Well normally at this point I am giving you the final update on my week, 4 rounds played and the final placings are done. This week, marathon week is the toughy as we have only just reached cut day!! This week is obviously a little different too in that over 200 players are teeing it up and the cut is the top 90 and ties, a lot more than a normal event. Once you have made the top 90 you have officially become a part of the Japanese Tour but it really depends on how high up you finish as to whether you will actually get any starts on the main tour. If not you will have to play on the Challenge Tour which is their secondary tour.
Yesterday I really struggled on the greens, I played ok tee to green as I have all week up here but if you aren't getting the ball in the hole it makes life very tough. I have actually struggled all week to make the "key putts." They are the ones that either get your round going in the right direction or keep it going when you need to make a par saver. I haven't been able to convert those putts all week and it certainly adds to the pressure that this week already provides. Fighting my way through the day yesterday I got myself to 1 under with 4 to play on another cold and windy day. I made a meal of the 2nd shot into the 15th and failed from the bunker to get it close enough and I just mentioned wasn't able to make that key putt to keep the round going. The strain and pressure of playing for the chance to have a job up here next year really told on me yesterday and I certainly had to deal with more emotion on the course than usual. I honestly think the last 5-6 weeks has aged me 20 years and what hair I had left is now scattered around the Queen and King courses here in the Cocopa Resort!! I three putted 17 and lost a little more hair before making par up the last for a 1 over 73, the same as day 1 around this course. That moved me from inside the cutline to outside the mark with only one round til the cut.
After a good chat with Dave, my caddy and Rach my wife and a few others, I felt a lot better about myself and what I was trying to achieve up here heading into cut day. I was putting way too much pressure on myself instead of going out there and giving my all and accepting the outcomes whatever happened. That is the attitude I took to the course today and was determined to have a great day with Dave no matter what the result.
It started well when my misfiring putter managed to hole a big left to right breaking putt on the first green for birdie. After playing the 2nd and 3rd holes really well but being unable to capitalise for birdies I found myself at the par 3 4th. After making a bogey there I worked out that the par 3's haven't been really too kind to me this week as I was now 7 over on them for the week. Very strange given I am usually under par on par 3's in a tournament week due to being a pretty solid iron player. Not this week though!! A bogey there isn't great but it was made worse when I missed from 6ft on the next for par also. On a day where I was starting at -1 for the tournament and -2 was the mark inside the cutline at the start of the day, being 1 over through 5 wasn't ideal. After a par at 6, I managed to make birdie at the par 5 7th and two more pars saw me at the turn in even par.
With 9 to play I was still at -1 for the tournament and figured that I would need at least 1 birdie to be a chance and maybe 2 to be safe. I flushed my drive down my 10th hole, a reachable par 5, right down the middle with a perfect angle to the green. When we arrived at my ball we were greeted with every golfers most disliked thing after smashing your driver down the middle, your ball sitting in a sand filled divot!! I still think it is the one rule that should be changed in golf. The divot is filled with sand to help repair the ground from a previous blow. We have a "ground under repair" rule in golf where you would get to take a free drop out of such an area should your ball come to rest in that area. I would argue that this sand filled divot is also "ground under repair" and thus you shouldn't be penalised for hitting the fairway. I hope one day this rule is changed allowing relief if you find a sand filled divot in the fairway…dream on Matt….
I decided to gamble and try and hit a 3 wood out of the divot, maybe not the smartest thing given there was out of bounds all the way down the right side of the hole. The gamble paid off and I hit a pretty good shot to just some 10-15 m short of the front edge. Would you believe it though, when we arrived at the ball it was in another divot, this time not filled with sand though. I played another great shot out of it and was left with around 4 ft down hill for the birdie which I made. An interesting hole that really gave us a boost as nothing had really gone our way on the hole, finding two divots but we still managed to convert the birdie. So in my head I was thinking we just need to continue to hit greens in regulation and give ourselves as many birdie chances coming in as possible.
I hit the next green but wasn't really close to the hole and then the following hole we thought I had hit a great shot into the top tier of the green only to get up there and see my ball had actually gone long. I was left with a very tricky little chip shot but the work I have been doing with Murray Lott on my short game is really starting to pay off and I played a great little shot to get the ball to about 6ft, a pretty good effort from where I was. So here I was again, staring at one of those "key putts", the putts I had struggled to make all week. If ever there was a time to make one it was now and I certainly was relieved when I saw it go into the hole. I had makable chances on the next 3 holes and despite hitting quality putts I didn't make any of them. So here we were, 3 holes left, 1 corner as I like to call it, and I realistically needed to make at least 1 birdie and two pars to hopefully be safe and through to the final 2 days. After two good shots on the par five we arrived at my ball in the first cut of rough just off the fairway. Hitting up to an elevated green where you can't see the putting surface, the fact that my ball was sitting in a little depression of sorts wasn't going to help. I hit an ok shot for line but it came out a little low and hot and went some 30 feet past the hole. This was probably the best birdie chance of the final three holes and it felt like I had blown it. When I got to my ball and had a look at the line, a few marker points really stood out to me along the line to the hole. It was kind of like a dot to dot, matching the spots and imagining my ball going over each of the spots and into the hole. I hit a great putt for speed and amazingly watched as it rolled straight over each of the spots and went in the right side of the hole for a much needed birdie!
I parred the par 3 17th hole and made my way to the short par 4 18th where I knew the major trouble was the tee shot with out of bounds down both sides of the hole. I got a new 3 wood this week from the Callaway van and have been using it this week. It is a great club and it didn't let me down here, crushing it up the middle. I said to Dave that I wanted to get this approach shot coming in a little higher, rather than the low flatter shot I had been hitting most of the week. I hit it perfectly and on a great line and whilst it was in the air I commented to Dave "this can't be bad!" I watched two of my playing partners up near the green both turn around towards me back down the fairway with a fair amount of excitement, so I knew it must be pretty close. As I got closer to the green they called me up to come and tap it in to get it out of the way, it was 2 inches away and a very easy final hole birdie securing my place in the final 2 days and at least some sort of Japanese Tour membership for 2014. It is now up to me over the next 2 days back on the Queen course to see how high I can finish and whether I can get some main tour starts up here. Patience and calmness won out on the course today and a total composure that I would give my all and accept the outcomes was a major factor in a good performance today.
So onwards we go, into round 5, looking forward to bringing you more stories from the long
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!!