Sunday, April 15, 2007

Golf Match #9, I Give Up The Lead

Bill and I played our 9th of the 10 match series last Sunday at Phoenix Country Club. It was a gorgeous morning and the course was in great shape. I had been kidding around with Bill to make sure he brought his money with him in case I won. Bill had said that he was going to hit 2 iron off of every par 4 and par 5. He felt that he had given me a few wins due to his mistakes off of the tee. Mostly I believe he has made his mistakes with his approach shots and a bad bunker shot. Bill’s strategy was to let me beat myself.

We both parred the first hole and walked up to the second tee. The pin was in the front of the green on the short par 3. Since there is a lake in front of the green, I usually try to take enough club to reach the middle of the green or back. The pin was 133 yards and I took a choked up iron instead of a full 9 iron. I hit a dead pull hook and put the ball in the water. I haven’t hit the lake on this hole in at least 10 rounds. Bill hit a good shot and a good putt that almost went in for birdie. I scraped out a double bogey and Bill took a two shot lead.

I made two great up and downs for par on 3 and 4 and picked up one stroke. On #5 the short par 4, I decided to hit 5 iron off of the tee. Marty and his friend Jeff were giving me a little shit for the conservative club choice, but the pin was in the front of the green and if I hit driver a little left or right of the green, the short pitch shot would be very tough to stop on the elevated green. So I think laying back with a 5 iron was the right choice. Unfortunately I did not execute the shot and hit it fat about 120 yards. So now I have 7 iron out of the rough short of the fairway. I hit it solid, but it drew a little left and landed in the deepest bunker on the course left of the green. Bill hit his approach in the right bunker which is also very deep.

My lie was good but I have to clear a 6 foot lip and stop the ball on a 40 foot stretch of fast green or it will roll over the green into the bunker on the other side. I had practiced this shot a little bit last Friday but it did not help on Sunday. I left two shots in the bunker before I finally got out. Bill got out on his first try and two putted for bogey. Luckily I made my 10 footer for double bogey and only lost one shot to Bill.

I missed a short 5 foot putt for par on 6 and I could have picked up 2 shots as Bill was in trouble with his approach and hit his pitch into the front bunker. It was beginning to become apparent that this was going to be one of those days where my wedge game was on. I had now hit 3 successive wedges inside 6 feet. I had made the first two putts, but I missed this one.

We both parred the 7th and we both 3 putted the 8th for bogey. On 9, I hit my approach into another bunker. This time I hit a good shot and made another up and down for par. Bill made a bogey and we were tied with a 42 on the front 9.

I pulled my drive on #10 to the left and it hit a tree solidly. I did not have a direct shot at the green so I hit a low hybrid under the trees to about 140 yards from the pin in the back of the green. There was a little wind behind me and I considered clubbing down and hitting a 9 iron to make sure that I did not go over the back of the green. I decided to go with the 8 iron because the pin felt like a perfect distance and considering I had not hit my irons very solid, I thought the chances of going over the green were slim. Sure enough I hit it very solid and it landed on the back edge of the green and rolled down the hill into the rough. Bill’s second shot was short of the green and he pitched up to about 8 feet. My pitch shot should have been easy to stop since it looked like it was sitting up in the rough. Somehow my club got stuck in the grass and the ball came out very low and ran 30 feet past the hole. I two putted for a disappointing double bogey.

I missed another short par putt on 11 that could have pulled me even again. On #12 I hit my first good drive since the 3rd hole. Bill and I both had 50 yard wedge shots to a middle pin position. We both hit our shots a little long since short was in a bunker. I played first from the fringe. My ball was tracking towards the hole the whole way and just curved off to the right at the end. I tapped in for my par and Bill made par as well.

So I am down one shot coming into our “Amen Corner”. Bill hit a good shot on 13 and ran it over the green. I hit another fat 5 iron and left it 35 yards short of the pin. However the magic wedge struck again and I hit a low spinner to 2 feet and tapped in for another par. Bill was going to be hard pressed to make par from behind the green. He gave it a solid effort but just missed the par putt and we are tied going into 14.

