The SF City may be the most important tournament I play in every year as it is DEAR to my heart. I have been playing in this event since 1976, and have seen just about every possible conditions, scenarios, and great triumphs and devastating defeats. Match play events add a huge element of pressure on every shot that keeps the pulse pounding throughout the round, and especially in the later deciding holes. One bad mistake and you’re GONE, down the road, end of this years event. Many people have gotten to enjoy the PGA Tours version of their match play event won yesterday by the “money making machine” Matt Kuchar.
With the tournament cutting the qualifiers last year down from 64 to 32 (for many good reasons including one less weekend and expense) the 32 makes it just that much tougher to hold it together in the qualifier, and keep it at or below that magical 148 number that seems to be the Mendoza line for the cut to 32 players. I have always felt that playing Lincoln first was an advantage as a good round around par (68) would make Sunday at Harding park a little easier and stress free. There are many holes at Lincoln that prove to be disastrous, especially the long downhill par 3 #17. On Sat I got off to a good start on #9 (my first hole with a solid par, followed by birdies at 10 and 14. I turned the back in even, and went to the easier front side in good shape. After driving the par 4 2nd hole and making birdie, I felt there were only a few key shots left to execute to finish off a good round in the 60’s. On the 3rd hole you can push or block a 7 or 8 iron right and out of bounds, knowing this I made certain to keep it at the middle of the green, which I did. BUT this is where the problems started with a par putt left of no longer than 14″ yes fourteen inches from the hole, I was saying to my self that I might miss it, and of course I did. That missed putt created doubts in my mind about my putting and resulted in 3 more 3 putts over the last 5 holes, resulting in a very disappointing 3 over par 71. Now I was going to need a good round at Harding on Sunday, no cushion.
HARDING PARK ON SUNDAY
with the cool breeze still blowing I knew the back nine was going to be tough, what I didn’t know was I was going to make an 8 (five over par on my second hole #11) which included a ricochet off a tree and out of bounds, a whiff, and a one putt for the 8. I turned the back in +5 and needed even or better on the front to qualify. But again the crazy game provided some more drama with a second shot into #2 with a nine iron that stayed in the overhanging tree. At that moment I thought for sure I was done, but I was able to identify my ball in the tree with my # on the ball and markings, so I took a drop and made bogey. I ended up making about 5 pressure 5 foot putts coming in the shoot the bubble number of 148, and waited anxiously for the remainder of the scores to be posted. As it turned out the #32 indicator stopped at the last 149, resulting in a 8 man playoff for the last spot, meaning that all of my hard grinding got me in, WHEW……
Okay I’ll tell you how I made an 8 on the par three 11th hole. The wind was blowing hard left to right, and the pin was on the front left, SO the only place to hit the shot was RIGHT of the pin, hopefully on the green, but a bunker shot into the wind out of the bunker would not be so bad. Unfortunately for me I pulled badly my six iron shot from 183 to the pin, and watched it kick towards the OB fence left. When I got to my ball it was 2 inches from the fence in heavy rough. I had no shot towards the green, and only had a slight chance at going right towards the tee. A poor decision to hit the shot was made, resulting in a ricochet off the tree by the fence and a ball that went dead right out of bounds. NOW I was screwed, as I had to drop a ball right in the same spot, whcih I did, to see it roll even closer to the fence. Now I was really in trouble, as I had no swing, and an unplayable would only roll up against the fence again as well. So my only option was to try and hit the ball, which I did, resulting in the club hitting the fence for a WHIFF. So now i am thinking I may never finish the hole, and it was all but over for me. I decided to try and move the ball three feet to the right, maybe giving me more clearance, which I did, and then fired it out and back doen the fairway in 6. Flopped it on the green and made the 3 footer for an 8. I guess the moral to this experience if there is one, is NEVER GIVE UP. I had 16 holes left to play and I made 4 bogeys and 3 birdies the rest of the way and just snuck into the top 32. Now all of that crazy heart pounding stuff is behind me, and I can get back to work and try to fix all the problems I seem to have in my game. More on that later this week….SO STAY TUNED