Sunday, July 31, 2016

Charlotte Area Golfweek Amateur Tour Major Tournament Review - 7/30/16 & 7/31/16 - Player's Championship (Multiple Courses)

Scorecard and Game Golf Links Below

So close... yet so far.  That was the quick, single sentence summary of this past weekend.  The Charlotte Area Golfweek Amateur Tour held their 3rd major of the season, the Player's Championship, during the final weekend of July at 2 of the courses we've had a chance to play on earlier in the year.

First up on Saturday was Cowan's Ford Country Club in Stanley, NC.  This is in the top 5 of my favorite courses that we play and every time we go there, I like it more and more.  The layout is challenging, yet fair... and it reminds me of the courses I played for years in New Jersey.

The final round, played on Sunday, was at Carolina Lakes Golf Club in Indian Land, SC.  Of all the courses we play throughout the season, this is one of the closest to my house, which makes for a nice, short drive to the course.  I find this to be a more difficult track because of the need to lay up from the tee on certain holes, but... it's still a nice course that provides a very good test.

As with the other major reviews, I won't do a hole-by-hole breakdown.  Instead, I'll list some highlights and some lowlights along with a bit of commentary mixed in here and there.  Those are below for you to peruse at your leisure.

Round 1 - Cowan's Ford Country Club

Day 1644565554445245476464387

Round 2 - Carolina Lakes Golf Club

Day 2565365375455436573654489

I had been looking forward to this weekend for awhile now.  A group of us had decided that on Saturday evening, after the first round, we'd all head out to dinner with our wives and girlfriends, so... on top of the golf, I was looking forward to an enjoyable evening as well.  Friday night, I found it tough to sleep.  I had been playing pretty well in recent events and I felt like, if I could post a good round on Saturday, I'd have a pretty decent shot at possibly taking home the trophy.

When I woke up on Saturday morning, WAY earlier than I intended to, I got myself ready, packed up the truck and headed out.  I arrived about 2 hours early to the course so I'd have plenty of time to warm up.  Unfortunately, they had closed down the short game area as the green was struggling, so... I was relegated to hitting some balls and then putting.  I spent about 30 minutes in the clubhouse joking with some friends and then, about 15 minutes before our tee time, I headed back out to loosen up again.  Finally... it was time to go, so we loaded up and headed out.

Round 1 Highlights

- Right off the bat, I had a highlight and then a pair of lowlights.  The highlight was my opening tee shot, which I murdered right down the middle.  Game Golf measured it at 287 yards, but I'm pretty sure it was over 300 yards as I believe it was tagged in the wrong spot on the tee.  Either way, it was a hammered drive and it was a nice way to start out my round.  Now... see the lowlights for details on how that hole ended up.

- On the 18th hole (my 4th hole), I hit a very good tee shot with my 4 iron then hit another great 4 iron up into the fairway.  Unfortunately, I hit a poor approach as I caught it a little heavy.  This put me in a bunker about 40 yards away.  I hit what I thought was a really good shot from the trap, but it ended up in the trap at the back of the green.  This left me short-sided to a hole on a green that was running away from me.  I played a nearly perfect shot from there to less than 2 feet and saved a bogey.  One of my playing competitors called it a 'professional' sand shot, which felt pretty good to hear.

- After a sketchy tee shot on the 4th hole, I hit a weak little wedge that faded on me and ended up on the edge of a greenside bunker.  I didn't have much of a shot, but I managed to hit a decent shot right at the pin.  It caught the stick on the fly about 3/4 of the way up and that knocked it down and to the left.  This left me just off the green.  If I didn't hit that pin, I probably would have been 30 yards away over the green.  I managed to save a bogey from that position.  So, a little bit of a lucky 'highlight' there for me.

- Following a stretch of poorly played holes, I finally got things together on #9 by making a par with a nearly perfectly played hole.  The drive was perfect.  The approach was played very well and then I made a good two-putt from 32 feet for par.  This really set the tone for the remaining 5 holes of my round after that as I played #9 through #14 in par - bogey - birdie - par - bogey - par.

- The highlight of the entire weekend came from me on #11.  After hitting a solid hybrid that faded off to the right and kicked off the slope to the right of the green, I was left short-sided and about 6 feet below the level of the hole.  Luckily, the ball was sitting up in the rough a little and that allowed me to feel confident in playing a flop shot.  I opened the face of my lob wedge and took a pretty big swing, popping the ball straight up in the air and on line with the flag.  The ball landed about 3 feet in front of the hole, hopped up and hit the flag stick (second one I hit in that round) and rode the pin down into the hole for a birdie!

