Friday, July 15, 2011

Pressure: Down in Flames

Pressure is something everyone experiences in daily live. It might be pressure to pay the bills, study the proper amount for a test, or to meet a deadline at work. In the sports realm, pressure is something that every athlete must learn to deal with.

Every sport brings different pressure in different situations. I really enjoy golfing and have recently gotten more into the sport in the past sixth months. Last week I had the chance to play The Highlands Course at the Atlanta Athletic Club, the same course that will be used in a month for the 93rd PGA Championship.

I went out to the range that morning before we played focused and was striking the ball exceptionally well. I was controlling my irons and putting strong accurate swings on my wood and driver. I was playing loose and relaxed. It was time to translate practice into success on a very difficult course.

The course was in perfect condition to prepare for the championship. The sheer fact that the best in the world would be taking similar shots to me in a month made my knees a little weak. I cannot wait to see guys like Rory and Phil play the course in a few weeks.

My good swings on the range did not translate to a good day on the course. Five straight 3 puts to start the day tempered my mood and I was frustrated with my game for the rest of the day. Instead of a smooth violent swing on Par 4 and Par 5 tee Boxes I took a short, violent swing that left me in the second and third cut for most of the day.

The lone bright spot for the day came on the par 3’s. There are three Par 3’s on The Highlands Course and I was on every one of them putting for birdie. Once again frustration and pressure came into play as I ended up 3 putting all three for three bogeys.

Par 3 Hole Number 4 on The Highlands Course

As I came to the 18th tee box, I had just three putted my way to a bogey on 17. I went into 18 with the mindset of finishing the round on a positive note. Number 18 on The Highlands course is a par 5-dog leg left which leads up to the clubhouse. With the inconsistency of my driver I left it in the bag and opted with a 3 iron. My straightest drive of the afternoon left me in good shape. I hit a three iron again on my second shot to the middle of the fairway.

Once again playing ultra conservative I hit a five iron for my third shot. As I approached my fourth shot, I had an awkward uphill lie on the right side fringe. 178 yards in the second cut over the water.After playing the hole so conservative I decided it was time to take a chance and go for it.

Never lay up

At that point in time, I felt pressure. If I did not hit a perfect shot my ball would be in the water. My knees weakened a little bit. My partner and I were 1 stroke ahead. The smart play would have been to lay up. But laying up is not something that I do in golf. As I took a few practice swings the famous Tin Cup Scene “Down in Flames” flashed through my head.
(youtube clip)
I struck the ball on a line and hit a perfect shot. As I watched the ball come down, I realized it was short of the green as it splashed into the water.

As I walked to the drop zone I lost all concentration. I did not even take time to think about my shot. I simply walked to my bag and grabbed the only club I trust, the 7 iron. My mental mindset was gone at this point and I hit another ball into the water, this time it was a shot that should not have gone in the water. I stepped back took a deep break and realized I had lost the competition. I took an easy swing and landed the ball on the far side of the green. I ended up two putting to end the day on a solid note.

As I walked of the green I took a look around at where I was. An immaculate golf course, home the 2011 PGA Championship. I realized I had nothing to complain about. A day on the golf course is better than a day at the office. If I had to do it all over again I would have hit a 3 iron to reach the green but I am happy with the shot I took.

Down in Flames.