It is always “fun” to put the game to the test…. And to be honest with you, putting to the test for me most often means teeing it up against good players in pressure situations.
A few days ago, I played in the South Central PGA Professional National Championship (PNC) at Jimmie Austin Golf Course in Norman, OK (home of the University of Oklahoma Golf Team). This tournament is an annual tournament that is a qualifier for the National PNC which can qualify you for the PGA Championship. (Many of you may remember a few years ago… me playing in New Mexico and losing in the playoff for a spot in the PGA… ouch… still, hurts a little).
The tournament this year was a 2 day marathon/54 holes in 100*+ temperatures ( the first day actually reached 110* – a lot of water and Gatorade that day in the 36 holes of golf).
The first round I played, I shot a 65 – 7 birdies and 11 pars. Second round a 72 (even par) and third round a 71 – 208 total for the 3 rounds.
After the event, I received many calls and obviously most referred to my 65 round… one of lowest shot ever on that course in a tournament. But to be honest (and might surprise many) – it wasn’t the round I was most proud of. After playing the first day 7 under (the 65 and 72 on the first day) – I was in second place. I was told the top 5 qualified for the National tournament.
So, I began the second day / last 18 holes in 2nd place, 1 shot out of 1st and 3 shots in based on 5 making the cut. So, what to do… Do I go for the win, or play conservative and qualify… to be honest, the most important part of the tournament.
I started the round and decided would play to what I was “capable” that day. If my game was on – would go for the win, if not, would make sure and not make “big” mistakes to take me out of qualifying…. but that mind thought quickly changed.
After seeing the pin positions, the PGA had set for the final round, there was no question, it was going to be a fairway and greens day… and 2 putting for par most often… Why? Because a majority of the pins were tucked back, front or side, where missing slightly to short side would mean a LARGE number. Very sloped edges of fast greens meant even small misses could be doubles or worse. I wasn’t going to go for a pin and cost me qualifying… would could be done VERY easy.
I won’t bore you with the shot by shot round, but end result – I hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens to shoot 1 under. And I will admit I played VERY conservative in order to keep the game in check and big numbers down. Never “went after a drive” – meaning – instead of trying to hit my driver 280+, most were 250 to 260 down the middle… gave me an extra club or two into the green, but was guaranteeing hitting fairways and giving best chance for middle of greens from the fairway.
Long story made short… I ended up shooting a 71 the last round, and won the tournament by 3 shots.
After finishing, I always like to review my round(s) to see where I can improve, where I need work, etc. and it was interesting upon review this time.
When I reviewed this time and recalled my round vs. those I played with (top players in our PGA section) – one thing really stuck out to me… they are very good players, but they struggled… and struggled often on the golf course. Many times, they would hit a draw or hook off the tee, and on the next tee hit a block cut. Sometimes they would pull their irons, sometimes push their shots… there was very little consistency – especially in the misses (where it REALLY matters).
The biggest difference in my game (the MOE WAY) was the ability to “play conservative” and really have no chance of making a “big” mistake. Why – because of the ability of our fundamentals to hit the ball straight, be able to control distance and ball flight with ease. Even in VERY pressure situations.
It is always funny to me when a conventional golfer comes up to me and says “they are a good ball striker”. Then I go watch them hit a few and they are going right, going left, high/low – very little control. Most will turn to me and say – “You’re making me nervous, that’s why I’m not hitting it well…” Want to know the real truth – they aren’t hitting it well because once pressure it put on them, they lose their swing.
That is what I have found to be the beauty of Moe’s swing fundamentals. No matter where you are playing, how much pressure you are in, etc. these fundamentals work – and work GREAT (as they say). The more you put these fundamentals to the test, the more you are convinced there is no other way… you’d be shocked how many fellow PGA professionals I have worked with in the past few years to help their games … I guess when seeing it from their end (what many call “boring golf” – down the middle and hitting greens), it would be much easier under pressure to have a swing you can have confidence in ALL the time.
So, barring an overlap in my son’s baseball schedule next year – I’ll be trying for the PGA Championship again – this time in California. Maybe this time, that last putt on the last hole will fall instead of lipping out…. would be a great ending!!