This week was one of those really tough weeks as a professional golfer. I was at Q School in Japan doing battle at stage 3, trying to progress to finals. Q school weeks are so tough as you are playing for no money, but the right to actually play for money the following season. It is incredible because this is your profession and it is all on the line this week.
Stage 3 in Japan consists of a four round tournament without a cut where 103 players were vying for one of the 32 spots on offer to progress to finals in a couple of weeks time. The course was Ono Toyo Golf club which is around a hour and a half from Osaka by car. The course itself is a very good one and I like it as a Q School course because it can play really tough and that's the way I like these weeks, rather than a birdie blitz.
I have played here the previous two years in stage 3 and progressed so was going into the week feeling pretty good about things. Day one didn't start too well with a bogie on my first two holes but as I have mentioned before the work I am doing with Karl Morris is holding me in such a better place mentally that starting like that is no big drama anymore, not ideal but no big drama. I rallied and turned the day around only to bogie a hole late to shoot 1 over. In years gone by the scores have always been high here and usually around 2 over each day would put you around the mark. Today however I was placed tied 35th and outside the mark. Very solid scoring from the lads in round one meant work to do.
Day two was a solid day, I hit my irons extremely well and managed to shoot 4 under despite a bogey up the famous 18th hole. The 18th is brutal and at the start of the week I decided that I would play it like a par 5 even though it's a par 4, because it is so tough. A good day saw me move in the right direction on the leader board getting to -3 and in a tie for 6th. From here the equation was quite simple, 36 pars and I will qualify. The cutline for the top 32 had gone to 1 over so I was 4 inside that mark and that would only go out, not in such was the difficulty of the course. I wrote in the front of my yardage book "36 pars to qualify" and started a tally system from the first hole in the 3rd round. 36 holes later the last tally went in and I was through. With rounds of 72 and 71 for -1 making my total -4 I finished in a tie for 6th, comfortably through to finals.
I want to share with you all the horrible part of a q school week now. In my third round I was playing with this you Japanese guy. He was a very slight man who didn't have much power or dynamics to his game at all, yet here he was playing for his livelihood. A very nervous start and a double bogey wasn't what he was looking for I am sure but he did settle after that and birdie the 2nd. Starting the day at 3 under par as well, he was 4 shots inside the mark so a fairly comfortable spot to be in. He played really solid all the way through the front nine not making any more birdies but not making any bogies either.
So he arrives at the 9th at 1 over, no real problems. Two decent shots up the 9th and he has a fairly straight forward chip shot which he fluffs and leaves him with a 2nd chip shot. He plays a fairly nice shot and is left with a 4 foot putt for bogey. He misses it and makes a double bogey from no where. So turning through 9 holes in 3 over, not the end of the world by any means but has some work to do. After parring the 10th he makes a bogey on 11 and all of a sudden he is on the top 32 mark at 1 over for the tournament. This is where q school weeks really suck the life out of people and make golf a very nerve wracking, painful experience. I was going along well and felt like I was playing well so things were cool on my side of the fence but for this poor young guy I could just see his dreams of playing on the Japanese tour starting to go up in flames. He seemed like he was tightening up badly and that even the simple task of getting oxygen into his body was no longer simple. He was drowning under the pressure of it all. I felt for him because I know what that feeling is like having missed my share of q schools.
I was relieved when his tee shot down the next came up just short of the green on the par 3 but had left him with a very easy chip shot. A very easy chip shot isn't that easy when you may not be able to stop shaking with nerves or when you can't feel your hands on the club. He played a chip shot worthy of a 27 handicapper and then proceeded to 3 putt from there for a double bogey. I'm not sure if he did, but I know I nearly vomitted for him at that point. I felt sick so I could imagine how he was feeling!! I found myself wishing every shot to be a good one and every putt to go in for this young guy, strange given that he was a direct competitor and for all I knew we may have been battling for that last spot! Anyway he somehow parred the last 5 holes but signed for a 7 over par 79 and moved to 4 over for the tournament with the 54 hole top 32 mark being 2 over. That was likely to go to 3 over on the final day so it meant bouncing back for this young guy who was cruising before dropping 6 shots in a 5 hole stretch in the middle of his round. The reality is that this is what q school can do for you, strip you of your confidence and churn you out the backend. I sometimes wish the worlds elite had to go through this process to keep their cards, just so we can see how they handle it. I maintain it is the worst for of golf, give me playing in front of a crowd any day!!! For the record, that young guy shot 75 in the final round to miss by 4 shots.....
I am home for 1 day before heading south to Melbourne and Kingston Heath for the Masters!! I can't wait and will be blogging all week this week so stay tuned for some photos and stories from the famous Melbourne Sandbelt!!!
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!!