    Round 1 Lowlights

    - So, after my opening drive, I was left with about 211 yards to the hole.  There is a hazard that crosses directly in front of the green, but I figured that as long as I hit it solidly, I'd be able to get there with a hybrid.  Unfortunately, I pushed it WAY right.  So far right, in fact, that it hit the trees and got a fortuitous kick back into play.  The ball landed in the rough shy of the hazard.  From there, I took a VERY poor swing and the ball dropped directly into the hazard.  After a drop, I put the ball on the green, but after a great drive... I settled for a double bogey to open the tournament.  

    - Things didn't get much better on the next hole (#16) as I pushed another drive to the right.  It hit a tree and dropped down but left me blocked out from going for the green.  I still tried to hit a punched 6 iron, but I topped it.  I got to the green with my 3rd shot, but absolutely blasted my first putt WAY beyond the hole.  This led to a three-putt and a second consecutive double bogey to start.

    - On holes 5, 6 and 7, I ended up with back-to-back-to-back three-putts.  My putting just kind of 'left' me on those holes after hitting 5 and 6 in regulation and getting on #7 from the greenside bunker.  The putts were from 31 feet on #5, 22 feet on #6 and 48 feet on #7.  At that point, I was truthfully getting a little aggravated with myself and needed to figure out what I was doing wrong.

      Round 1 Recap

      After beginning with back-to-back double bogeys, I did a good job playing the remaining 16 holes in +11.  If it weren't for a few issues with putting in the middle portion of my round, I probably would have been able to post a REALLY solid round.  Still, as it stood... I finished with a good score of 87 which put me in a tie for 2nd place and only 1 stroke behind the leader.

      Although I was very happy to have posted such a good score... I knew there was still work to be done and it was going to come at a course where I had historically not played very well.

      My wife and I went out that night with a handful of other couples from the club and had a really great evening.  By the time we got home, it was about midnight.  I was really hoping that I'd fall asleep easily, but I kind of figured that I would struggle to sleep.  I was correct.  Trying to sleep while thinking of what I needed to do in the round the next day proved to be extremely difficult and I got about 4 hours of sleep total before I woke up the next morning.  

      Round 1 Stats

      • Score - 87
      • Penalty Strokes - 1
      • Putts - 36
      • Fairways - 6 of 14
      • Greens in Regulation - 6 of 18
      • Up and Downs - 2 of 9
      • Sand Saves - 0 of 4

      Typically, I come into the second day of the 2 day majors with no shot.  I had played in 7 of them previously, and in each case, I was at least 6 strokes behind the leader to start the second round.  It was a totally different kind of feeling being within 1 of the leader and, while I kept myself loose and had fun during my warm-up session that morning... there was still pressure.  I had a bunch of people wishing me luck and telling me to bring it home, which felt good and gave me a confidence boost.  Still... arriving 2.5 hours early was probably not the greatest idea I ever had.

      At just before 1pm... we headed out and were ready to go.

      Round 2 Highlights

      - After a poor start (bogey - bogey - triple), I came to a hole I do not get along with very well.  It's a par 3 over a marshy pond with a huge bunker in front.  After watching all 3 of my playing competitors end up in that bunker, I hit a really nice 7 iron to about 12 feet.  I just missed the birdie putt, letting it die off to the low side of the hole, but it left me a tap-in par while the leader (at that point) made a triple bogey.

      - Unfortunately (as you'll see below), I was in a position where I really could not win with 4 holes left to play.  I was relegated to playing for  what I was hoping was 2nd place at that point.  Heading into the final 4 holes, I was 4 strokes behind the guy in 2nd place.  On the 9th hole, he made an extremely unlikely par while I had to settle for a bogey.  That put him 5 up with 3 hole to go.  On #10, I made a bogey while he made a double, which put me back to 4 down with just 2 to play.  On #11, I made par and he botched the hole from a greenside trap.  This meant that I was just 1 down with 1 final hole to go.  From the final tee (a par 3), I hit a really solid shot to the front of the green, leaving myself about 15 feet.  He hit a shot long and left and ended up on a cart path.  Somehow, he made a miraculous shot from where he was to about 4 feet, meaning I essentially had to make mine.  I was unable to make it and settled for a tap-in par.  He made his 4 footer and he ended up besting me by 1 stroke.

