How do you handle a situation when everything in the game breaks against you at the same time? My perfect storm happened on Sunday. These events, like their counterparts in nature, rarely happen all at once but are a culmination of factors that build up days in advance, and this was no exception.
My problem started Saturday with a very poor ball striking session on the driving range. I hadn’t played in two weeks, but it was so poor that I grabbed my iPhone, took some swing video, and brought it home for instant analysis. I caught the culprit, but the seeds of mental discourse were sown because thinking about a mechanical change the day before you play is never a good idea. I did have a productive short game session and felt confident in my chipping and putting, but I also figured I’d be relying heavily on these since I didn’t expect to catch lightning in a bottle with the swing fix.
Sunday’s warmup started off predictably, with my newly identified swing fix not working at all. Vet4golfing51 says that you need to find your swing for the day, and this was clearly not mine, so I took the last 10 balls and thought only of hitting them at the target. Oddly enough, I started striping it. (I’ve found this an effective technique when you need a pre-round or mid-round correction, but it only works until you see the first of the shots you are trying to avoid reappear. A true WOOD band-aid.) Armed with a smidgen of confidence, I headed towards the practice green. After rolling a few putts, the starter announced the group in front of us had not arrived and we were pushed up to take their place, so we rushed over to the first tee. #1 at Northwest is an innocuous par-4 of about 370 yards with little trouble from tee to green. A well struck drive usually leaves me a short iron in, so I’m thinking “driver, 8-iron” but on this day they had the tees all the way back and a stiff two club wind had kicked up in our face. With the swing fixes, the rushed start, and the toughened conditions, my 1st tee mental state was a bubbling concoction of garbage. I tried to relax and managed to clip my drive a little off the heel but in the middle of the fairway. Still 200 yards out and faced with a stiff wind, I had to adjust my thinking from “8-iron” to “knock-down 3WD” and promptly topped the spoon about 70 yards. I knocked the next one on and three-putted from about 40 feet for a double bogey.
Now in the eye of the storm I took another three-putt double on #2 and a three-putt bogey on #3. I’ve gotten off to bad starts before but this was ridiculous because my putting had been the best part of my game this season, and was letting me down. With the prospects of no golf swing and a balky putter, my head was spinning.
How do you recover from these type of starts? I did what has worked for me in the past, and drew a vertical line after the third hole (my mental restart line) and told myself to forget the first three holes and that there was a lot of golf left to play. For some reason, this calms me and allows me to refocus. Second, I recommitted to playing my approaches below the hole even if that meant missing a green short. Northwest’s greens are huge and sloping. All of my opening three-jacks had been from poor positioning above the hole.
The ship stabilized and while I didn’t play great coming in, still navigated the last 15 holes in five-over par. At the end of the day, my 82 was not a handicap round, but the house was still standing. Have you ever gotten off to a rough start like this? How did you weather your perfect storm?