It began with Padraig Harrington, this loss of the legs and mental agility. It was easy to understand why.
The Honda Classic came to a screeching halt on Saturday with weather conditions that made it impossible to play. The Chamber of Commerce obviously punched the wrong buttons when they put their order in. But before that happened, everyone was back in position at 7:30 AM to finish the second round. And then 24 souls had ventured out to begin the third before they called it.
But everybody was at the course this morning, fired up and ready to go at 10 AM. They knew that they were going to begin and finish the third round and then, without re-pairing, take a brief break and then play as many holes of the fourth round as they could. And on top of that, they knew that they weren’t going to be able to get all 36 holes in because they would run out of daylight. Just thinking about that, if you allow yourself, can be wearying all by itself.
So, notwithstanding the unplanned rest they ended up getting Saturday afternoon, this to and fro, back and forth “churning” can take its toll.
The first obvious one was Padraig Harrington. He had played very well — refreshingly so — in getting to the par-5 18th hole and even getting a good drive off. He was left with 273 to the hole. Having just watched Patrick Reed fly his second shot onto the green, he decided to go for it too. With the pin 23 on and just 250 to the front, it seemed rational.
But it didn’t work out. He got it up in the air, the wind hit it and the ball disappeared into the bull rushes in the hazard. I can’t remember whether it was Johnny Miller or Jack Nicklaus who was visiting the booth — I’m thinking Jack — but as they showed the replay of the swing, he said, “Oh, he got his body started before the club.”
That’s a classic indicator of fatigue, be it mental or physical. For such a demanding shot, if you’re not careful, the body will attempt to “add” to the shot and run away from the club. That’s what Tiger meant when he talked about getting the club “stuck” behind him; about that he once said, “I play my best when I have the feeling that my arms are winning the race with my body.” With the turn back to the ball already begun as the club begins to come down, the only place it has to go is over the top inducing a flaring cut. Splash. When the body waits on the club, there’s room for it to come down on plane and the body can then add its mass to the flinging club through impact.
Ian Poulter had a similar thing happen to him on the par-3 5th, but his error was a little more noticeable; it was a stone cold shank into a water hazard on a contiguous hole:
I mean, it was a lack of concentration. I’ve tried to take too much off an 8‑iron and hit a beautiful shank. And obviously you’re out of position right there. So it was an easy double‑bogey and poor tee shot on the following hole.
That tee shot on the par-4 6th was a hook into the lateral hazard and it led to a bogey, his 3-shot lead wiped out in two holes.
It was a bit of a body blow, shall we say, 5 and 6, come out of nowhere. It was some pretty good golf today, I’ve got to be honest, and that just come out of left field.
But he made up for it with a great swing on the par-3, 226-yard 7th. He sizzled it to 3 feet and made the putt for birdie to retake the lead at 7-under:
Yeah, it was a good swing. I guess it’s been a long day, a long few days and I was just saying to my son, Luke, right there, look what happens when you forget to concentrate. Silly things happen. Tiring, and made a couple of really bad swings on 5 and 6. But that kind of angered me inside enough to spark a little bit of energy there to hit a good shot on 7.
But I’m pretty pleased with the golf I’ve played throughout the whole of today. I haven’t really made many mistakes, at all. I’ve put it in position an awful lot, which is encouraging right now, and if I do that tomorrow, then I’m going to be in a good position.
Patrick Reed briefly held the lead after Poulter’s two mistakes, but he had been making his own; he suddenly couldn’t hit a fairway hitting it into the left rough on 2, 3, 4 and missing the green on 7 to the left from which he was unable to get up and down. So he was keeping it going with bailing wire. But he wasn’t having any of the conversation that he was hitting it badly:
Not really. Just a loose tee shot [on 7], which I’ve hit a lot of those today, and I’ve been scrambling and scrambling. I happened not to get one there, but got a lot of holes left and I’m only one back. Any time you have a chance to win the tournament, it’s always good.
And he has a pretty good idea about what to do to get himself focused on Monday morning. Clearly he has no concerns about it:
Pretty easy to do. Just going to start fresh tomorrow and act like tomorrow is just a tournament. That’s what it comes down to.
Paul Casey shot a tidy 4-under through 9 to share the lead with Poulter:
Going in today, we all know that was going to be split up and it’s very much sleeping on, you know this, sort of situation, is going to be difficult for everybody, and it just breaks up momentum. Some guys will carry it through tomorrow. Others won’t and that’s very difficult to predict.
So this is — you know, I’ve done this before. And you just hope you wake up tomorrow and you feel like you’ve got the same kind of golf swing and the putts are going in the hole. You just don’t know. Hope the golfing gods are nice to us tomorrow.
I think the combination of being extremely happy off the course and confidence on the course, I think I’m maybe playing as good of golf, if not better than I’ve played in the past.
Phil Mickelson is just 3 back of the leaders at 4-under and having a pretty good time for himself. Welcoming the heat of the battle seems to be part of his formula for success:
Yeah, it’s fun, it’s fun to feel the pressure and to be in it. It was a fun day. It was a fun day today. We got a lot of golf in. The course is in great shape. You know, looking forward to tomorrow.
The best position is leading, obviously, but there’s a lot of golf left in nine holes, and I think we’re all getting a little bit tired coming down the last few holes. So hopefully we’ll get rested and have a little stretch. We need to get one hot streak of three, four birdies there on that back nine.
And because he’s pretty confident about his putting and Bones’ green reading, that hot streak just might happen:
I’ve had a great week on the greens. I’ve made a lot of great putts, and Bones has been reading them better. This has been one of his best weeks for green reading. They are very tough, tricky to read. I’m having a hard time, but Bones has been great. It’s been a great putting week.
Hot rookie Daniel Berger who finished T10, T24 and T10 in Phoenix, San Diego and Pebble Beach pretty much had a minimalist plan for Monday.
It’s going to be a little seven‑hole match for myself, and just stay patient and give myself some birdie chances and not think about it too much.
Words to live by…