The first Champions Tour event of 2012 for me is in the books. I shot rounds of 70-68-77 for 215 or 1-under par and a tie for 46th at the Ace Group Classic in Naples, Florida. I look at every finish as neither a good finish nor a bad finish; it just is what it is.
It was a positive step for me to get back on the Twin Eagles course and see where my practice has led me and to evaluate the steps needed to prepare for my next event. I love the evaluating process that takes place after a tournament. I wasted no time getting back to practicing on Monday and Tuesday and will continue for the week. I still feel I have so much to learn and can feel my game rounding into form. Congratulations to Kenny Perry and his 5-stroke victory. His 20-under par for the week performance was simply amazing; that’s some great golf. To put Kenny’s performance into perspective, Twin Eagles Talon course is over 7,100 yards, par 72 with a course rating of 74.9 and a slope of 142. Kenny’s performance would make him around a plus 12 handicap (that means 12 strokes better than a scratch handicap!).
It made me feel good to have many people come up to me during the week and mention how much The Impact Zone book has helped their game. I am passionate about making a difference in this game by improving the overall approach to teaching. I love to see people smile and say they are experiencing real results, especially in light of the PGA’s recent study that shows people failing to improve is in the top three reasons why golfers are leaving the game. This hurts everyone in golf, and it doesn’t have to be the case. At the Ace, I probably had the most comments ever at a tournament about my IMPACT-BASED™ teaching.
I had a great grouping in the first round with Fuzzy Zoeller and Jim Thorpe, both who I consider friends. All of us on the Tour are glad to see Jim Thorpe back playing. And Fuzzy, well, he’s just Fuzzy and having a good time promoting his Vodka. We all had a good time playing together. The camaraderie was great, the atmosphere loose and we had a lot of fun. Fuzzy played well, too; shooting a 69 despite a lost ball. I birdied three of the last four holes to get it back to -2 for the day.
What dawned on me during the round is how well they both strike the ball despite such differing and unusual swing styles. I tried to not get too wrapped up in it, but at times I had to look. Fuzzy has an unusual address position, but his downswing is fairly pure as he delivers a lagging clubhead through the ball into dynamic impact with an effectively strong workhorse, even at his age. Jim Thorpe, who is 62 years old, on the other hand, has so many quirks to his swing that some would consider Jim Furyk’s swing conventional when compared to Jim Thorpe’s motion. Imagine if Jim Thorpe showed up for a lesson from any number of teaching pros who had no idea who he was. How many teaching pros would immediately change his set up, change his backswing, and attempt to get it more on-plane and see him create a rotated club face? I truly believe that the outcome of this type of instruction would be that these pros would instantly turn him into a solid 5 handicap. I know because they did it to me back in the early 1980’s! The way to teach a good player is to leave his swing style alone, and look for ways to use the style to more effectively create Dynamic Impact. Everyone can improve on his or her own impact dynamics or at least the consistency of their impact dynamics. Once one learns a particular swing style, that basic style should be left alone. Any changes would only be for the purpose of creating a more consistent and more dynamic impact.
I had another great grouping in the second round with my new neighbor and friend, Peter Jacobsen, and Peter Senior as our third. “Jake” is on the comeback trail after post-season surgery last year. He’s already stronger than when I played with him two weeks ago in the Pro-Member Tournament at Old Collier Golf Club. Peter has such great impact and always drives the ball straight. But one of the best drivers of the golf ball is Peter Senior. I marvel at his consistency and clubface control. He hits bullets off the tee and his start line is very consistent. Plus, he putts wonderfully with the long putter. As for me, I struggled a bit off the tee, but later got it worked out on the range by slowing down the transition. Again, I hit some great iron shots, finishing with a 4-under par 68.
The winds came howling from the North to greet us for the final round on Sunday. Again, I had a very favorable grouping with my close friend Chip Beck (we’ve been practicing together some in the off season) and 65-year-old Gil Morgan. I am in awe of Gil Morgan. I had my best driving day of the week that round and he out-drove me several times. What a swing! Chip and Gil both played solidly and shot just over par for the day.
I played my best nine of the tournament on the front, but the putts weren’t falling. I made the turn in even par, which was pretty good in tough conditions. After lipping out another birdie putt on the 10th, I struck one of my best shots of the day on 11 with a (-7 yard) 3 iron from 180 into the wind. Somehow, the wind stopped just as I hit and the ball sailed right over the flag, over the green and into a bush. A double-bogey resulted. It’s a strange thing, but I started pulling putts from there out and made three more bogeys and a three-putt par coming into the clubhouse. It was a tough way to end the week, but I figured out why the putts were pulling and I’m back on track. I can’t wait for my next tournament! One of the aspects I enjoy most about this game is figuring it out when something isn’t quite right and then incorporating the proper fix. I guess that’s why I don’t get as upset as I used to. I accept the need to embrace failure more now as a stepping stone to success. And now, I will be getting back to practicing.