When the Planets Align

Although I carry a fifteen handicap, I have long been convinced that I should be much better. I can drive the ball long and straight, hit high accurate shots with my irons, pitch and chip reliably and putt as well as any pro.

The problem is that I can’t seem to do all of those things at the same time. I have rounds when I drive well, but my chipping falls apart. Or I chip well, but consistently hit the irons fat. The only constant is my putting.

But on some occasions, at least, the planets align, and everything seems to work.

I had one of those rounds this past Thursday at the annual school district employee tournament/outing. My round started like any other, with four straight bogeys. I took three to get to the green on the first par four and then two putted. An errant tee shot on the second forced me to waste a stroke chipping out of the woods on the second. I missed the green, chipped up and two putted on the par three third. Another chip out of the woods cost me on the fourth.

But then came a long string of pars. I pounded drives down the fairway, hit greens in regulation, and two putted. Reaching a 500-plus yard par five in two got one back. Although there were no more birdies, the pars kept coming. On one hole, I saved par by chipping in from behind the green. Another took a forty foot putt. A couple were a chip from off the green and a putt. Driving the green on one hole,  I three putted—a missed opportunity.

Finally, I reached the eighteenth needing only a par five to shoot 80 even. And I went Phil Mickelson. I hit a long drive, but it leaked left into the rough behind a line of trees. From there, I had two choices: chip sideways back to the fairway, or take a risky shot down the line through a gap in the trees that would have put me right around the 150 stake.

I went for the long shot. I had been striking the ball very well all day, and saw no reason I couldn’t repeat. But I chunked the shot, dribbling the ball behind a tree. From there, I had no choice but to chip out. After three shots, I was only a couple of yards past my drive.

That was mental mistake number one. I could have saved a stroke by punching out right. Even if I had chunked that shot, the ball still would likely have cleared the trees and given me a better look at the green.

Knowing that I needed a five for a personal best round, I took out the three wood and fired a shot at the green. I struck it well, but it fell just short and bounced into a greenside bunker.

Mental mistake number two: I should have laid up and then launched a high iron into the green, taking the bunkers out of play.

It took two shots to get out of the bunker. Then I two putted for an eight. And I finished with an 83.

As quickly as the planets align, so too do they scatter.

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