I reminded myself yesterday – there’s just no substitute for a Medal round as a true barometer of your golfing form.
Over the past few weeks I’ve played reasonably frequently at various venues around Scotland and, during those rounds, I convinced myself my game was in the pink. But, now I look back, in each one of those games I was offered a get-out clause, a way to cast a smokescreen over the shakier elements of my play.
First, I played five rounds in the “Writer’s Ryder Cup” in and around St Andrews. The first four games were fourball better-ball contests – the perfect place to hide inconsistencies. In each match, I played some very good golf – two-under for the back nine at Kingsbarns, five birdies around the New Course and four around the Dukes Course.
On the surface, it was easy to pat myself on the back and look only at the positives. But, a deeper examination of each round would have revealed things were not as healthy as they seemed. I may have been two-under for the back nine at Kingsbarns but I was a hell of a long way over on the front. Yes, I had five birdies around the New Course, but I also picked up twice having lost a ball in the gorse, plus another couple of probable doubles. But at the time, I cast those bad holes out of my mind and basked in the glory of my birdie hauls.
Then, I played with the rest of the GM team in a “nine-hole shootout” at Dundonald. The format was – Stableford, six holes to count. You had to bank a hole immediately after completing it so there was a bit of a gambling element to the contest too. I amassed 13 points (one over twos) and was rather pleased with my effort – effectively level par and that’s what I told myself. But again, if I’d scrutinised the performance further, I would have been forced to admit that the three discarded holes were bogeys. So, actually I was three over for nine holes – not so good.
Finally, I played at Prestwick with a friend on my way home from Turnberry. I’d never played the course before so my expectations were low. But, for the majority of the round, I coped manfully and made a good number of solid pars and a couple of birdies. I was pretty chuffed with my performance and was more than happy to put the three balls I’d lost in gorse and streams down to my lack of knowledge of a tricky layout.
So yesterday I teed it up in the Medal at Banchory confident I was on good form and could return a decent number. Unfortunately, I was found out. With everything counting and no hiding place, the cracks in my game I’d thought to be hairline fractures were shown to be gaping crevasses. I finished on eight-over-par, one of my worst rounds of the year.
I was in something of a state of shock as I put my clubs back in the car. “How the hell did that happen,” was my general line of thinking. As the above ramblings demonstrate, after a little consideration, I’ve worked out exactly how it happened.
I’ve now put away my rose tinted glasses and dusted down my microscope. From this point on I’m going to consider my game honestly and properly, no smokescreens and no excuses. Who am I kidding? On Saturday I’m playing in a fourball event where only the best two scores from each hole count. No doubt I’ll pick up a few times but make a couple of crucial birdies and feel like Ben Hogan as I stroll into the clubhouse.