Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Final Stage Game Plan

The Finals are here. Starting tomorrow, I will play for one of 40 asian tour cards against 190 other players from around the world. The competitors consist of '07 Asian Tour players finishing between 60 and 120 on the money list, European Tour players, the top 10 players on the South African Sunshine Tour, the 10-top ranked players on the Canadian Tour and Japanese Tours and 40 first stage qualifiers, including me. A strong field.

The two tournament venues are Sabah GCC and Sutera Harbour CC. Sabah GCC is a narrow and water-logged course that utilizes cow grass on its fairways and rough area (meaning: all areas are rough areas). Fortunately, the course I practiced at in Kuala Lumpur for two weeks prior to comming to Borneo had the same grass and similar conditions.

Sutera Harbour is a well-maintained, resort course with lots of water and firm, undulating, grainy greens. It is like playing a typical florida course where everything is in front of you. There are no suprises. The grass is bermuda, making it more similar to a florida course. This course is set along the ocean and has some beautiful views. The grain of the grass on the greens makes putting challenging with all the added slope.

The venues are very different from the course I won first stage qualifying on. Borneo CC was a long course with soft, flatter greens. The wind gusts were strong off the ocean and could make a very long hole, very short or vice-versa. Although one of the venues is on the ocean here, the locals call this place "the land below the wind."

My focus this week will be on getting the ball in the fairway in wedge range. My wedge play is stronger than ever and I have lots of confidence that if you put a wedge in my hands, I'll show you where the hole is. The next order of business is putting. With all the slopes and grain this week, a great ball striker could get shut out if he is not placing the ball under the hole. This week, the difference between birdies and bogies could very well be hitting the ball 15 feet under the hole as opposed to above it.

What worked for me in stage one was my ability to relax in the heat of battle. When I was faced with my most challenging shots last week, I was at my calmest. This emotional stability led me to gain strokes on the field because I hit great shots where a more nervous competitor made a tenative and costly swing. I also played in the moment last week, paying little attention to score and position. I didnt know where I stood until I found out I was playing in the final group on the last day. When I made a ten foot, par saving putt on my 72nd hole, I had no idea it was for the medalist position. I didnt pay attention to leaderboards, only to individual bests. I tried to shoot the best score I could. I was only playing against myself. There was a tournament, a competition, but in my mind, there was no cut and no first or second place, there was only me attempting to shoot the lowest score I could.

I'll adopt this mentality again this week and when my last shot is holed, I'll look up to the leaderboard to see my name.

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