I arrived in Japan on Sunday night and amazingly made my way from the airport to the hotel via three different trains with all my gear without any fuss or mistakes. Incredible, having stayed at this hotel last year certainly helped although last year we drove to this hotel so it was a first by train. Good start to the week.
I was originally coming up here to play in a Challenge Tour event, which is the secondary tour up here. Not having a main tour card this year means the Challenge tour is my only option but I think worth having a go at as the top 6 off Challenge gain main tour status for next year. I have a superstar up here in Japan who works for Callaway named Yuko and she informed me last week that I could play in a Monday pre qualifier for the main tour event this week in Tsuruya, then if I missed out I would just go and play the Challenge event.
Sounded like a good plan to me and as I had played the event last year at least I knew the course. I played the pre q yesterday and so as you may have guessed, given I am on a train travelling across Japan, I didn’t qualify. It was a positive day yesterday though as I shot 1 under, last year in the tournament I shot 1 over and 5 over. Unfortunately 1 under wasn’t quite good enough to get one of the 9 spots available from the 128 players trying to get a start.
As I said though, lots of positives, I played really nicely and feel as though I am just improving all the time with the new coach and swing. Each day is about trying to improve bit by bit and yesterday certainly was that. I hit 14 greens in regulation yesterday, which is better than any tournament round I played here all year last year. I drove the ball longer as well, which certainly helps when hitting greens. All in all a positive day despite not getting through.
So the life of a professional golfer goes on and today is a transit day from the Osaka area to the Tokyo area. These days are always tricky in Japan as they involve a few trains and platform changes, all in a country where my skills with their language are limited to, hello, good morning, excuse me, sorry, good afternoon etc, not “can you please tell me which platform I need to get this train!!” So far so good though as I am on the Shinkansen and this will take me almost all the way to my destination where I will hire a car for the next few days. Driving in Japan is ok, the gps gets a work out but the general getting around in a car seems pretty good up here.
Tomorrow I will head out to the Challenge event and have a practice round before starting on Thursday. They are strange events as there is a one round cut for a two round event?! I find that bizarre, given it is only two days, surely everyone can play both days. Anyway it certainly makes for a pressure cooker situation as there is no room for mistakes on day one. It is the first one of these events I have played and I am torn as to how to really approach it. On one hand I want to play two days but on the other hand you probably have to go really low over two days to win. So there will have to be a mix of caution and aggression as birdies are super important as there isn’t 4 days to build with, and bogies need to be zero if possible. Maybe that means driver on some holes where I would normally hit another club, risk vs reward, will have to be weighed up. All of that said, tomorrow’s practice round will be crucial to establish where I can attack and where I can defend against this course with the goal to get to at least 8 under for the two days to be competitive.
I will leave you with a little story from last night.. I went to dinner with 4 other guys, 2 Aussies and 2 Kiwi’s. We just went down the road to a Sushi train for dinner. I never really used to like raw fish but having been up here a lot over the past 18 months, you kind of get used to it. And hey if 100 million people can eat it, it must be ok. Anyway we were all sitting there getting stuck into it when all of a sudden the building began to shake, simultaneously all 5 of us said “Earthquake!” We stopped eating just for a moment or two whilst the shaking went on, and once it stopped we simply moved on. Earthquakes are incredibly frequent over here but that was the first solid one we have encountered whilst out for dinner together. Fortunately we survived and so did the Sushi Train, managing to stay on the tracks despite the little shudder!!! Catch you after the practice round where I will give a little debrief of the course!!
Check out the video to see the unbelievable speed of the bullet trains!!