Bill crushed his 2 iron down the middle and I popped up a 3 wood. It was a good pop up in that it still went 180 yards and was between the stakes. I hit a great hybrid under the big pine tree, past the bunker short of the green, and into the valley below the green. Bill hit a solid approach to the middle of the green. I made another great wedge shot to kick in range and Bill 2 putted for is par.

On 15 I hit another crappy iron shot and pulled it left into the bunker. Bill hit his shot over the green and into the worst rough I have ever seen on the Phoenix Country Club course. I had a lot of bunker to carry and not a lot of green to work with since it sloped away from me. For the third time today I left a bunker shot in the trap.

After Bill watched my horrible shot, he decided to wedge out away from the pin. If he went at the pin, he could have easily hit it in the bunker or over the green into the lake. It was probably the right shot to hit no matter what I did, but I made the decision easy for him. I got out of the bunker on my second try and two putted for double bogey. Now I was behind by one stroke again.

Both of us hit our tee shots to the left on 16 and both of us had trees to deal with. Bill had to wedge out sideways. I hit a low pitching wedge to the front of the green. It looked like a great shot, but the hill in front of the green repelled my ball to the right and it looked like it might have rolled into the bunker. Bill hit his third shot long over the left side of the green. This left him with an impossible pitch shot up a hill to the short side of the green with it sloping hard away from him. He hit his wedge fat to the top of the hill. He was lucky it stayed up there, but it did. He two putted for double bogey.

I was lucky to find out that my shot had not gone in the bunker, but had rolled down the hill. I was hoping for some more magic from my wedge, but it was not to be. I hit a mediocre pitch and two putted for bogey. We are all tied with 2 holes to go.

Since I had been hitting nearly every shot with my driver to the left, I lined up to the right and tried keep my front shoulder closed. I finally hit a drive to the right, but it was too far to the right. It bounced past the fairway bunker into the rough on the right. Bill surprised me by pulling out his driver. He hit a pull hook left into the trees. We decided to look for Bill’s ball first. It was not easy to find and I helped him look for a couple of minutes. I told him that I wanted to go look for my ball because I thought it might be tourhg to find and I didn’t want to hold up the group behind us. As I was searching for my ball, Bill finally found his and hit a punch shot to 50 yards short of the pin.

When I started to look for my ball, I knew right away that I was in trouble. The rough was not very long and it was very possible that my ball had run through the rough and into the lake. I looked up and down and could not find it. Marty confirmed that the line on my ball flight was right for the lake. I declared it lost and took my drop. Then I hit my best iron shot of the day. I pured a six iron and it landed 3 feet from the cup and ran 20 feet by the hole. I still had a chance for par.

Bill had been having all kinds of trouble on 17 over the last few matches. This time he really came through in the clutch. He hit a 50 yard wedge shot to 4 feet. I had a slick downhill putt that could easily race by the hole. I made a great putt that teased the cup and stopped two feet past the hole. I made bogey from the water, but Bill did me one better.

So I get to 18 and I am down one. I pulled my 2nd shot into the trees on the left and I was in trouble again. Bill had laid up to the right and was in good shape. I found my ball on the cart path 130 yards from the hole. I took a drop in the rough and had an opening over the trees. I hit a great shot that landed on the front of the green. Unfortunately I could not get any spin on the shot out of the rough so the ball hit firmly and rolled past the hole and all the way through the green and into the rough. If that shot had stopped close to the hole I could have put a lot of pressure on Bill. Instead Bill hit his 3rd shot safely away from the water and in the middle of the green. He two putted and it was all over. It’s all tied 4.5 to 4.5. Bill’s strategy had paid off and I had made too many mistakes to secure the victory.

A couple of hours after the round, Bill called to see if we could renegotiate the bet. Bill admitted that he was very nervous the whole round and he did not like the feeling. “It’s obvious that we are equal golfers since we are tied after 9 rounds, so let’s not risk $500 on one round of golf,” said Bill. Just to hear Bill say we are “equal” golfers was enough for my ego to make me reconsider the bet. After some discussion we decided to play the next round for just $100 and whoever wins still keeps the title of “Best Golfer”. I kind of feel like a pussy for agreeing to lower the bet, but I take solace in the fact that Bill feels the same way.

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