This week as it turned out I played with the leader after two days. I would like to say the weather was a factor on me missing the cut but when he has played through the same wind and rain in the second round, that can't be an excuse.
On day one I once again just managed to hit poor shots at the wrong time. My swing changes although really making my game stronger and longer than ever before are still not quite reliable enough. I understand that I will always hit poor shots but at the moment they are too frequent and the great shots not quite frequent enough.
After dropping 3 shots on the closing 6 holes in round 1 for 4 over, day two was going to be tough to make the cut for some weekend action. My mindset at the start of the day was one of progression. I really wanted to see progression with my game and that is what I discussed with my caddy James. I wanted to hit more good shots and less bad. It sounds both logical and simple, true, but anyone who has played this game knows otherwise.
I arrived at the course as the rain began to fall. My pre round preparation now included finding the wet weather gear and making sure we had things in place to stay as dry as possible all day. The grips I use on my clubs these days are absolutely brilliant on a rainy or even very sweaty day. They are leather grips from Grip Masters, look them up on the internet and do yourself a favour and get some, tell them I sent you!
My warm up before the day was great, hitting the ball well with both shapes. I spent some extra time on my chipping which felt a little off in round one. I was ready to go and actually really looking forward to it despite the weather. I like playing in tough conditions. A very solid opening hole with a 12 footer for birdie sliding by was almost the perfect start to the day. I ripped driver up the next which was a short par 4 and was on 20m from the pin. A great flop shot left an easy birdie and I was away. From there my day didn't really change much, quality shot after quality shot and giving myself chances for birdies on 8 of the first 9 holes but only managing to turn even par after a couple of aggressive birdie attempts led to three putts. Still my thoughts of progression were paying off and my single shot focus was really helping to produce some real quality. With the back nine ahead of me I just wanted more of the same.
After finding the fringe of the 10th green in two I had an eagle chance but a very tough putt up and over a ridge and down. It ran by some 7 feet and I missed it coming back. As disappointing as that was, when I needed birdies I was just commuted to continuing to give myself opportunities. In rain that was now increasing with wind matching it that day had turned into an ugly one.
The cool thing was that I was playing with the leader. It was amazing to watch someone who just holed everything and also seemed to get all the good breaks. Here I was at the wrong end of the field and watching my ball lip out and bounce sideways off fairways. At one point in the second round he was waiting for the 9th green to clear before playing his 2nd shot to the par five. When he hit it I said to James "That's out of bounds!" As we watched his ball fly to the right and straight out of bounds it flew straight into a massive rock and cannoned back in bounds some 30m. We had already watched him hole putts from all over the place and now this. We agreed that maybe this was his week to win! It's incredible how the fortune and breaks go your way when you are on the front foot and playing with confidence. I think that happens a lot in sport and I see it week to week in both the AFL and NRL back home. For this guy I was happy to see it and watch what needed to be done for me to take that next step with my game up here and finally contend. Tee to green it didn't look that different but by the end of two days he had used his putter some 54-58 times and I had used mine some 66-70. That is the difference from leading to missing cuts!
My closing 8 holes I played really solidly for the exception of one poor shot which yet again cost me as I made a double bogey after hitting it out of bounds. It's that one shot, one really poor shot that is hurting at the moment. The second round was progression though as 4-5 of those on day one had improved to only 1 in the second round. I ended up shooting 2 over for the day which was really solid in the conditions but still some 7 shots worse that the leader. My chipping practice was wasted pre round as only once did I need to play a short game shot other than using the putter and that was a bunker shot!
What did I learn this week that I didn't already know. Well, that's a good question....I already knew that putting was what golf is really about, I already knew that more good shots and less bad shots is critical, that you need to be able to focus on one shot at a time.....so what was my lesson for the week. I think the lesson from this week is that sometimes you need to reign things in a little when you recognise that your round is moving in one direction and you want it going the other way. Like in rugby league when you might be on top and in front but you see that you are in a period of the game where the opposition have plenty of possession and your field position isn't that great. At that point you just need to hold the ball, complete your sets and have a good kick and chase. Stop trying to score points and just wait a little for the momentum to start to swing again before you push forwards. I think at times I am too aggressive and feel like I am trying to make birdies on every hole. Sometimes I need to just let the fire burn along before trying to add wood and make it bigger!
I'm am off to Hokkaido in the countries nth island now and look forward to the Sega Sammy championships. I have played this venue before and it is usually in great conditions and one of my favourite places to play. My week ahead will be about progression again, improve on the good stuff from round 2 this week and get myself some forwards momentum. This job is a massive challenge, an incredibly tough way to make a living but I think of my mate back home who came off his bike this week and broke his collarbone and fractured 6 ribs in multiple places. I'm sure he would switch places with me in a heart beat despite the tough nature of this sport! Heal well and quickly Simon, I will be praying for you and the family at this time whilst you are recovering!
Just to finish this little blog, I had a rare treat up here this week when yesterday after golf on the way home from practice the clouds and fog parted enough so that I could catch a view of the colossal Mt Fuji! It was all of a sudden there, towering above the mountain range in the foreground that we had been looking at all week on the way home. It was an impressive looking mountain with a smattering of snow still visible despite the warm weather up here. It is always cool when you get to see one of the famous natural landmarks of the world! As a volcano that is apparently long overdue to erupt I was glad to be some distance from as it's presence in the skyline made the previously large mountain ranges look small! A great thrill. I'm sorry my photos will do it no justice at all but the good news is that it's time for a phone upgrade so hopefully a better camera!!!