This past week I have been in Japan playing the Mizuno Open. It was at a links course, which is very rare in Japan. They play this event as a British Open qualifier which is why they use one of the few links courses in Japan.
I have played this event twice before without any success at all missing the cut here both times. I actually don't mind the course but it has certainly had my measure in the past. I would like to say that this year was different but it really wasn't much different at all. The course probably still won the fight but I did manage to put up a much better effort this yr.
I have struggled to play my best up here in Japan on tour and that has certainly really annoyed me. In this, my third year on tour up here, I have only made one cut in the past. That is a terrible record and for some reason I just haven't had the same belief as back home. This yr I missed the cut in my first event over a month ago but came up for this event with some confidence given I had just shot 9 under around my home track at Indooroopilly equalling my best ever score.
I played solidly in practice and began reasonably in my afternoon round on day one. I managed to shoot 1 under par which was slightly disappointing but a starting point to build on. Day two was a real test of patience. I have been working very hard with my coach Murray Lott on staying inside the eye of the storm with my golf, meaning not letting things phase me, stay calm and never put myself out into the chaos that lives outside the "eye!" I made two bogies on the front 9 on a windy and far more difficult morning than the previous days afternoon round. The back nine has some very difficult holes with the 12th to 14th being particularly strong. I said to young Jack Wright, my rookie caddy (son of John Wright the head pro at Yamba golf club in Northern NSW) that these next three holes were crucial for my day and that we needed to knuckle down to try and grind our way out the other side with 3 pars at worst. I made a great 2 putt on 12 from 95ft up a tier, made a clutch 12 ft par save on 13 and then managed to par the ridiculous 14th, a 220m par 3 with a green that slopes away from the tee making it near impossible to hold the green with your hybrid or 3 wood. From there the closing stretch settles a little and I birdied 15 and 16 and just missed birdies on the last two as well. In at even par and I had finally won the game of patience and not slid backwards further pushing for the birdies. I was in at -1 and now the wait to see if I had the pleasure of playing weekend golf. The cut ended up being even par so I had made it by a shot, and was very pumped to start the year off well up here making a cut and looking forward to the weekend.
The third round was a little average unfortunately and on "moving day" I moved in the wrong direction. I Played really solid but didn't make the putts when I needed to. It is a game of putting out here and when you aren't making the putts it feels like you are well and truly behind the 8 ball! I played with two massive names in Japanese golf in round three, one guy that has career earnings I around $15million and one of the up and coming superstars up here, so we had a good gallery following us around today which made the day all that more fun! It was a really great experience and nice to not lie down and fall over when things weren't really happening. It was extremely encouraging to see my game was equal of theirs particularly tee to green. I actually played pretty well, almost feeling better than other days but had to sign for 3 over par. The boys beat me but only just as the day was another tricky day. It was an experience that I will add to the memory banks and hopefully be better for in the future.
Today was round 4 and I had the privilege to play with BK, Brad Kennedy, a Nswelshman that had seen the light and moved to the Gold Coast. He has been up here for the past few yrs and has played great up here, adding his name to the winners list! It was a great opportunity to once again see where my game was at. I played nicely once again and with an early birdie on 11 I thought that maybe today was the day to shoot a real confidence building score. I made my way through the tough stretch pretty well but a weak bogey on 16 saw me reach the turn at even par. The first hole which handed me a double bogey earlier in the week, was well and truly served today as a perfect drive set up a wedge to the green and a nice birdie 3 to start the inward nine. As has been the case all week I just wasn't able to really solidify my good play with either another par or a run of birdies and instead I threw in a pretty soft bogey on the 3rd. I walked to the tee on the 4th and said to Jack that we were going to fight to the death, like the mighty Maroons did in State of Origin 1 on Wednesday night......go the Maroons! (Not bad being one of the only Qlders on tour up here when the boys get the biscuits in Origin 1, even better when the Broncs beat Canberra, Brendan Jones team back home)
I missed the next green and was left with a wicked lie and a shot shot to the pin from left of the green. My past 5 weeks since the first event of the year up here was spent remodelling my short game to get it up to tour standard. On this occasion it met those standards as I hit a sublime chip that found the bottom of the cup! Hey here's a stat for you, Steven Conran who has been on tour up here longer than my caddy has been alive had three hole outs in a row in round one from off the green. Cheeky old man!! I played a scratchy next hole but my short game saved me again before a perfectly played par 5 saw an easy birdie. Par at my 16th followed by a birdie at my 17th saw me 3 under with a hole to play. That's where the good news ended though as I found water off the tee on the last and close with a really disappointing double bogey.
There was a lot to be pleased about this week and lots of great stuff to take into next week. I have 6 more events in the next 9 weeks in a heavy stretch but my passion has never been stronger and my desire likewise. I am working harder than ever to improve my game and I have seen the fruits of that this past week.
Jack will be better for the run, hopefully and we will continue to form a great partnership! Looking forward to the Tour Champs next week!