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Thursday, August 25, 2016

What in the World Happened to My Tee Shot?

The wheels came off my round when I made the turn - where, or where, did my dependable tee shot go?

I was really looking forward to my regular Thursday round this morning. I've been doing some work on my short game - tweaking my bump and run shot, changing a couple of short irons in my bag to get better coverage from 70 to 90 yards out - and was eager to test out the changes on the course.

Things started out well enough. I had 5 up and downs on the front nine and despite a triple bogey on the dreaded water hole and a missed birdie putt (depressingly short) I was looking at a fairly good score when I made the turn.

Then the wheels came off. My consistently dependable and predictable tee shot didn't make the turn with me.

On the 10th hole my tee shot went left and I ended up in a fairway bunker. That wasn't terribly worrisome. Sometimes I lose my rhythm when we make the turn and it takes a hole to get it back. So I came out of the bunker with my five wood, made good progress down the fairway, and finished the hole with a bogey, a good score for this girl on the long par four.

Then I did the same thing on the par five 11th hole, only this time I hit the cover off the ball. It was flying off to the left and headed for OB, but hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway. Thank you, golf goddess! Two good three wood shots later I was sitting at the front of the green and again walked off with a bogey. This time a waster opportunity - I can easily shoot par on the 11th hole.

The long par three was trouble-free - my five wood was behaving. But trouble came back in a big way on the 13th. In an attempt to get my driver back under control I choked down about three inches. I still hit left, but now pitifully short, and it sounded like I'd hit a marshmallow.  The trouble continued on the 14th - left, short, and mushy.

By the time I teed it up on the 15th hole I was terrified of my driver, so I left it in the bag and pulled out my three wood. That was a good decision, for a while. I didn't get the distance my driver generally delivers, but I did advance the ball and land it in the fairway, which was an improvement over what had been happening.

Then the troubles shifted to my par three tee shot on the 16th hole, this time with a five hybrid. Left. Never mind that I managed to get the ball out of the rough, up over a bunker, and onto the green with a magnificent flop shot.  What was going on with my tee shot?

I stumbled through 17 an 18 using my three wood off the tee, but it wasn't a pretty finish. The short game changes seemed to work. With 13 putts on the front nine and 16 on the back, I managed to salvage the round but I'm left dreaming about the round I could have had - the golfer's endless quest for that round when it all comes together simultaneously - and wondering what in the world happened to my tee shot on the back nine?

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Olympics and Me

Despite dire predictions and a rough start, golf's return to the Olympic Games has been a glorious success!

I'm a 74-year old jock of mediocre talent. Yet even with these fundamental limitations, I love to compete - on the golf course, in the swimming pool, on a small sailboat, at the bowling alley. It's not in my makeup to play at anything just for the sake of playing. My genes are calibrated to competition.

Watching first the men and then the women who play golf at the highest level of competition make their return to the Olympic venue has sharpened my own competitive impulse and unleashed the flow of my competitive juices. There's no way around it. I love watching Charley Hull and Lydia Ko going head-to-head, battling the wind, the golf course, and each other in their quest for Olympic gold.

But I'm also enjoying Aditi Ashok's excellent performance and I'm applauding Maha Haddoui because, even though she's dead last in the Olympic field and very likely to finish in that position she's unleashing those same competitive juices that so energize me. I know how good it feels to compete. It's a pure, near-spiritual experience. Therein lies the bottom line for athletic performance and the essential core of the Olympic Games, ancient and modern.

Of course competition is about winning, but it's also about engaging, about the willingness to take risks, to measure self against other. What was all that grinning about as Usain Bolt pushed ahead of Andre De Grasse? What are all those hugs and high fives and fist bumps between competitors about when the contest has been decided?

Those naysayers who have denigrated golf's return to the Olympic venue just don't get this aspect of the game. K.M. McFarland just doesn't get it - golf didn't "land in the Olympic rough" as McFarland falsely claims, and it was never about providing an international showcase for Tiger Woods.

Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth may have decided to take a pass on Rio but Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, and Matt Kuchar didn't; and Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Brooke Henderson are on the golf course and engaged in a fierce battle for Olympic gold as I write. The following galleries for both the men's and women's Olympic golf competition have been large and enthusiastic and national television viewerships have exceeded expectations.

Peter Dawson knew what he was doing when he assured the IOC that the sport embodies and would embrace the Olympic spirit and the IGF has done a fine job of reopening the Olympic venue.  All-in-all, 2 weeks of Olympic golf have inspired, entertained, and taught me a few things.