by Robert Bicknell
Well, my hopes for a win at the Vietnam Amateur Open at Dalat Palace GC came to a crashing halt on Thursday after being tied for 4th place after the first round. It took real ingenuity to miss the cut by a stroke, but I managed to find a way to do it. Unbelievable.
Dalat Palace greens normally suit me pretty well as I was raised on bent grass greens, but for some reason my putting stroke just wasn't there. When you walk off a par 5 with a par - after being on in two strokes - that will get you talking to yourself and things went from bad to worse before the day was out.
Make a mental note to yourselves, if you have a ball in the deep grass on the side of a bunker, where you can barely see the top of the ball, eat the stroke and take an unplayable. I didn't and it cost me the stroke I needed to make the cut.
Still, I had plenty of opportunities on both days, but couldn't convert them into the birdies I needed. There is a time to play smart and a time to play aggressive and for some reason, I just couldn't kick my game into higher gear in this event. Very disappointing.
Before I go any further, I want to say that Lars Holden and his staff did a great job on organizing the golf portion of the event, despite the six hour rounds… that's not his fault, but rather the players who simply cannot or will not obey "time par" which dictates the game should take 4 hours and 30 minutes.
To give you a clue what kind of problems I have with slow play…
My group teed off first on the first round. We finished nine holes in two hours and I was one-over par. We then had to wait almost 30 minutes to begin our 2nd nine holes and that nine took three hours. I was 5-over par on that nine.
Thursday my group teed off last and the round took over six hours to finish. We could have played 27 holes by ourselves in that amount of time. Naturally, my score was complete and total garbage. While I cannot blame anyone but myself for poor results, the slow play definitely didn't help matters at all. I can take a 5 hour round, but more than that makes me slightly insane.
I was under the assumption that there might be penalties for slow play, seeing that this is a national championship, but I haven't heard of any being given out and, regardless, the course remained painfully slow.
Slow play has always been a problem in Viet Nam and it seems that it won't be fixed anytime soon, unless all the tournament organizers and officials start to seriously enforce slow play penalties in every event. Yes, I know…good luck waiting for that to happen.
I have to be careful when talking about the way the course conditions because it might very well be a case of sour grapes on my part, but to be honest, the tee boxes were far from ideal. No flat spots and very spongy. They need verticutting desperately. For me, it was like hitting off a mattress at times. The fairways were so-so, but players saw quite a few plugged lies due to poor drainage, but this has been a problem for many years, so it's not a big issue.
The biggest problem, for me was reading the putts correctly. Normally I'm good on bent grass greens, but my caddie was way off on the reads and so was I. My chipping was a total disaster. I would like to find something good to say about it, but there are just no words to describe it without using language totally unsuitable for a family newspaper such as Viet Nam News.
In a nutshell, I normally like to chip & run the ball to the hole, but the greens were so quick that it became dangerous to try because if you went past the hole, you were looking at a very difficult comeback putt. Thus, the smarter play would be to pitch it at the hole with enough spin to make it stick. No, I didn't have much luck with that either.
So, it just shows you that anything can happen in golf… — VNS