I’m not sure I remember a worse scoring day at the back of the field than they had in the 30 miles per hour winds at the Valero Texas Open at the TPC San Antonio. It was utter carnage for the guys who got the morning draw.
The Tour tried to anticipate it by moving some tees that played into the wind up as much as 60 yards. They kept the pins away from the edges of the greens and on flat spots. On the downwind holes they tried to put the pins on the back of the greens so that if you could hit the front of the green with your approach shot, you might have a chance to stop it somewhere near the hole.
You might expect the amateur to have the highest score in the field, but you wouldn’t expect an amateur good enough to be granted an exemption into the field to shoot 17-over 89. Well, maybe. But you wouldn’t expect the pro with the highest score to be 88. Or a 3-time winner on the PGA Tour to shoot 87.
And poor D.A. Points. On the first four holes he made triple bogey, bogey, quadruple bogey, bogey; 9-over par in just four holes. He made two more bogeys to make the turn at 11-over. He fared a little better on the back nine making no worse that a double to get to 15-over and finished the day with an 86.
There’s an old joke in professional golf when somebody shoots a high score.
“How did you manage to shoot 86?” the fellow competitor asked incredulously.
In this case, D.A. Points would have answered wryly, “By making birdie on 17.”
The worst part of all of this is that they know they have no chance of making the cut, even though it’s currently at 5-over 77. There are ten players at T69.
But with the wind supposedly abating on Friday, they will all be trying. Why not? You’re probably gone anyway so — pun intended — why not just throw caution to the wind? It’s part of the professional ethic: play as hard as you can all the time, post the lowest score you can and accept the consequences. Some days it will be a trophy and some days it will be a slamming trunk lid. But why not go out with a full-throated effort?
There were some nice comments that gave us some perspective from Matt Kuchar who did play in the morning and scored amazingly well. He got it to 2-under twice before finishing at even par. Amazing.
I think pretty much saying that I’m glad to be done. It was really challenging, really difficult. I’m going to kind of enjoy sitting back and watching some guys try to manage today’s afternoon forecast and the wind and the conditions. It was really hard.
I played fairly well. You can’t shoot a decent number in these conditions without being in pretty good control of what’s going on. That said, I also had some things go my way. On the first tee shot I hit it way left and drew a great lie and was able to par the hole.
The first hole, just a good example of how hard it’s playing today. I hit a nice drive in the fairway, had a sand wedge in, and hit it as cleanly as I could, putting as much spin as I could, it lands five paces on and races into the back bunker. You know at 30 miles an hour, with the wind at your back, even a sand wedge is not going to hold these greens.
Anytime you make a birdie today you feel like you’re gaining two shots on the field. It may not be two shots, but it’s nearly a shot and a half you’re gaining on the field when you make a birdie. You’re really hoping to get by with pars on every hole.
And then he started talking about how tough some of the specific circumstances were:
I think I had a four footer for par, I think I backed off two or three times, just the gusts coming and going. And then there was a sideways gust where you knew that the ball was going to get blown off line. If it’s just straight in or straight down the ball’s going to stay on the intended line. But when those sideways gusts get going, and you think, gosh, it could keep taking it.
I watched Martin Kaymer putt on the same line from five feet, he hit a nice putt, the wind took it and it ends up racing by three or four feet.
On days like this one, sometimes just not making worse than a bogey is a good strategy. You have to know that everyone else is making bogeys, so do your best and let the results be whatever they’re going to be:
And so if you’re not hitting the ball solid, if you’re not in full control, you’re really struggling. You’re trying to figure out just how do I walk away with par, bogey, let’s minimize the mistakes. Let’s not make worse than a bogey. And even if you’re playing good you have to go through that scenario a number of times on days like this.
And with the potential of the balls moving on the greens, you feel like you’re walking on ice:
I think all of us had the ball wiggling a lot, the ball oscillating a lot. I had a putt on the 8th hole today. It was only a three footer and basically right up the hill. But I remarked the ball. I could feel a big gust coming and I said I don’t want to take a chance of this thing becoming a 4 or 5‑footer. I remarked for a second and let it blow through. You could just see it starting to happen.
The wind is supposed to be more playable on Friday, so it will be interesting to see how many guys’ swings are able to find their way back to equilibrium and who the guys are who are going to fight to the death. Or was Thursday their ruination?