        Round 2 Lowlights

        - Things didn't go well right off the bat.  My opening tee shot was a topped and dribbled up into the rough on a fairly lengthy par 5.  I managed to recover nicely and salvaged only a bogey, but it wasn't the start I needed to instill confidence in myself... that's for sure!

        - After opening up bogey - bogey... I came to a short par 4 with trouble down the right side.  I wanted to be aggressive, but there was no need to be.  I SHOULD have just hit a 4 iron up into the left side of the fairway and then left myself a 7 iron or less into the green.  Instead, I pulled out my driver and blew 2 consecutive tee shots into the pond on the right side.  The first was so far right that it crossed the margin of the hazard almost immediately.  The second was up enough where I could have dropped, but I elected to just take my triple bogey (club maximum) and move on.  This put me at +5 through just 3 holes.

        - On hole #2, which was my 8th hole of the day, I hit a good drive which left me about 103 yards to the flag.  In my head, I was screaming to not pull it into the really deep bunker fronting the green.  Instead, I pushed the club out to the right on the downswing and hit a complete shank.  I thought it was going to get hung up in the rough on the right side, but it hit hard enough that it just skipped out of bounds.  This ultimately led to a double bogey.

        - On the 5th hole, I hit a really quick, really poor snap hook into the trees on the left.  We found my ball, but I had barely any room to advance it.  I did my best to punch it out and managed to get it out into the rough along the left side.  From there, I couldn't go for the green, so I was forced to lay up short of the hazard crossing the fairway.  By the time I holed out, it was another double bogey.  The worst part about this is that it was sandwiched between 4 pars.

        - The killer for the day came on the 8th hole.  I had drawn to within 3 shots of the leader with 5 holes to play and I knew that both the leader and the guy in 2nd place were feeling the pressure.  From the 8th tee, I hit a bit of a pull.  It was absolutely smashed, but a little left.  One of my playing competitors hit a similar shot that was a little further left.  When we got up into the rough along the left side, we found his ball with ease.  Mine, however, was nowhere to be seen.  We spent the 5 minutes allowed searching for it but found nothing.  I was forced to go back to the tee and hit another ball.  I destroyed it and left myself about 45 yards to the hole.  Because I was so angry and distracted about not finding my first ball, I was having an argument with myself in my own head.  I hit a wedge long and very left which put me 47 feet from the hole.  A killer three-putt meant I took a triple bogey and my chances were done.

          Round 2 Recap

          Looking back, the poor decision to hit driver on the 15th hole (my 3rd of the day) was one that will haunt me for awhile.  There was zero need for it at that point and I gave myself an almost impossible hill to climb.  By the time I hit the disappearing tee shot on the 8th hole, I was to a point where I needed to make a birdie to draw myself closer to the leader.  Considering my birdie percentage is ridiculously low (2.5%)... that wasn't a good probability.

          I'll learn from this round, if nothing else.  I'm just hoping that I have another shot in the final major of the season in September.

          Round 2 Stats

          • Score - 89
          • Penalty Strokes - 4
          • Putts - 35
          • Fairways - 5 of 14
          • Greens in Regulation - 6 of 18
          • Up and Downs - 2 of 8
          • Sand Saves - 0 of 2

          Tournament Stats

          • Score - 176
          • Penalty Strokes - 5
          • Putts - 71
          • Fairways - 11 of 28
          • Greens in Regulation - 12 of 36
          • Up and Downs - 4 of 17
          • Sand Saves - 0 of 6

          In the end, I found myself in 4th place as one of the guys in the group ahead of us carded an 85 and leaped me and the other guy.  So, I took home 4th place and a $100 Visa gift card.  While I was happy to have earned a 'money' finish in a major (my 3rd such major finish)... I was disappointed that I ended up 4 strokes behind the winning score.  I look to the 15th hole and the 8th hole as the points where I gave away my shot at winning.  It's helped teach me about what I have to do in the future, but... it still stings a bit.

          Because of a trip to the mountains, I'm going to miss the next tournament... but I will play at least twice (possibly 3 times) between now and the tournament on 8/13.  I'm hoping to continue posting scores in the 80's and picking up points.  Although I've got pretty much no shot at winning the points title for the season, I'll be doing everything I can over the final 4 tournaments of my season.  Still... a 2 week break between this tournament round and the next seems like forever.

          Until then...

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