Alejandro Canizares has had a good two weeks on the European Tour. Last week in Turkey, he played well enough to be paired with Tiger Woods in the final round:
Yeah, the experience was great. The first time in my life I played with him, so I always grew up watching him on TV, and it was a little nerve breaking for me, I was a little nervous. But in the end, I think it was a good experience for me to realize that I can be amongst the top players. It was fun. I didn’t play good, but it was fun.
I think it was a positive experience for me. You know, it’s one guy that you always look up to, and it was difficult to get in the normal state of my golf. But I had fun. It was fun watching him. It was positive, because I can now think that I can do as good as the top guys, so why not.
Thursday in Dubai at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, as so often happens, he didn’t warm-up particularly well, but got off to a hot start anyway; a dusty old golf lesson resides in there somewhere.
I wasn’t feeling great at the warm‑up, but I just looked forward and it turned out to be a great day. I started pretty good with a couple birdies, so that helps. I kept it very steady, didn’t do anything special. But made a couple long putts for birdie, and overall, very quiet round and it felt like it was easy.
Canizares’ “overall, very quiet round” turned into a 6-under 66, giving him a one-stroke lead over Kiradech Aphibarnrat who, playing out of Thailand, had a solid performance and a T3 in Kuala Lumpur.
Race to Dubai leader, Henrik Stenson shot 3-under and was paired with Justin Rose. Rose had some very interesting comments in the mastery vein:
You obviously ignore when Henrik is playing like he is, but there’s a long way to go. 72 holes, I think I know that — I know that from last week. Didn’t get off to a particularly strong start last week, but at one point in the final round got myself tied for the lead.
So four‑round tournaments, patience is a big part of it. So at no point today was I ever worried about where Henrik was. Just got to trust the fact that I’ll get hot myself.
He played really nicely today and obviously disappointed I’m sure for him to finish [with a three-putt bogey] on the last. Maybe just a lapse of concentration. It was a long day out there. I felt like we played pretty slowly, too.
All in all, for me, it’s a decent start. All you can do on a day like today is lose it. I would say with the position I’m in, I can build on it from there.
Here, Rose acknowledges the great run than Stenson seems to be on at the same time that he affirms his own intention to win it all:
He seems to be getting off to strong starts in all his tournaments recently. He’s got his name on the board. He’s making it hard for the rest of us. But I knew that could be the case. I didn’t — that’s why I wanted it to be in my own hands this week, if I won a golf tournament — which is obviously what we try to do every week, and then it would be in my hands and that’s still the case.
My goal remains the same for the rest of the week.
Graeme McDowell is always good for some telling mastery quotes. He ended up shooting even par 72. Here he talks about how to handle a round that doesn’t begin very well:
Yeah, I was panicking a bit the front nine. I felt things slipping away from me and sort of getting away from me. But I had to remind myself, there’s a lot of golf this week. Just try to steady the ship, hang in there, hang in there and managed to do that well today.
I found my swing a little bit in the back nine, find my putting stroke a little bit in the back nine and looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow now.
This wasn’t the first time that he’s had trouble with this course. But he chose not to accept another poor round as inevitable. But since redemption came late, he had to be very patient:
Yeah, I thought, here we go again at one point. But I had to get the head right. Realize there’s a lot of golf left. Realize that I have the game; it’s in there somewhere.
You know, I 3‑putted the 13th. I thought, oh, no, what am I doing here. Managed to steady the ship. Good 2‑putt on 14 [for birdie] and found my putting stroke a little bit coming in. Good putts on 15 and 16, [for two more birdies] and was happy.
Not only was he happy, he was able to position his attitude for Friday:
You know, cliché, can’t win it today, blah, blah, blah. You know, you can blow yourself out of it. But that was key. That was key to get myself back to the middle of the pack, give myself something to get back out there in the morning and fight for; I could have shot myself out of it easily today.
Talking to yourself can be an indicator that you’re losing your mind, or it can be a method to really presence yourself in the moment:
I was talking to myself a lot. You always do, you always talk to yourself a lot, good or bad. It was very much a case of not letting this golf course get to me too early in the week.
And that allowed him to not let history repeat itself:
You know, my game’s in good shape, and I really committed to not kind of reacting to results on the greens. I’ve let these greens get in my head in the past. I really wanted to try and go through the process well, make sure I was hitting my lines. And if I hit my lines, just accept the fact that, you know what, these greens, they are tough to read, and just kept that and move on.
The three late birdies he made saved the day and helped to put him in place where he could see the possibility of Friday’s round:
I hit it nicely on that back nine, and like I say, made a few putts, as well. So I’m looking forward to getting back out in the morning. It could have been a very disappointing evening if I had not made those three birdies coming in.
But now, you know, no panic, middle of the pack. I’m five, six behind, but a long way to go. I’ve won many tournaments from here; just get back out in the morning and get at it.