The RBC Canadian Open Golf Championship

The RBC Canadian Open Trophy!

The RBC Canadian Open Trophy!

The RBC Canadian Open Golf Championship starts tomorrow at the Royal Montreal Golf Club. Founded in 1873, it is one of only 66 golf courses in the world that hold the official “Royal” designation. The course will play as a par 70 at 7135 yards with six holes snaking around the large picturesque ponds. A Canadian has won this championship seven times since its inception in 1904; however, no Canadian has raised the trophy in 60 years! This is the year it will change.

Throughout its history, the RBC Canadian Open has shaped the face of professional golf in Canada.  Many of golf’s greatest names have claimed the Canadian Open Championship title including Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.

As the National Sports Organization (NSO) and governing body for golf in this country, Golf Canada’s mission is to promote participation in and a passion for the game while protecting its traditions and integrity.  We hope you enjoy this great championship and leave with an increased affection for the unique spirit of integrity, sportsmanship and fellowship that make golf the greatest game on earth. (RBC Canadian Open)

The defending champion Brandt Snedeker will be teeing it up with Dustin Johnson and Hunter Mahan at 8 am. There are many notables playing this year who are vying for the win. Of note, Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els, Luke Donald and Jim Furyk. More importantly, there are 18 Canadians in the field with Grahame DeLaet, David Hearn, and Mike Weir leading the way. This is a strong field and the winner will have to stay focused for 72 holes to claim the RBC Canadian Open Trophy!

The pressure is on all the Canadians to perform. After 60 years, Canadian golfers are anxious to crown a locally grown hero and claim the title – “king of golf” – in Canada. This year, unlike years past, there are some players in the field that could bring the trophy back home. Grahame DeLaet and David Hearn are having great seasons. They are young, eager and skilled! Both are having great careers and this year they have jumped out to a strong start.

Normally, I would analyse more data before making a prediction, but this weekend I am going with my heart. Grahame DeLaet is the man who will be standing on the podium on Sunday! My dark horse favorite is Mike Weir! Having walked way out on a limb, any Canadian will do! It is time the Canadian Open Trophy is brought home!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

The Duck Stays in Canada!

Match-play is the most equitable competition in golf. If players have honestly built their handicap, it provides a fair means to compete . Among friends, as I found out yesterday, it provides endless entertainment, chances to rib your opponent, and light-hearted competition.

A match-play match consists of one side playing against another over a stipulated round unless otherwise decreed by the Committee. In match play the game is played by holes. Except as otherwise provided in the Rules, a hole is won by the side that holes its ball in the fewer strokes. In a handicap match, the lower net score wins the hole. The state of the match is expressed by the terms: so many “holes up” or “all square”, and so many “to play”. A side is “dormie’’ when it is as many holes up as there are holes remaining to be played. (if you want all the official rules governing match-play competitions go to RCGA.org)

This weekend was a perfect way to rebound from my poor showing at last-weeks Regional competition. Not playing well during the last two days of Regionals was quite disappointing, but that is golf! Immediately after the last round of Regionals, I headed to the airport to pick up my friend and his wife who had  just arrived from the UK. They graciously planned to visit us for three  days, so Kirk and I took advantage of the time and hit the links all three days.

Jim and Kirk before "Duck Match"

Jim and Kirk before “Duck Match”

The last day was the competition for the “Duck”. This year we decided to have a match-play competition because stroke-play was too intense and not suited for a friendly! The negotiations about how many strokes a-side he would receive was hammered out in a two-hour discussion. The guiding factors used were his handicap – he is a 10 and I am a 4, his play over the previous two days, it was my home course, his jet lag and maybe a bit too many libations. Ultimately, we decided on four strokes a-side. It may seem a bit much considering his handicap, but I figure it was the right number for each of us to enjoy the round and keep the competition close.

Hitting to the second green from 150 yards out!

Hitting to the second green from 150 yards out!

We were fortunate to have one of my regular playing partners, Jean, join us. His steady play and ability to arbitrate disagreements was a great addition to our group! As we started, I quickly jumped out up 2. I thought that this was going very well and if I could get through his four-stroke holes on the front, I could hold a commanding lead going into the back. Well something happened that I was not ready for – his short game. That was by far the best part of his game! He always chipped close and never 3-putted. Each putt was either in or a tap-in on the second shot! It definitely was a clinic on how to put pressure on your opponent during a match-play competition.

His second strength was his ability to get the ball back in play! He did hit a few wayward shots, but scrambled perfectly. Of the four situations where he had to play out of trouble, he played it safe by chipping expertly out from the woods or sand; Kirk made three pars and a bogey from trouble!

Out of the Cabbage on to the green. Another par!

Out of the Cabbage on to the green. Another par!

Kirk out of the sand for par!

