and Japanese young gun Mr Ishikawa won last year with -10. This year they have changed one of the holes and so it will make the scores perhaps a little lower and looking at the leader after two days being at -11 I guess that's correct.
As usual for Japan it tests your game and without doubt finding the fairways is always critical. It's not as hilly as some courses up here, but the fairways are quite undulating meaning some interesting lies and stances.
I have played two really good rounds and am disappointed to be only -3 for the tournament. I should be happy that I have made another cut up here when that has been a real struggle for me, but the way I have played, I'm disappointed. I have just putted so poorly. Yesterday I used the putter for 31 hits and today for 34. That's simply not good enough especially given the opportunities I have given myself. The most disappointing part of that is the 4 three putts I have had over the two days. Even just making those into two putts and I would find myself at -7. I have missed a bunch of other great chances inside 10 foot for birdie too.....
So to the weekend I go really looking forward to playing great and making some putts! It seems like a long time since I have made a bunch of putts so this weekend is the time for the putts to roll in. I am determined to hit it great again and give myself some great chances over the weekend. Love your thoughts and prayers for those that love to pray!!
Here are some more photos from the week including a drink coaster with the island green 16th hole which is a brutal one!!
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!!