I was the first group of the day for Wednesday's first round and was at the course warming up by 6:55 for my 8:00 o'clock tee time. After I had a good warm-up session in very soggy conditions, The committee determined that the course was too wet and needed time to dry, so my tee time was delayed until 10:00. My group started at 10:00, and despite the fact that I birdied the first two holes of the tournament, I was uncomfortable from the get-go because two lost balls caused us to take 46 minutes on the first two holes and be way behind the pace-of-play guidelines. To make a long story short, we were slower than we should have been all day, and, rather than staying committed to my routine, I found myself rushing a lot of shots. I can go through my routine both quickly and thoroughly, but I simply did not do a good job of thinking through all of my shots and committing to a good game plan. In spite of that, I played a fairly solid first round in which I hit the ball well for the most part but threw away two shots with a huge mental error that led to a double-bogey on the par-four 7th hole and missed a lot of putts that I expect to make. The end result was a one-under-par round of 71 to open the tournament on a day that yielded a lot of good scores.
Almost half the field had to complete its first round on Thursday morning before the second round could begin. This, coupled with a fog delay of almost two hours, pushed my second-round tee time back to 3:40 on Thursday. I had a great practice session in the morning and spent some time relaxing as well, so I felt ready when it was finally time to play golf. Unfortunately, my putter again was none too sharp on the course, so a lot of quality shots led to mediocre pars. I hung in there nicely, however, and had it one under par through eleven holes of my second round as darkness began to set in. The horn blew to stop play for the night just after I had hit my tee shot on the 3rd hole (my 12th), but when play is suspended for darkness, players have the option to finish a started hole. My group chose to finish the third hole, but my brain decided that it was done for the day, apparently. Facing a 200-yard shot over a creek from a poor lie in a fairway bunker, I tried to hit a four iron onto the green. It was a huge mental error, and I hit a terrible, half-shanked shot that somehow cleared the creek but ended up in woods right of the green and in bad shape. Despite a couple of good efforts from there, I made a double-bogey on the hole and ended my second round on an extremely sour note. Despite hitting the ball very well for most of the twelve holes I had played, I was one over par for my second round, and very much in danger of missing the cut.
On Friday morning I arrived at the course bright and early to finish my second round. After a great warm-up, I was out to the fourth tee by 7:50 and ready for an 8:00 o'clock re-start. Needing a couple birdies and facing some difficult holes, I knew that I would have to be very tough mentally, and I was just that. I gave myself make-able looks at birdie on each of the last six holes in my second round, and was able to make two of them to post a second-round score of one-under-par 71 to make the cut and earn my spot in the afternoon's third round. It was a great feeling to know that I needed to execute well and deliver a good performance Friday morning.
The second round was finally completed by late-morning on Friday, and I was assigned a final-round tee time of 12:50. I was confident that I was going to play well and move up the leaderboard, but my start left a little bit to be desired. Great tee shots and good iron shots gave me decent birdie putts on my first two holes (10 and 11), but I didn't manage to convert either opportunity. Then, on the reachable par-five 12th, I hit two great shots and was pin high, just left of the green and only about twenty feet from the hole with a pitch shot for an eagle. It was a tough shot, and I executed well, but my ball scurried some 15 feet past the hole. From there, I looked like a real idiot. I rammed my birdie putt four feet past the hole and then missed the short, downhiller for par. I had to calmly roll in an eight foot putt just to salvage a bogey from my mess. Despite being one over par through three holes at that point, I knew that I was hitting the ball great, so I just tried to continue doing that. I am proud to say that for the 24 holes I played on Friday, I hit every green in regulation and had reasonable chances for birdie on all but just a few of them. My putter never did get hot, and I had to settle for a final-round 68, but I know that I was on the verge of doing something special.
My six-under-par total for the week was good enough to sneak into the top 10. That is a pretty good accomplishment for a week when my putter was a bit cold and I made two very uncharacteristic mental errors. One other slightly disappointing area this week was my par-five scoring--I was only three under par for the week--but I feel like I executed well on those holes and was just struggling to convert on my birdie opportunities. All-in-all, I am extremely pleased with the state of my game and continue to feel improvements. I am excited to keep going. I need to have a good weekend of practice and plan to earn my first Nationwide Tour start of the year on Monday in the Qualifier for next week's event in Chattanooga.
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