Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Innisbrook Resort in Tampa - The Copperhead Course and how my new learned grip works out

It has been a while now since I took my lesson from Jerry Hinton and am I working in implementing what I learned. At first it seemed odd and I never really felt comfortable when setting up. However, things get better by the day. The more I practice on the range and around the green and the more my mind is getting used to the new set up position , the more comfortable I get. Jerry said it will take me 6 months to have it all done. That is a long time and considering that I am playing all the time in all kinds of events, that is too long for me.

But I have to be patient. And patience I have plenty. I would not try to play competitive golf if I would not be patience. So I am working on it and try to play with the grip in tournaments and skins games.

Last weekend there was one of the events I waited to play in for a few years. The Golf Channel Tour Independence Day Open at the Innisbrook Resort in Tampa on the Copperhead Course. The very same course where the ValSpar Tampa Open is played. I have been there many times, watching the PGA Tour coming through and walking with my favorite players like Daly, Els and so on.

It was always fun to be at the Hooters Tent on 17 and see the guys coming through the Snake Pit.

But this weekend was my turn and I was excited to play. We made it a 4th of July outing. Christiane and I booked a hotel close to the resort and arrived around lunch time. Had a good lunch at the Wing House and then hopped over for the practice round.

The goal for this round was to learn more about the course. How it feels off the tee, how the greens are, where the landing areas are and all that. Also to take some photos and to enjoy the course.

The most important thing I am working on is getting the ball off the tee and into the fairway and with good distance. I can hit fairways all day long but would be way back.

On that day my drives were all good. The entire practice round I only missed a few fairways and when I hit them my balls were of OK length, giving me a chance to hit greens in regulation and set myself up for birdie putts.

I navigated the course pretty well. Keeping the ball in play, not getting in to much trouble and taking advantage of my short game. The greens were pretty slow. But no wonder. This course is mainly used for this big event and the rest of the year there is only few players who make it around this track.

After the practice round I felt pretty good. As a matter of fact I was confident that I can shoot a low round there and get myself in the ranks to make some $.

We did not do much after the round. Just checked out the club house to see where those famous fellow players would have their drinks and food. Nice place and nice atmosphere.

But I did rest for the rest of the day. I wanted to make sure that I am in the best physical and mental condition I could be. After all we took the hotel just for that reason. To rest and to prepare for the tournament.

My tee time was 7 38 am. Not a time I am too excited about. But we can not pick it, so it is what it is. Was up at 5 30 am after a good night sleep. Short breakfast and over to the course. It was extremely humid. So humid that walking  my bag to the cart was enough to be totally wet.

I had about 15 minutes to warm up on the range. Not enough really. But because of the early tee time we just did not make it earlier. On the range I usually have a good warm up program. Beginning with some chipping and pitching and then go from PW to driver in a certain line up.

This time I cut it short. Did some pitching on the range, went from PW to 5 iron and after a couple hybrids to driver. No time to putt. But I figured the greens would be the same as the day before.

Christiane was riding with me, so I did not have to prepare all the food and other things I usually do, which gave me some more time. We were a threesome, which I like. Just makes it a little more fluent.

My first tee shot was perfect. Long, straight, center of fairway. A good start. I remembered this tee shot for the next 17 holes. It was the only one of its kind on that day. Imagine.

This round of golf was a classic working round. Meaning, I worked hard for every single shot. I spent plenty of time in the woods, the rough and the traps. Almost every shot pretty much required some imagination. I hit my approach shots from behind trees, out of the rough , of sand banks and pine needles.

It actually was a pleasure to play the par 3s. Since I could go for the green without using my driver.

But I played hole by hole and shot by shot. Evaluating every situation carefully and as good as I could. Choosing a club and a shot shape which I though will help me to score. Christiane helping me as a caddie surely helped along the way. I was so busy with my round that I otherwise would have forgotten to eat and drink.

It is because of my course management abilities and my mental strength that I made this tough round what it was in the end. A round which brought me a second place in my flight and the 5th best round of the tournament. But there were major errors and I actually was leading the tournament by far for a long time.

When I look back here is what I though in the end. My drives were not in the fairway, but mostly playable. I got luck two times being on a cart path and getting relief.  My approach shots where not on target, but I played the % so, that I was somewhere in front of the green or close by.

My pitching and chipping saw better days, but I was able to play shots which gave me an opportunity to score something. Putting was actually good. No doubt that my putting saved me plenty of strokes. On the other hand, I had 3 birdie putts within 6 foot which missed.

The trouble shots from behind trees or other bad lies I mastered well, just as I expected because I do them often and do not mind them at all.

My bunker player was good until 17. I hit great bunker shots, saving par a couple times and never worse than bogey. Only on 17 I had troubles. Coming into this hole I was leading my flight and was on top of all scores. Short par 3 for us . 176 or so. I left it way short and in the front bunker.

This left me a 28 yard bunker shot from a hard and wet trap ( because of the rain storm the night before). I had two shots for this situation. A full bunker shot and a clean pick up pitch. I decided to go for the full shot. Unfortunately I caught the ball clean, hitting it not only out of the trap, over the green but some 20 yards behind it.

I was not too concerned about it. We determined in the practice round that that there is plenty of room behind the green. So I was thinking chipping it on. When I found my ball that changed. I actually almost few the 18th tee box. My was sitting in the deep rough on a downhill slope. I was facing a mount I had to carry and land the ball on the down slope. Not a pretty sight I must say. So My goal: get it on the green, somewhere. I accomplished that by 4 inch or so. So I was not unhappy with the result. From there I have a chance for a long bogey  and surely will close it out in 5.

My putt looked good, but did not stop at all and I left myself a 7 or 8 foot putt for a double bogey. That really got me going. But I took my time and actually made it. At that point I had no idea where I am standing. But I knew that this was costly.

I made a good bogey on 18 after again being in the woods. When I came in to drop of my score card , I thought that I had no chance to be in any paying position for my flight. Disappointing at that point.

But when we looked at the leader board we quickly found out that only one layer in my flight shot a better score and only 3 or 4 more of the entire tournament shot a better score. That was very interesting but made my two double bogeys even worse.

I realized , that when taking away those doubles and rolling the 3 birdie putts, I was about to shoot a great round of golf. Now imagine. I hit 4 greens in regulation and no more than 4 fairways. Yet I was able to actually score an OK round of golf. There is some hope. There is the difference. Being able to make something out of nothing. Coming back after a double and putt for birdie and so on and so on.

So I am 100 % positive, that I am on track with my game. Even with it all taking much longer than I ever thought. Just got to keep going and work hard. Believe in myself and the cause. Time is not on my side at this point and the entire situation we are in is not favorable 100%.

But at the same time we are in a much better position than many others who made it or are trying to make it.

This last weekend was a good experience in many ways. Having Christiane as a caddie with me, playing one of the toughest tracks on the PGA Tour . One the players like a lot. Walking the fairways all those guys do every year. Trying an overnight stay for the first time and liking it and actually winning something by working hard on the course.

I followed up with a good round on Sunday at Tatum Ridge Golf Links There I hit not many more fairways and I missed again some short birdie putts. But I had a good round, was working on my game and made a little $. Comparing a round at Tatum Ridge with a round at Innisbrook is not possible. Different worlds.

Monday was resting day and today I am back on the range. 3 to 4 hours I will work on short game and yet again on my weight shift and set up. I have some time before the next tournament. But I will write before that.

In the end I feel great and have to say, that when I am playing golf and especially in a tournament , I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to do. How can you beat that?

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