Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sneaky Good in Indiana

Well, the on-paper results from Fort Wayne, Indiana, paint an all-too-familiar 2014 picture. I posted rounds of 72, 76 (+4) to finish near the back of the field and miss the cut by five shots. It might sound like I'm trying to be overly positive,  but I actually feel extremely optimistic about this week despite the poor finish. Some things definitely went wrong, but I was also much more like myself in some areas than I have been all year. I certainly didn't want to start the Tour Finals with a missed cut, but I am leaving Indiana feeling encouraged and ready to get rolling!

So, what went wrong this week? Short answer: the seventh hole. Number seven at Sycamore Hills is a 185-yard par three with a smallish green that is protected by a stone-walled pond short and right. In two rounds, I hit three balls in that pond and played the hole six over par. Both of my shots from the tee were simply poor execution. I had a good, smart plan both days, but I made poor swings and missed well to the right of my target. On Friday, I compounded my error with another very poor shot from the drop area. There is never any sense in playing the "what-if" game, but it is alarming to think that if I could have played the 185-yard seventh hole with a bogey and a par, I would have a Saturday tee time. With the exception of my shot from the drop area on Friday, I can honestly say that I don't regret anything about my thought process on that hole; I simply needed to execute better. 

So, number seven was the most obvious revelation of my weakness this week, but that weakness reared its head at other times as well. I am really struggling with my mid and long iron play right now. The par threes at Sycamore Hills ranged from 185 yards to 215 yards, and I played them nine over par for the week. I hit a lot of squirrely shots on approaches outside of 170 yards. That is an area of my game that I need to address. I really feel like the rest of my game was firing well enough to be in contention this week if I could have been just average with mid and long irons. I will put in some focused work with these clubs and will be ready moving forward. 

So that is what needs to get better, but I am very happy with many aspects of my game. I drove the ball the best that I have all year. My driving stats will show that I hit 23 of 28 fairways, but I know that two of those five misses were perfect tee shots that crept into the first cut of rough. In fact, I made two birdies from those two "missed" fairways. In addition to driving the ball well, my short-iron play was very reminiscent of times when I have been playing great golf. I hit a lot of shots right at my target and felt very in control with my shorter clubs. On and around the greens, I felt very much like myself. I had good touch around the greens and got some challenging shots up and down. My putter never got hot during my two rounds in Indiana, but my hard work on the greens lately definitely showed. I had a lot of birdie putts in the 15-25 foot range that were all over the hole, but got only one to actually fall. I was extremely solid inside of ten feet, though, and felt very confident on the greens. In short, my strengths were strong this week in Indiana.  

That's what I need to be successful. I need to hit more fairways, be better with my short clubs, and putt better than my competition to beat them. And I can do all three of those things! I am going to get good enough with my long distance approach shots to allow my strengths to win golf tournaments. I can do that, and I will. 

This week in Indiana was great. I hate leaving a tournament after two days, but seeing positive signs from the most important elements of my golf game has me feeling pumped. I will find some key to help me be better with my long approach shots and will also continue to sharpen my strengths. That means some great Peter Malnati golf is coming soon! 

I don't have to wait long to put it in action. The Tour Finals continue this week with the Chiquita Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I will be ready for it!

Thank you very much for following and believing in me. Keep it here for a practice report and an update from North Carolina early next week! 

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