Welcome to Golf Week!
Tiger had a helluva day yesterday. Even if you find golf boring, the human drama was compelling. Two guys far outdistancing all competitors, yet still struggling enough so the fans can occasionally gasp in horror. Tiger's drive on 17 was so far off-line that his yardage book didn't go that far. (In a golf book, I read about one of the guys who produces yardage books for the pros, and occasionally he puts in a distance with the notation "ICYFU" (In Case You F Up). In rare instances, there is "ICYRFU" (R=Really). This was an ICYRFU.)
Anyway, back to me. Did I ever tell you about the time I beat Tiger? In the third round of the 2002 British Open, Tiger posted an 81 in pretty bad conditions. With the time difference, I knew what I had to do in order to beat him. I had a late afternoon tee time at Maplegate Country Club, a fine course (one of my favorites) off I-495 in Bellingham (Course Rating 72.2, Slope 128 from the Blue tees). I hadn't been playing particularly well, but thought I could beat him that day, and actually set out to do so.
(Hmm, I'm torn here as to whether to do a shot-by-shot, as any true golfer would do, or to summarize. I don't think I remember the play by play anymore, but luckily, I have the scorecard, and I wrote it down after it happened, so here it is.)
I was hitting the ball well early, but three-putted #2 and 3, then missed makeable putts on #4 (15'), 5 (4'), 6 (12') and 7 (7'). Then I played the ninth hole badly from tee to green for a double bogey and a 43. When I pulled my drive into the trees on the 10th, it made it even more unlikely that anything great was going to happen, but I hit a 3 wood from the rough onto the green, made an up-and-down on the next hole for another par, then strung together two more pars and things were looking up. On the par 5 14th, I hit two absolutely perfect shots and found myself with a 12 foot eagle putt, which I misread and settled for a birdie. By this time the pace of play had slown down considerably. (Early on, my playing partner (a chain smoker who worked at the club cutting the holes on the front nines on weekends for $8/hr plus a free round of golf) and I cruised along quickly, playing the front nine in 90 minutes. By 12, though, we had to wait on every shot. Another fellow joined up with us, then left us on the 16th tee, went back to the 10th fairway, then caught up to us again on the 18th tee.) I didn't let the change in tempo get me frustrated this time, and managed to keep hitting fairways and greens and two putting. I came to 18 knowing I could afford a bogey and still break 80 (or a 6 and still beat Tiger). After an interminable wait, I took a couple easy swings to loosen up again, and hit a beautiful 3 wood down the middle of the dogleg hole. I was in between clubs on the approach shot, made the right choice, and hit it pretty well but watched it drift into the greenside bunker, the first one of the day. I don't need to tell you ("Please don't") how much I've been struggling with my sand game recently. Playing partner also went into the bunker, and stood there about 10 yards away, right where an errant shot could go, and I warned him, but he assured me that he was safe (he wasn't bothering me there other than I thought I might hit him). I took some deep breaths and some practice swings (although not nearly as many as a couple of the guys in the playoff at the Open) and blasted out to 10 feet.
Well, I know this generally qualifies as way, way too much information, but it was such a momentous occasion and all. Oddly, my iron game wasn't particularly sharp, as there was only one or two all day that I hit closer than 25', mostly missing to the right, but also in the other directions (but never more than one direction at a time, i.e., not both long and to the left). The key was avoiding bad shots. One birdie, ten pars, six bogeys, one double-bogey.
Adjusting for course difficulty, this probably ranks as my second-best round ever, behind a 66 at my home course growing up (Course Rating 62.6, Slope 93).
And Tiger got his act together the next day and beat me by 22. But we'll always have Maplegate.