I got a message on Twitter during the week asking me what was the biggest area of my game that improved during the last year.
’Taking the big numbers off the card,’ was part of my answer. ‘When you get in trouble, be sensible, keep it simple.’
If only I could follow my own advice. In the monthly medal on the O’Meara at Carton House on Sunday I racked up a six on the par-4 fifth, then took 13 shots on the first two holes of the back nine. I wasn’t even in that much trouble. My concentration slipped at a vital time on 10, when I took what I think was my first ever four-putt in a competition, while the three holes which ruined my chances of a good score were littered with silly shots that wouldn’t have happened if I was thinking clearly.
That’s the problem though, it’s easy to get distracted and it’s hard to escape the sense of doom that each negative thought brings. When the putts aren’t dropping, you get frightened by the first putt and you agonise over the second. It’s only when you the round has got away from you, and when you’ve stopped worrying about the putts altogether, that they’ll start to drop again. That is the eternal frustration of this game.
On Wednesday, I limped around the front nine with 16 points and felt sure I’d pack it in after nine having been soaked through from the heavy rain that fell for the first four holes. A sand save on 11 and a clearing in the skies convinced me to keep going and when I finished I had 39 points, 23 on the back for a gross score of one over on the second nine. It’s easy when you don’t think too much.
My goal of late has been to get through the front nine with enough points to give me a chance of doing a decent overall score. If I can finish the front with 15 points or better, I know I’ve a chance on the back. This game is all about giving yourself a chance because you never know exactly what’s going to happen with each shot.
On Wednesday I was surprised to have 16 and because of that I realised that agonising over a couple of holes that got away from me on the front nine was a waste of time. My outlook changed standing on the tenth tee box, if it hadn’t I would have walked away after 11 holes and left a good score behind me without even knowing it.
On Sunday there was no chance of leaving a good score behind after I four-putted the tenth. On in three, with an outside chance for par, I blasted the first putt past the hole and didn’t take enough time with the one back from eight feet.
After finishing the front nine, nine over par I knew that a par on 10 would set me up for a crack at the back nine. Instead I let my emotions take over after missing a par putt by a long way and I walked away with a 7. It was pure self-destruction and for no good reason.
Discovering your own weakness is more important than taking someone else’s advice.
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