After surprising myself with a tie for 14th in the Zimbabwe Open, I have entered every Sunshine Tour event on the schedule, in the hope of playing well enough to regain my fully exempt status.
With that said, I am under no illusion as to how tough it is to compete with this new crop of young guns, especially looking down the barrel of 40. I haven’t played competitively in over two years, so it’s safe to say that an uphill battle awaits.
Since the Zim Open, the stats read: Played 6. Cuts made 3. Cuts missed 3. All three cuts I missed were despite being positioned inside the top 10 going into the second day, with opening rounds of 68, 68 and 66.
The three cuts I made were all with average opening rounds of 71, 73 and 73.
I have decided to unpack this mess, in the hope that both you and I can take away the positives. Here’s hoping that something clicks before our next tee times. Asking ourselves the right questions in order to better understand something is always a great start, so here is a valuable lesson I learned from my most recent ‘comedy of on-course errors’, at De Zalze Golf Club in Stellenbosch.
One thing about playing a great course in its most pristine condition, is that if anything goes wrong, it’s completely on you. With that said, I teed it up on the 1st hole of round two in second place.
With all the right ‘feels’ in place from my warm-up, I walked across to the 1st tee, checked in with the starter and took a few practice swings while visualising the opening tee shot. I would love to continue by saying that it all came together in the mental frame I had created for myself.
However, a seed of doubt had been planted a few moments before as the wind switched and I had since stood there with one hand on my 3-wood and the other on my hybrid. Not the best place to be at any level, let alone when you are trying to chase down the leader, George Coetzee.
What happened next is embarrassing because it went against everything that I believe to be the right play in those circumstances. The golden rule for any player under even the slightest pressure on a tee box should be to hit what you know you can commit fully to, and most importantly, a club which will get you into play.
That club for me would have been a hybrid. Instead, I opted to force the situation and ‘stick to my guns’ by hitting the 3-wood with a slight fade off the bunkers up the left. Instead, I proceeded to double-cross myself through impact and pull-hooked the ball directly into a swimming pool of a De Zalze homeowner’.
That triple-bogey was the equivalent of a boxer suffering concussive knockdowns in the opening seconds of the fight. Left dazed and confused, I stumbled through the afternoon and missed the cut by one shot.
Where would I have ended up that day if I had swung freely with the hybrid? We will never know, as in both golf and life, we only ever get one chance to make the best decision at any crossroad.
Nick Price offered a great pearl of wisdom in a phone call to my motel room many years ago, while I was playing on the Canadian Tour.
He told me to ask myself which club I would trust 100% through impact, in order to find the fairway on any given hole. Start by asking about the driver and then go through the bag, until the answer was a resounding yes, because that is the club you will swing through the ball with the most freedom and the most commitment.
Finally, I would like to apologise to both the former world No 1, as well as the owner of the house 30 yards left of the fairway bunker on the first hole at De Zalze Golf Club.
– This column first appeared in the September 2022 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. Subscribe here!