I’ve been making a whole lot of comparisons to last year’s King of the Lake, where I started hot but then fizzled in a pretty remarkable way. But after four rounds played, this year’s iteration seemed a whole lot closer to 2014’s version. That year I was pretty close to the cash line with one round at Tahoe Vista left to play. And this year, that’s pretty much where I was (15th of 55, only two strokes “in the cash” at the start of the round). So really, it’s a better comparison to 2014, when I managed to cash in a pretty thick field.
Last night was the third night in a row I couldn’t sleep (I tossed and turned for 2 hours) at which point Ash suggested I sleep in the guest bed at my in-laws, a lumpy bed in a hot room. I initially declined but then gave in. And I think I fell asleep in 5 minutes and slept most of the night through. FINALLY, a good night’s sleep.
I woke up stiff and sore, but had an anti-inflammatory AND a painkiller and stretched everything I could think of stretching. By the time my round started, I was actually feeling… pretty good? Certainly not pain-free, but better than any of the prior 4 rounds. Let’s get to it.
ROUND 5 – TAHOE VISTA
Two years ago, I knew I just had to throw a pretty good round to stay in the cash, and I answered that task by throwing a +1 through 14 holes (NOT a good start) but hitting my last 4 birdies to end up at a quite serviceable 55. I was in the same place to start today, but they threw us a curveball by having us start on hole 10, not 1. That means the easier birdie holes would be in the first half (along with the massive 1000+ foot par 5 hole 18). These were the holes that saved my butt two years ago. Today?
I started with an easy par and a DROP IN birdie on the pretty tricky hole 11. On thirteen, the hardest hole on the course, I had a great drive but a STUPID upshot and took a bogey. Then came 16-18, three of the four I’d birdied two years ago to clinch my cash spot. Today, I nailed them all again (16 was a 20′ putt after a near-ace, 17 was a thumber to a 20′ putt, and 18 was a 30′ windy putt to get my birdie four). So with half the course done, I was -3 and looking good (beating my card by a few strokes).
Holes 1-6 aren’t gimmies, but I should be able to end up -1 or -2 through them. Turns out, no. 6 boring pars. No real chances for birdie, no real danger for bogey either. So all I had to do was maintain to end up with my 55. If I could just manage one birdie in that stretch, I’d end with a pretty hot 54.
And that’s the problem. I started saying “if I could just manage…” instead of executing each shot as it came along. After a 30-minute wait on hole 7, I throw a GREAT drive but a pretty bad up-shot, leaving me a 50′ flick upshot on a tricky hill to set up my par. Except I decide to throw my flick about 90′ instead. Then, when going to get my disc, I slip on the hay and totally CRASH HARD on my back. It had been feeling good the whole round, but after that, it was back to all wonked out. It really sucked (and so did bogeying that hole). Hole 8 is a should-get birdie. I threw a very good drive that just flipped up a hair in the headwind and left me with a 30′ putt. I missed it. The final hole was SO CLOSE to the right line, instead I clipped a branch and then failed miserably on my next shot. I bogey the last hole.
So after the long wait (and after the failed upshot, and after the big fall), I go +2 on the last two. I lost 6 strokes to one of my cardmates in the last 6 holes, who shot the hot round of our group and only beat me by 3. Did I play myself out of the cash?
No I didn’t. I came in tied for 17th out of 55. This round was a little closer to my normal style of play. My forehands finally came back to earth (and were actually pretty poor other than a spectacular upshot on my other nemesis hole – hole 3). My putts were decent – I don’t think I missed anything within 25′. But the problem was nearly all my birdie putts were 30-50′. I made one putt that distance all day (and it was a par save). Nearly all my putts were low, though. That’s the sign of a tired body.
All in all, I was very happy with my performance, though I was always a couple of factors away from really putting it all together. However, when I look at my score, it was 4 strokes better than in 2014, which one of my best tourneys ever. I averaged over 976 in terms of ratings, and that was with some pretty sloppy play throughout (round 1 featured MISERABLE putting, rounds 3 and 4 were lousy drives, and round 5 my ups and forehands fell apart). And ALL of this is with the ailingest back/body I’ve ever had in a tournament.
Final fun fact #1: If I were masters age (2 years!) I would have come in 3rd. THIRD!
Fun fact #2: I appear to be the San Francisco Giants of King of the Lake. I play really well there in even years only.
2008: Came in tied for third (out of 14), lost the playoff.
2010: I was near the cash line with my final round yet to play and I injured my throwing arm halfway through the round. I finished the round throwing 150′ drives (or lefty) at a 878 rated round. I was out of the cash by 20 strokes, but I probably gave up close to that due to injury.
2012: KotL didn’t happen.
2014: Cashed as an A-Tier.
2016: Cashed as an A-Tier.
In odd years? I tied for last-cash once, but otherwise have fared pretty poorly.