Yesterday was perhaps the worst conditions I’ve seen at Harding Park. Every fairway on the front nine was a marsh, basically unplayable. It must have taken us three hours to play the front nine as every player had to search for high ground, drop twice into another plugged lie and then usually place the ball.
After spending the week in NY cities horrible weather, I came into Saturday’s match a little unprepared. I knew that George Gandranata was going to make few mistakes, if any during the match. Darryl Donovan and I were discussing George and both agreed that he’d probably make 1 bogey and several birdies.
As I mentioned in a previous article, the start of a match usually sets the tone and puts extra pressure on the player that fall behind. I unfortunately was the player that fell behind with bogeys on 1 & 2 to go two down. Although I rallied back with wins on 4 & 5 with a birdie and a par (this was George’s lone bogey and only green he missed all day). After getting even I was unable to convert a 3 foot par attempt to tie the tough 8th hole. After tying 9 & 10 with birdies, I was again able to draw even in the match with my 3rd birdie in 4 holes at #12.
Unfortunately for me George rolled in a 40 footer on #13 to go one up, that extended to two up as I missed another short putt for par on 14. I was unable to make a birdie on the next few holes with the match ending 2&1. In retropect, on this match I can only say that my short game once again let me down in a high pressure situation. I seem to lose my ability to have good feel with my chip shots when the pressure is cranked up. In matches when I am in control the chipping seems to work, while in this match from easy positions I was 1 for 6 in my up and in attempts.
Although I’m sure under the conditions we played, 5 bogeys and 4 birdies would have won several matches, I knew against George that I needed to be under par like I had been in my previous two matches. Match play is a pressure cooker that will expose any weakness you have in your game. The key to my match with George was in getting off to a good start and putting pressure on him. The pressure was on me, even after I drew even twice, I was unable to go up in our match and turn the momentum in my favor.
There are some great players left in the quarter finals, but I will say that if George goes down, someone will need to play very very well, and be under par. My pick to win the event is George Gandranata (although my sentimental pick is my good friend Scott Hardy).
What can we do to improve the conditions we play in….? The last few years playing Harding has been less than desirable for this great amateur event. The weekends always get hit with poor weather and the course has little to no drainage in the fairways. This is NOT intended to be a knock on Harding Park, which is a spectacular layout and ranked highly as a public course. But honestly we play this historic event in horrific conditions that I believe make the event LESS desirable to play in.
After my heartbreaking defeat on Saturday, I had lunch with committee member Bob Callan, and we discussed a few changes that I feel would greatly enhance this great amateur event. I suggested the following:
I STRONGLY believe that the result of these changes would allow the event to be played in better conditions (weather and course) and that you’d attract a better field (many players don’t enter because of the 4 weekends). I also believe a format with one 36 hole day each weekend makes more sense than going from 18 hole matches and jumping to two 36 holes the last weekend. Having a major SF City fundraiser may allow the event to raise enough money to eliminate the match play green fees that nobody would complain about not paying. If you like these proposed changes, then lets hear from you. The more support from the players we get, the better chance for change. The barrier here is the history of the event, for as long as I’ve played in this wonderful event, it’s been played in the same format. BUT times have drastically changed. In years past we didn’t always pay green fees for the matches. We played in better weather and some years actually saw our balls roll in the fairways. Change is good in this case, and I believe we can significantly improve the enjoyment of playing in the “City”!!
Please let me know what you think…..?