I felt great about my game heading into the tournament. I had prepared well and played really nicely in my practice rounds. I put the club on the ball beautifully for both rounds in the tournament, but I was definitely a little bit off with my direction. I never drove the ball wildly, but I missed several fairways by a little bit, and the bermuda rough was penalizing. Similarly, I hit my irons very solidly, but missed my lines on several occasions and left myself with some difficult up and downs. I was very encouraged by the strike that I was getting on all of my shots, but I need to tighten up my accuracy.
My short game was pretty good. I was pleased with the way I pitched and chipped the ball. My putting, however, was still just not good enough. When I hit good iron shots to give myself birdie putts in the 10-20 foot range, I could never take advantage of any of them, so it was tough to ever get anything going. I feel good about my putting practice, and I was fairly solid from short range, so I am still encouraged, but I have to be better on the greens.
The most encouraging thing from the week was my attitude. The last several months have been rough on me, and I've been struggling lately with my confidence and my natural happy-go-lucky demeanor on the course. This week I had fun and felt confident nearly from start to finish. I definitely had my back against the wall a little bit on Friday, but I still believed good things were going to happen, and I was enjoying the challenge. Even though the results didn't show it, I feel like my performance in Alabama was a big step in the right direction.
I actually had things moving in the right direction on Friday. A disappointing three-putt from long range on the tough par-four third hole was my only blemish in the first part of my round, and I made back-to-back birdies on holes nine and ten to get myself under par for the tournament. I hit a slightly uncommitted drive on the par-four 11th and faced a flier lie (so I thought) out of the right rough to a challenging pin on the left side of the green. There is a hazard short, left, and long on the 11th, and I wasn't trying to do too much. I had 146 yards to cover a front bunker that protected the middle of the green, and I thought I had a big flier lie in the right rough. From a similar looking lie on the ninth hole on Thursday, I hit a nine iron that carried 164 yards. Still, with the hazard short, I didn't want to risk hitting a pitching wedge, so I hit a controlled nine-iron. The ball came off the club a little left of where I was aiming but flew right at the flag, and I thought I might have hit it close. Unfortunately, the ball didn't jump out of the lie like I thought it might, and it hit the bank in front of the green and came back into the hazard. I found it in the reeds on the bank of the hazard and it looked quite playable. Unfortunately I swung under the ball and it didn't move. Actually, it did. It fell down into the divot my swing made. From there, I decided to pick up my ball and go back to the fairway to drop. I was rattled, but I kept my composure really well and nearly holed my wedge from the fairway and salvaged a double-bogey. It was hard to imagine that I would make a great up-and-down for a six when my second shot was flying directly at the flag, but I never would have had any of these problems had I only committed to my tee shot a bit more and kept it in the fairway. Still, I definitely had things going in the right direction for a time on Friday, and I made a strong effort to finish strong despite the setback on number 11.
I still don't like missing cuts, but I'm not discouraged by my results in Alabama. I'm doing lots of things well, and I know that I can sharpen all areas of my game. I'm heading to Toronto next week for the Canadian Open, and I'm excited to keep working and keep playing.
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