Mark Townsend adds a new skill set, the putting yips, to his game as he takes on Royal Portrush. Who will come out on top?
Royal Portrush course guide: 10th (Himalayas)
447 yards, par 4, SI 12
I tell myself not to over-indulge at the halfway but go to pieces at the last minute and finish things off with a Coke and Mars bar set-piece that I order with an element of surprise in my voice.
The chief goes left again but I can see the ball and the green which even from 170 yards out is an absolute jaffer of a sight.
An 8-iron chop-out is my shot of choice. One of links golf’s delights is when you thin an iron and, even halfway there, you know it’s going to make you look a lot better than you deserve. It runs and runs and runs and finishes eight feet away.
I somehow leave it short.
Royal Portrush course guide: 11th (PG Stevenson’s)
474 yards par 5, SI 8
A par 5 for us but a 4 for our heroes next week and a rare fairway is ticked off. With a shot and a 6-iron in my hands this could be the moment I light the blue touch paper and go deep.
All these things make me a bit uneasy and I tug it into the hill to the left of the green.
This isn’t the lie that I should be playing my third from and I’m not the person to try this type of precise recovery.
My body convulses, I very nearly hit the ball with my right knee and I then have to hole a four-footer for par. All of which has taken quite a lot of me.
Royal Portrush course guide: 12th (Dhu Varren)
532 yards par 5, SI 4
If any hole could sum up my golf for the past two decades it was this. A good drive puts the hole just about in range.
So I lay up with an 8-iron, fat a wedge onto the front and am only too happy to take three putts for the cosiest of two points.
Anyone with just an ounce of daring would have humped a fairway wood into the throat of the green and threatened birdie. I was on the defensive before I had even hit my tee shot.
Royal Portrush course guide: 13th (Feather Bed)
194 yards par 3, SI 18
The elevated tee shot, for some reason, rings too many alarm bells in my head than it ought to. Hence why I miss the bunkers left and am then putting round a bunker just to try and then two-putt for a point – which I manage but it’s not very satisfying.
It’s all getting a bit steery and inward looking so I open up a conversation about where everyone’s staying during Open week to keep things light and fluffy.
Royal Portrush course guide: 14th (Causeway)
473 yards par 4 SI 2
My new line in chats works a treat as I hit the fairway to thrust myself back into the kill zone – our tee is maybe 80 yards ahead of the Open yardage.
I observe to a playing partner that this seems a strange choice for a SI 2 which backfires as I miss the green left to leave an unfathomable recovery.
The contours are kind to me and I wallop it up to six feet. And lip out.
Royal Portrush course guide: 15th (Skerries)
426 yards, par 4, SI 14
Another right-to-left dogleg and the countdown to home is on. Everything goes to plan, a 7-iron finishes about 15 feet away and the putt drops.
There’s no need for any recriminations, you’ve been a good boy and you’ve got your rewards.
If there was a negative a shot would have been nice as some sort of buffer for the last three.
Royal Portrush course guide: 16th (Calamity Corner)
236 yards, par 3 SI 6
If there is a chance to get behind this tee then I hope to spend a good portion of a morning on this hole.
So the story goes Bobby Locke played left of the green on all four round in 1951 and made par on three of them. There’s nothing for going right and I miss the South African’s hollow and go screaming into some thickish rough.
A tentative chip is followed by three like-minded putts, all of which is performed with the comfort blanket of receiving a shot. Pathetic.
Royal Portrush course guide: 17th (Purgatory)
408 yards, par 4, SI 16
I’ve no understanding of the local winds but it would be nice if we get some help at some point in the hope that a few take this on.
It’s a tremendous approach even when hacking it out of a sidehill lie. With half of Northern Ireland to the right of the tucked away pin I find the bunker that sits just in front of it.
A run-of-the-mill bogey if ever there was one, never threatening at any point to be anything better.
Royal Portrush course guide: 18th (Babington’s)
474 yards, par 4, SI 10
A dog-leg right which seems to make a nice change and sets up nicely for my power fade. Standing in the middle of the fairway I let my mind run away with itself and try and muster every last ounce of positivity into pulling off a committed approach.
As has been the way in these big moments in life for the past 20 years I go left, holding on to things in an attempt to a) not have to get involved with some workmen putting up some scaffolding, and b) not have to get involved with the hosel of my 6-iron.
There’s 10 yards of light rough to play through and it’s any sort of shot other than a putter. Just move it forward, anywhere forward and the green will do the rest.
I fluff a putt.
The next two minutes play out as I’ve predicted from the middle of the fairway and, as the day began, no points are scored.
In: 15 points
Out: 16 points
Total: 31 points
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