Kia Classic: Dori Carter Hangs in There

Many times when you have a player go really low in one of the first three rounds on any of the professional tours, they fall a long way the next day.

We had the potential for that kind of situation Saturday in the Kia Classic at the Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California. Dori Carter, a fourth-year pro, had a career-low round of 64 which also turned out to be the course record, not just for the women, but for the men too. And she did it with a staggering 11 birdies. And it could have been two strokes better; having been deep in the zone all day long — I guess! — she bogeyed 17 and 18. Also bogeyed 6, but that was just a run-of-the-mill bogey early in the round before she became “unconscious.”

And for us, the nice thing was that she had some juicy mastery comments in her post-round interview that revealed in her own words just how deep her concentration became and her grand scoring strategy developed with her swing and mental coaches. She was great and very forthcoming. 

Saturday, it didn’t go as well. She shot 2-over 74 with the middle of the round plastered with four bogeys. But she also managed to birdie the first hole right out of the gate, along with two others. So it wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t fatal to her vision of actually winning one of these things one day.

I didn’t putt very well today.  But I didn’t have easy putts today like I did yesterday.  I mean, obviously everything fell and today, it didn’t. But it was a lot harder out there, and I had a couple miss‑reads as I made the turn.

I didn’t turn very well.  It kind of started making me doubt a little bit, so I’m just going to go play a little bit.  Ball‑striking was fine.  Overall, I handled my nerves pretty well.  It’s my first time playing in the final group, so, you know, a lot of positives for today and a lot to remember and take note.  So, it was fun and Stacy [Lewis, her pairing] was great.

For a four-year player, she has a lot of playing experience and she put it to work in her pre-round warmup. And she confessed to having some nerves:

Yeah, a little bit, but I had a pretty good warmup.  It was kind of nice.  I moved slow.  Took my time and plenty of time to slow down and just kind of go through the day.  Yeah, I was nervous, but you need to be a little nervous to play well, to stay attentive and things like that.

And she managed to salvage a relatively stagnant day with a great drive and par on 18:

Yeah, that was awesome.  I hit a really good tee shot on 18.  I had a really good approach shot into 17 and that was a really good confidence boost, especially going into tomorrow, because I didn’t just quit today and I didn’t get — I didn’t throw up on myself.  So I’m still hanging in there and I’m not far from it.

If I get it back tomorrow, you know, it’s still a great tournament.

That sounds for all the world like someone who hasn’t given up yet. Even though she dropped two shots, she’s only two strokes back to Lizette Salas (69) and Christie Kerr (70) who are tied at 10-under. When you know you’ve already shot 64 on the course, two strokes doesn’t seem all that far back.

And there’s no one between them and her. She is tied with Anna Nordqvist (67), Ayako Uehara (67) and Shanshan Feng (69), but who knows, this could have been their deep day.

Her ace in the hole is her friendship with Harris English that dates back to their junior days in South Georgia where they both grew up. She’s three years older than him, but he won first, so she texted him for some advice:

I just asked him, how did he handle his nerves going into the weekend.  He just told me not to change anything and just enjoy the ride, kind of play like you’re behind.  He’s a good friend.  I actually text him yesterday myself and asked some advice, but he’s a good guy.

Saturday wasn’t the day she had hoped for, but she learned a lot in the process:

Gosh, 18 holes is a long round.  It was a long day.  Yesterday was much faster, much easier.  But I learned that I didn’t — that it’s been a long process and you have to really, you know, take it hole‑by‑hole and breath by breath, and utilize your resources.  I tried to rely on my caddie as much as I could to kind of help me get through the day.

You know, I learned that you can’t win on Saturday.  It’s not the final round of the tournament.  It’s really not that big of a deal.  Playing in the final round on Sunday probably is, but there’s a lot of golf to be played.

I learned that you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself; it’s only Saturday, and I still have to do it tomorrow, and still feel like I didn’t give it away today.  I didn’t play as good.  Obviously didn’t putt as well, but I still get to play tomorrow and I still get to play close to the final group and have a chance.

It certainly doesn’t sound like she’s given up.

As a footnote, Carter is so centered, that in the afterglow of her best career round, as promised, she drove up to Camp Pendelton and did a one-hour clinic for the Marines.

You kind of get a better insight on how great our life is and how thankful I am to have people like that to let me play golf.

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