On Tuesday, running on three hours of shuteye and straight off the plane, it was strong, straight drives, crisp irons and even the occasionally successful chip shot. Twenty-four hours later, after turning in early for a good night’s sleep, it was nothing but stone-cold tops and hosel rockets.
Must have been all the meat.
Swing after swing on Day 2 of this whirlwind North Carolina sojourn, over a gorgeous Tom Fazio masterpiece called Treyburn Golf & Country Club, resulted in one of two things: either fat contact that resulted in the ball
coming up way short on a course where there was little run to be had at the entrances to the greens, or thin skulled shots that, it must be said, often ended up advancing the ball significantly more than one would expect.
Respectable iron contact almost always resulted in a hook or a dead pull. The pars I made were ugly, and the day’s only birdie the result of a strong drive, one of the day’s few well-struck 9-irons and an even rarer animal: a dead straight 30-foot putt. It was, for the most part, a demoralizing display, but one that came on one of the most spectacular tracks of the trip.
My sense when it was over was that my body rotation was sluggish and incomplete, resulting in becoming “ball-bound” through impact — stopping at the ball and flinging the club southward in a desperate effort to create something approximating solid contact.
Speaking of rare animals and sluggish bodies, dinner that night consisted of a 22-ounce slab of prime rib at a kitchy Carolina beef emporium called the Angus Barn, a massive food factory on a campus-sized tract of land outside Raleigh where they age their own beef and preside over one of the largest wine cellars in the country.
Thursday dawned with a 90-minute drive from Raleigh to Badin Lake, N.C., past places called Carolina Guns & Gold and Dixie III, for 18 holes at the storied Old North State Golf Club, another dazzling Fazio design with more generous fairways, flatter lies on the short grass and greens that were a little more forgiving than their Raleigh CC and Treyburn counterparts.
The playing focus for Thursday was twofold: a sustained several seconds in the “think box” once the line and the shot shape were clear, and a concerted effort to make a relaxed, fluid swing with a good weight shift. In 2010, the score that matters isn’t the number of strokes, but the number of times I can honestly tell myself I executed my plan properly.
It definitely made a difference off the tee, where I rarely struggled with the driver. And the irons were decidedly more crisp, thanks to an act of some desperation: keeping my weight on my left side through the takeaway, making it easier to get back to the ball and make a proper weight shift.
Unfortunately, despite one of the most spectacular sets of finishing holes in North America (sorry, no photos – technical difficulties), the ibuprofen was wearing off and the back tightening up. As a result, the posture got dodgy and the legs took over in an effort to compensate, creating a lateral slide through the ball and a lot of fat, ugly bloopers off the toe of the club.
That brought into focus an important goal going forward: getting the ol’ bod into shape enough to stay strong through the entire round in order to be able to close the deal.