The sky opened up for my third match of the tournament and the rainy, soggy conditions became as much of a competitor as was my actual opponent...Neither of us played too well in the tough conditions through the first 9 holes and I found myself 2 down...As I joked with my competitor, it was the battle of the "least worst"...We began to play a bit better as the back 9 went on and as the rain subsided, but it seemed that whenever he would do something well that I would too and when he made a mistake, I would do the same, thus I remained 2 down heading into the 16th hole...My opponent hit is second shot on the par four 16th to about 3 feet and I knew that if I didn't make birdie my day was over...I focused and managed to almost knock the shot in the hole, hitting it to about 6 inches away, another tie, still 2 down going into the 17th...My opponent putted his 3rd shot on 17 to a few inches from the hole for an easy par so as I sat over my 20 foot birdie putt I knew it was either make or go home...as luck would have it, I knocked it in to extend the match to the 18th...On the par 5 18th hole my opponent hit two nice shots to about 15 yards away from the green in perfect shape while I had hit my drive into the fairway bunker and ended up laying back to about 85 yards, in the rough...I hit another solid approach to about 3 to 4 feet away and my opponent chipped past to about 7 to 8 feet...If he made it I was done but his putt just slipped past the hole for a gimme par...This was it, a chance to halve the match and extend it to extra holes if I could knock this birdie putt down...the putt looked like it had a fair amount of right to left movement but I never like to play too much break on shorter putts so I split the difference and aimed at the right edge of the hole...turns out, the putt didn't move at all...yep, I missed the short putt and the match was over...Time to jump in the car and drive the 3.5 hour trip home...plenty of time to reflect on continued lessons, both for myself and for my students...Below are a few items that I think are good things to learn from my experience above:
**In wet, tough conditions always be prepared with the appropriate gear (extra gloves, rain gear, umbrella, extra towels and a ziplock bag to keep some of these things dry)
**Keep focused on the shot at hand as opposed to the tough conditions around you
**In match play, stay focused on yourself and what you can control as opposed to waiting for your opponent to make a mistake (as this may never happen!)
** Remember that golf is a crazy game and that you are never out of it (I was reminded of this by the close finish of the match when I was down most of the day)
**In tough weather conditions it is easy to lose your tempo and balance...stay focused on these two items on every shot and just let the club swing
**When the weather is bad, hitting a lot of greens in regulation is difficult, a reminder as to how important a quality short game is...make about 60+% of your practice time on the short game (putting, chipping, pitching, bunker play, etc)
**Lastly, stay positive and have a great time, afterall, it is a game that is meant to be fun...sometimes during the heat of the battle this can be forgotten...I say it is better to lose than never to have played at all!
Oh yes, not to be forgotten...on shorter putts...you are better off just playing them straight and hitting the putt with confidence to the back of the cup!