Under near perfects conditions, Harding Park once again was in fantastic shape for round 1 (rd of 32) of the match play portion of the event. One of the great things about the city is the different ages of the competitors, ranging from the teenagers with immense talent (the medalist Patrick Grimes for example) to the great college players, mid amateurs, and even a few guys over 50.
Today I drew Jamie Core whom I played in the quarterfinals in 2009. That match didn’t work out so well for me, but Jamie reached the finals, where he was defeated by the youngest player in history to win the City, Carlos Briones. The city is a great venur these younger players to get in a pressure pack match play event that will test their nervous and composure. My day ended up being perhaps the most pressure packed match I’ve EVER played. Normally I wouldn’t go into such detail, but I feel everyone needs to understand what match play can do to your nerves.
I got off to a great start with par, birdie, par, par, and had a 5 foot putt to go 4 up on #5. After missing the birdie putt I stood 3 up on the 6th tee. After consecutive bogeys on 6&7 I stood on the tough 8th tee only one up and clearly my momentum was gone, and Jamie looked as he had found his groove. He hit a beautiful shot on #8 that was heading towards the pin, the shot hit on the front part of the green leaving Jamie a make-able 20 footer. I also smacked a 6 iron from 193 yards out and also saw the ball heading straight at the pin landing next to the hole and releasing to about 15 feet behind the hole. After Jamie missed his birdie, but I righted my ship and drained the birdie 2 to go back up 2 in the match. The 9th hole is easy to describe, we both hit great drives, great second shots to the par 5 that both ended up inside ten feet. Jamie rolled his eagle in, and I followed to tie the hole with eagle three. In the 30+ years I’ve played in this event I’ve never tied a hole with eagle.
After a tie on 10 with pars I lost 11 with a bogey to go to only 1 up in the match. The 12th hole was another eagle by Jamie to beat my birdie four and the GAME was on. Again on 13 I struggled and made a bogey and fell 1 down for the first time in the match. The tough fourteenth I was able to close the match back to even with a good par after Jamie three putted from 50 feet. 15 was tied with solid pars while again I won the 16th to go back 1 up. On 17 Jamie made a beautiful birdie to once again put the match all square.
The NEW 18th hole has created a lifetime of heartache for me prior to today as I lost the final match on 18 in 2008 and several other times since the renovation was completed making this a much more difficult hole. After Jamie escaped trouble with a drive down the left and between the two trees, I then decided to play safe with a 3 metal off the tee. Well that decision didn’t work out so well as I drilled my tee shot into the tree over Lake Merced, and fortunately the ball didn’t bounce back in the hazard. With about 190 to the hole and needing to hit a sweeping hook shot I over cooked my shot way left and down into the hazard…..oh boy I’ve done it again as it seemed I had once again lost a close match on the 18th hole. But after Jamie hit a wedge slightly over the green, I hacked my ball out of the hazard and was faced with a near impossible shot to a front pin from 56 yards away. A shot short would hit the false front and roll back off the green, and a shot landing on the top of the ridge would skip over and leave a long bogey putt. I will admit this shot is not my forte, but this one time it was, as I hit the shot perfect to 3 feet and awaited my fate with Jamie now chipping down the hill. Jamie hit it short and missed his par putt, which allowed me to make my 3 footer for bogey and send the match into extra holes.
The golf got very serious and solid from this point on with both of us having short birdie putts to win the match on every hole until we reached the 7th EXTRA HOLE where I finally kept my head and eyes down and stroked my 15 footer right in the middle. I must also report I had a 6 footer for par on the 6th hole that allowed me to get to the 7th tee. Jamie Core is a fabulous player and hit solid shot after solid shot. He only missed 4 greens over 25 holes and made 2 eagles.
That’s the crazy thing about match play you can have your toughest match in the 1st round which can catapult you in future rounds. The other winners are listed in the brackets below as 16 players are now left to battle tomorrow to fill out the quarter finalist slots for next Saturday.
I am exhausted as I feel like I played 36 holes today under immense pressure where in sudden death one bad shot and your tournament is over. The two big guns George Gandranata (defending champion) and qualifying medalist Patrick Grimes both easily advanced into tomorrows round of 16.
STAY TUNED MORE RESULTS AND COMMENTS TOMORROW