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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

So Bad It's Good

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose -- Kris Kristofferson
Today I was playing nine at the Olde Course. (Mid-November, 65 degrees, another brutal day in Colorado...). I teed off on # 12, which is a narrowish dogleg left. This hole always grates on me, just like fingernails on a chalkboard, mainly because I tend to hit fades with my driver. Why not hit an iron? Why indeed... But I digress...

I lost it right into the trees, as I am wont to do on this shot. I strode hopefully into the woods, wondering if I'd have a line. Lots of times when I hit into the woods, I can find a possible route out -- if you get just enough altitude, and hit just the right amount of hook, you can get around the big cottonwood, and just over the scrub junipers, and leave yourself a short chip from in front of the green. Most of the time when I see that line, and envision just the right shot in my mind's eye, I yank the shot off the heel of my club and ricochet off the tree trunk to my left. One thing usually leads to another in these situtations, and I fight back and scramble, at last managing to curl in a 30 footer to save an eight.

Today, there was no hope. I was completely in jail. Boxed in. No overhead route. No shaped shot -- neither a hook nor a slice -- could possibly weave through the trees, despite the fact that the deciduous trees had all lost their foliage. No land route either. Even on my hands and knees I couldn't spot a path between the tree trunks where I might be able to scoot a worm-burner through the woods and onto the green with my two-iron. I had nothing. Heaving a sigh of despair, I had no choice but to knock down a seven-iron chip back into the middle of the fairway. From there I hit a sand wedge to the back corner of the green, narrowly missed a 10 foot putt, and had to settle for bogey.

Damn, I hate that! To be forced into doing the right thing because of a complete lack of alternatives! Oh sure, I know, saving bogey after a drive like that is something to be proud of. And I would have been proud if I had chipped back to the middle of the fairway despite seeing a possible line for a miracle shot!!! Because then I would have made "the smart play". Then I would have been using "course management". Then I would have been "taking my medicine". But this way, I wasn't a noble Nicklauseque golfer calmly taking double-bogey out of the picture. I was just a guy that hit a bad shot into the woods. I didn't make the smart play, I had to settle for the only play.

My problem (one of them, anyway) is that I turn my back on the smart play when I have a choice. Deep down inside, I yearn to be, not Jack Nicklaus, but Seve Ballesteros. Seve sprayed bad shots everywhere, and then amazed one and all with miraculous recovery shots. Golfing scholars will immediately point out that Jack didn't tend to hit a lot of balls into the woods in the first place. And here I am digressing again...

I always thought that the object of the game was to make the lowest score you could. I think I just realized that, at a subconscious level, I haven't been trying for that at all -- I've actually been aspiring to make superhuman shots. Why would anyone do that? Why would you set yourself up for the frustration and heartache of repeatedly trying to make shots that are beyond your capabilities? Well, that's a no-brainer, as all you bogey golfers know... it's because, every once in a blue moon, you pull one off!!!

And just like that, for that one brief moment, for that split second before your common sense kicks back in, you get a momentary glimpse of what it must feel like to be Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickelson, or Ernie Els, or any of the touring pros who can make a golf ball do wonderful things, who can seemingly bend inanimate objects to their will, who can exert control on uncontrollable situations. It's certainly a grand and glorious feeling, to pull off a miracle shot. Of course, it misses the large majority of what the touring pros mostly aspire to feel themselves. They mostly want to feel like they're incapable of hitting shots bad enough to find themselves in the woods to begin with. It's not the one exciting shot they make in a round -- it's the 72 boring shots right down the middle! (or 66...)

And with that blinding realization, I'm off for the Senior Tour, right? Doh! No. Realizing it, and actually being able to do it, are still two completely different things... Hey! Let me tell you about the sand save I made on 15! It was a horrible downhill lie...

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