Got home from the annual Palm Springs tournament on Sunday night and I am so happy to report to you all that I have won the tournament for the 2nd consecutive year! Back to back championships now and I’m so thrilled! Unfortunately, I didn’t shoot that under par round that I was hoping for and I did make some uncharacteristic mistakes (I’ll get into that later), but overall, I played some real solid golf and in the end I accomplished the main goal of winning the tournament.
For those of you who didn’t follow me or read my posts from last year’s Palm Springs tournament, it is a 3 day event where we play courses at both PGA West and La Quinta. This year we had a field over about 90 golfers and although most of the field was just hacking it around, there are some really solid players that play in this event. On the final round, the top 4 leading golfers in the tournament all play together and this year’s final group found me playing against some extremely good players. It consisted of one who played at a division 1 college team, another who qualified for the Buick Invitational PGA Tour Event here in San Diego at Torrey Pines a few years ago (it’s now called the Farmers Insurance Open) and another a scratch golfer, who plays in many USGA events and was leading me by 3 strokes…not to mention it was about 110 degrees every single day. This was now my 4th year attending this annual tournament in the desert and I had one it the year before so I also had that little added pressure of being defending champ!
Day 1 – PGA West – Greg Norman Course
The first day we played at the Greg Norman, a course I had never played at before and it was extremely challenging. I’ve never played a true “desert” course like that before…it was basically only fairways and desert. Not much rough at all, but the fairways were narrow and you had to be deadly accurate both off the tee and on your 2nd shots or you were playing from the rock hard desert or losing your ball in the shrubs. Playing any course for the first time is always difficult, obviously why pros play practice rounds, but I played some solid golf. I ended up shooting a 78 (+6) with only 1 birdie, but was still only 2 shots off the lead after day 1. My ball striking was really solid, but I was disappointed in my score, I just could not figure out the Bermuda greens and putted terrible. My lag putting was horrid! Left countless putts 3-4 ft short, but was making most of the 2nd putts, but I did end up 3-putting twice. I’ve never played on Bermuda greens before and it’s something totally different than what I’m used to…so slow!! I also bogeyed two par 5’s, something I almost never do, both as a result of tee shots that found the hazards. So that is 4 shots right there that I should have the skills to avoid, so I left a possible low score on the course, but was still right there at the top of the leader board in 3rd place.
Day 2 – PGA West – Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course
I’ve played this course each of the previous 3 years, so I have some course knowledge built up by now. I absolutely love this course; it’s challenging yet fun, beautiful and well maintained. This only problem this year was that the greens had been aerated, must have been a few weeks prior, they weren’t sandy, but the punched holes still slightly remained, certainly enough to affect putts. Nonetheless, I was most confident to play this course of all the 3 because I like the layout, my scores have improved every year here and I looked forward to trying to go low on a real difficult course. My ball striking remained solid, but I just could not take advantage of ANYTHING all day and didn’t have a single birdie, yet was still able to shoot only a 75(+3). 15 pars and 3 bogeys, one of the bogies was another 3 putt and I again bogeyed two par 5’s!! What?!? I seriously never bogey par 5’s and I had now done it 4 times in 2 rounds, was frustrating beyond belief. With my length, I expect to be making birdie on a lot of them and certainly never making worse than par. As I had talked about in my previous post before I left, my wedge game from 100 yards and in was my main concern and it came into play big time during this round. I had 5 shots from the range of 90-70 yards during the round and I only hit the green once!! That is really really bad and I was left having to scramble for par (which I did successfully) rather than having a solid look at birdie and a par almost guaranteed with an easy 2 putt. If I want to shoot under par, I must improve that part of my game, I’ll be sure to dedicate a lot more time to that area going forward. The low round of the day was a 73(+1) from a guy who shot 77 the first day. The person who was leading after a first round 76 ended up dropping back quite a bit and I jumped into 2nd place heading into the final round trailing by 3 strokes. **Here is a video of my tee shot on the par 3 17th hole. You can’t really see the ball flight from the video, but I hit a 9iron that I tried to draw back to the flag…it finished about 15 ft pin high left. 2 putt par.**
Day 3 Final Round – La Quinta Dunes Course
This was a big day for me, all the work I’ve been doing on my mental game was going to come into play today. I’ve never been in a tournament final round pairing before, last year I played in a pre set up group, so this year I had some nerves cooking. I’ve never been in that type of situation before and I knew it was going to be great experience for later on when I play in bigger tournaments going forward, like Golf Channel Am Tour Events. I studied my yardage book the night before, devised a game plan and visualized playing the course in my mind. I even visualized them calling my name as champion at the banquet because I believe in the theory that if the mind can see it and truly believe it, then you can achieve it! I went in with the mindset of keeping my emotions in check and trying to just focus on playing one single shot at a time. I wanted to get lost in the game and try to go unconscious…I wanted to be in the “zone.” I knew which player it was that I was 3 shots behind and I knew at some point if I looked like I was gaining ground or in the lead that I would be watching his shots thinking “ok, now I must make this putt to stay 1 down or 1 up” so I tried to make sure I didn’t fall into that trap. In a sense I didn’t want to score board watch, I wanted to come down to the 18th hole not knowing if I was leading or not. I just wanted to stick to my game plan I set up the night before and play my game, that’s all I can do and in the end if it’s not enough to be the winner so be it.
I’m so proud of myself, I honestly kept focused on one shot at a time, when my mind did wander a few times, I recognized it and snapped back out of it immediately. I let go of any bad shots, maintained a positive attitude and neutral emotions and got into that elusive “zone” that golfers strive for. I honestly had no idea of my individual score I was so much in the zone, let alone where I was in relation to the lead. I could sense that I was probably in the lead, but wasn’t sure by how much if at all. They set it up so that our 18th hole was the 17th hole(pictured below) which is the #1 handicapped hole and I have heard the 1st or 2nd hardest hole in all of California! It is a long dog leg left holes with water all down the left side, extremely intimidating, but I didn’t think twice and stuck to my game plan of hitting a 4 iron off the tee. I hit it right down the middle of the fairway, where as the person I was battling the lead with took driver and hit it through the fairway into a bunker. He had an almost impossible 2nd shot and hit it into the water. He later told me that he was thinking in his head as he saw me pull 4 iron “wow he’s going conservative and playing it smart” He talked himself out of doing the same, it was nice of him to tell me how impressed he was with my mental attitude, my game and how I went about playing the course. I ended up winning by 5 strokes after being down 3 strokes going into the final round and accomplished my goal of back to back championships!! Now my mind is already set on that 3-peat next year and shooting an under par round. I want that under par round at that tourney, it didn’t happen this year, but I will have it!
I know this is a really long post, thanks for sticking around and taking the time to read it, thanks for all your support guys! You are all helping me make my dreams become reality one day at a time and I hope that I can help you all go after and accomplish your dreams as well…we are in this together, you all motivate me to be better and live a life which I have imagined. Thank you, hope you enjoyed this tournament recap! They haven’t posted any pictures from the tournament yet, so I’ll post a few when they get released.