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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Forget About The 2nd Shot. This Is The One That Matters.

Annika Sorenstam was providing commentary for the 3rd round of the  US Women's Open today and was listening to the other commentators banter about Jodi Ewart Shadoff's missed 2nd shot.  But Shadoff was setting up her 3rd shot.  Annika shut down the banter with a fairly decisive observation: Forget about the 2nd shot.  This is the one that matters.

Annika's right.  Golf is a game played one shot at a time, and I need to be mindful that the most important shot I will make is the next one.  I tend to forget that, especially when I get all tangled up in the consequences of a bad shot.  But I can and do also get sidetracked on especially good shots, and forget that in golf, as in life, I am more effective when I focus on where to go next, not where I've been.  Not even how I got to where I am now.

I hit a sorry excuse for a drive today on the par-5 8th hole.  I've written about this hole before -- it's the hole with the dreaded pond that completely intersects the fairway.  A few of the women -- Monster Miller and Barb and Bonnie Bell, the current women's Club Champion at Star Fort -- can usually hit sufficiently long and accurate drives to confidently get over the pond on their 2nd shot.  I must plan on a 2nd shot layup.  That's the reality of my game.

Given that reality, I try especially hard to stay in the short grass on the 8th hole.  It just makes my life easier.  But today I complicated matters by sending my short-girl drive into the little grove of saplings to the left of the cart path.  Whoops!  My layup shot wasn't impossible -- I had a nice, broad opening and could have, should have easily popped my ball down to the edge of the pond.  I had the right club in my hand and the alignment problem was fairly straightforward.

But my head was very busy ruminating on how I'd missed my drive.  What happened?  Thinking backwards rather than staying in the moment, I muffed my 2nd shot, still wasn't positioned to get over the pond, had to take a 3rd shot to get in position, finally got over the pond on my 4th shot, onto the green on my 5th, and 2-putted.  I ended the hole with a double bogey.

Forget about the previous shot.  This is the one that matters.

After the turn (and a needed trip to the ladies room) I took on the 10th hole, a par 4 that really should be a par 5 for me.  It's a long hole.  The forward tee box isn't all that forward, and the primary obstacle is a big hill.  Short drives end up down in a gully or mid-way up the hill and require a blind 2nd shot.

I was playing with Monster Miller today.  (In her other life, Monster is a coach, and she occasionally lapses into that role when she feels I'm not doing it right on the golf course.  I don't mind.  She's opened my stance, which has reduced the stress on my ancient knees and also straightened out that little tail to the right that I've complained about.  She's repeatedly gotten my head to stop bobbing when I putt, which has also had positive outcomes.)

As I was setting up my drive Monster yelled, Spread your legs, Doc!  (Monster is the only person at the golf club who addresses me as Doc.)

I'm old enough that I almost instinctually resist leg spreading.  Taking an athletic stance does not come naturally for me and over the course of 18 holes of golf I will catch myself getting narrower and narrower in my stance.

So I spread my legs into an athletic stance, took my shot, followed through and ended up at the top of the hill, looking down a broad, unobstructed fairway.  Ka-pow!  My 3-wood wouldn't get me to the green, but it would get me close enough that I would stand a good chance of getting up and down.  And so, still glowing with delight about my exceptional drive, I either didn't check my alignment or didn't follow through, or both, and ended up across the cart path in a grove of Bradford pear trees that have lots of low-hanging branches.

Forget about the previous shot.  This is the one that matters.

Now I faced a 3rd shot that needed to come out of the rough, travel about 50 yards, sliding under several leafy branches, running dangerously close to a green-side bunker on the right, and up to the flag on a green that slopes left.

Forget about the previous shot.  This is the one that matters.

I pulled my 6 iron out of my bag (keep it low), set up the shot, took a couple of swings to get a feel for the rough, lined up, and took my shot.

That ball went exactly where I told it to go, and the next shot put it in the cup, and I walked off the green with a par.

I certainly hope I can remember Annika's advice on my next round!  Actually, I hope I can remember it as a more general guideline for managing my affairs off the course as well.