Played my first tournament of 2012 today. Left the course pretty upset and disappointed, which sounds bad but is actually good, since it shows I still care and not just going through the motions. I've been playing well last couple of weeks so expectations were high, especially since this was a qualifying round for the NCGA net amature championship.
Things got off to a rocky start with a double after blading a bunker yard 40 yards across the green. My sand play used to be decent but lately I think I'm putting so much pressure on myself to save par out of the bunker that I get completely bent. Ironically, the rough start kind of settled my nerves and I went on to play well through 5. I was 1 hestitant putt away from going +1 over 4 holes.
After the par on the 5th I sensed this could be a special round. All I had to do was make it through the difficult 6th then holes 7-9 play easy (easiest 3 hole stretch at Harding, in my opinion). The most difficult part of 6 is the tee shot. It's basically a chute guarded by trees left and right. If you can find the fairway it's actually a pretty straight forward hole. The pin was way back left guarded by a couple of bunkers so I played smart and just bailed right. Plenty of green to work with, absolutely perfect lie. I couldn't have asked for a more routine chip-and-putt.
Then I made golf's cardinal sin: I got ahead of myself. Routine chip-and-putt, I can make par, I thought to myself. I'm good enough to get up-and-down. And if make par, I'm pretty sure I can go out in 39 or 40 because 7-9 plays easy. That's on pace to advance to the next qualifying round. Now I'm getting way ahead of myself.
When you get ahead of yourself, you get too eager, too eager to see how good your shot it. So you peak and lookup early. Of course this has the opposite effect. When you lookup to see how good your shot is, you end you skulling it across the green. Incredibly huge mental mistake. I still can't get it out my head. On a difficulty scale of 1-10 (10 being the hardest), this chip-and-putt was maybe a 3. And I make a complete mess of it, all because I got ahead of myself and didn't play "one shot at a time".
Every golfer makes execution mistakes. I can live with that. Bad swing, miss read the green, etc. But mental mistakes are avoidable. And this wasn't my only mental meltdown of the round. I caught a really bad break on 11th, ball completely plug in the lip of the bunker. So teeing off on the 12th I was a little frustrated. The 12th is an easy par 5. Two hybrids leaves me an easy short iron/wedge in. But being a little steamed I wanted hit driver, which makes no absolutely no sense because it brings a lot of trouble into play.
As I'm getting ready to hit I felt so uncomfortable. Sure, I've only missed 1 fairway so far, but every part of my body is telling me to stick to my normal routine and hit an easy hybrid, except my idiot head. When your head is not in sync with your body bad things happen. Proceeded to hit one into the trees. Lost ball. First lost ball at Harding in probably 25 rounds. Went and got my hyrbid, hit a perfect shot down the middle. Laid up to about 110 yards. Hit a perfect approach to 6 feet. But at that point I was so out of it, thinking about "what could have been" and proceeded to 3 putt from 6 feet.
Why am I laboriously detailing these mental mistakes? So hopefully I'll never make them again. I can never get ahead of myself. I can't play the "if I make..." mental game. Really, it's as simple as one shot at a time. If I'm not comfortable over a shot, I need to back off. My body is telling me something is not right. My mind can't force my body to do something its not comfortable with.
Bobby Jones was right, "golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course...the space between your ears."