Kirk out of the sand for par!

His ability to scramble was really hard to compete against. In a match-play event, the ability to recover can be demoralizing to your competitor! And in our match, he gave back as much as he received. He never bent to the pressure and kept firing back great shot after great shot!

I was not to be out done. My game was steady and relentless. I did nothing flashy, yet nothing disastrous. I figured that if I played my normal game (with a couple breaks) Kirk would not be able to stay with me over 18 holes. This strategy had worked very well in our stroke-play competitions, but not during our match-play event!

Approach on 8 to 1 footAfter seven holes, I was still one up. This was the last hole on the front nine that Kirk received a stroke. My plan was to tie the hole and head to the par 5 ninth hole, one up. Since the par 5, ninth hole was played straight up, I figured I had a good chance to be 2 up starting the back nine!

Well, in a movie, this is where the slow motion scene would start! After hitting a 260 yard drive, Kirk had 120 yards to the pin. He confidently stepped over the ball and hit a 5 iron (okay it was a wedge) and hit his ball to 1 foot! He sunk his putt and evened the match. He looked and smiled at me as if to say…’you’re in trouble my friend’!

The back-nine was a slug fest. Every time I would put the pressure on, Kirk would counter with pressure of his own. During his four holes where he received a stroke, his play was excellent. He won three of the holes and put me in a pickle being 2 down with three to go! Teeing off on the 16th hole, solved nothing. We were both in play. After hitting our approach shots, he was 30 feet away and I was 45 feet away. It was not looking good for The Grateful Golfer! Undaunted, I stepped up and drained my putt for birdie! No one was more surprised than me, but with some unexpected pressure, Kirk left his putt just short and putted in for par. I was now 1 down with two to go!

17th Hole at Roundel Glen Golf Course!

17th Hole at Roundel Glen Golf Course!

The 17th hole was a 120-yard par 3. There is a sand trap to the right protecting three-quarters of the green which usually comes into play during pressure matches. The pin was up front. Kirk hit to the middle of the green about 25 feet away. I was off to the left about 15 feet away. After Kirk made his second putt; the pressure was on to win the hole and push the match to the 18th. As I stepped over the putt, I felt confident that his putt was going in! After a smooth stroke, I came up six inches short! Yup, short! The match was over and Kirk defended the title of not having to carry ‘The Duck’

Jim keeping 'The Duck' for another year!

Jim keeping ‘The Duck’ for another year!

After the match, Kirk and I both agreed that match-play was the best competition for ‘The Duck’. It allows the higher handicapper more chances to be competitive. Overall, it was an awesome day and we are looking forward to the rematch in the UK on his home course or maybe The Old Course in St Andrews!

In case you were wondering, I shot a 73 and Kirk shot a 78. Next time he is giving me strokes! This was truly a fantastic match!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

 

Day Two – ONTARIO REGIONAL GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

Another exciting day on the links is over. Today was not as successful as yesterday, but I had a fantastic time. Gone are the days of commiserating about the would a, should a, could a, about a round of golf. My score was a smooth 84. You are probably asking how I shot an 84? Well I missed a 1 footer for an 83 on the 18th hole!  The score is very interesting because my play was not as poor as it indicates. However, there were some marked differences between my first round and second round.

I thought it would be interesting to outline these differences and possibly suggest areas of improvement for tomorrow. So, here it goes:

Loyalist Country Club (12)Putting. During the first round I never missed a putt inside of 8 feet. I was on fire. During the second round I only made one putt inside of 4 feet. That four-foot difference was major today.  If I was putting with the same accuracy today as the first day, I would have shot 78. The difference between the first round and second was confidence. Early in my second round I missed a couple putts that I felt I should have made. After that it was a grind.

Getting off the Tee. First round I was striping the ball down the fairway, always. Second round….nope. The problem was my head. No literally, my head – it was like a bobble-head and I could not keep it still! Tomorrow, I will fix that problem.

Approach shots. First round, I chipped everything close and without fear. Today, I second guessed every shot. I could not get comfortable! I knew my distances and today, suddenly, I decided not to believe that I hit the ball to the right distance. Lastly, I gave the wind too much respect!

Okay, I think you get the point. I did not play well and that is life on the golf course. My expectations were high and I was not able to meet them today. Does that mean I should start the dangerous spiral of forgetting how well I can play….the answer is NO!

To all the Grateful Golfers out there – the real lesson from today’s challenges – the mental approach to golf! The real problem today was my mental weakness. I let False Evidence Appearing Real or FEAR affect my game. I started to count the score and convince my brain that all was good. Instead, what I should have done is focus on each shot, pay attention to what the course was offering and trust in my swing! Tomorrow will be a different day and I will be mentally stronger and better prepared for an awesome time on the links!

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!