Well here we are on the eve of the tournament. Today was a very sweaty day of practice as the temperatures were in the mid-80s by 8am and settled around the low 90s the whole day with some intense humidity. Most of the rounds were brutal for the middle of the course that was in direct sunlight.
I spent the first part of the morning charting shots again with Danny Baddeley, then we turned our attention playing a few more practice rounds. The first few I was playing cleaner than yesterday but with less aces. However, that brought my overall score down a bit before sliding up the rest of the day. During the afternoon, Matt Bellner (who many of you know for his bright outfits and wonderful personality) arrived and I played a quick round with him on his first go-around for the course. Overall, including the North/South rounds below, I will have played 24 practice rounds at around an average over just over 38, which I was happy with. It's about where I ended up in 2014. Including the practice putts, I estimate I put in about 1500 putts over the past two and a half days. I've still got about 380 more to take in tournament play. I broke a little earlier today and enjoyed a quick drink with some of the players at the new beer garden that is adjacent to the course. I feel like we might be back there at some point over the weekend.
The highlight of the day was the renewal of the North/South competition. Similar to a club competition, us Northerners have been challenging some Southerners for bragging rights and a few side dollars over the past few years when we get together at the major tournaments. The North has been on quite a winning streak but today the South struck a winning blow. I did't play horrible (40, 38) but I happened to be paired up against Danny who dropped a few nicer shots and took our 5.5 of the 7 points possible in our pairing. All told the South won 17-11 and I was out $5. It was a fun way to break the monotony of practice and the point format was a first for us and definitely something we'll use in the future.
Now it's prediction time. First for my personal predictions:
- I'm going to average below 40. 38 is my goal for the tournament and it's probably right at where the over/under line would be set if I were a bookie.
- I'm going to get 2 aces in the first round
- I will ace hole #12 at least once. It's not a common ace hole but I feel confident in my shot
- I will play at least 3 holes under par for the hole tournament. Not a high mark to achieve but that's what makes it a good prediction.
Now, in honor of the course being located at a horse racing tracking, I'm going to dome some handicapping. Here's my odds for winning the tournament (and apologies to anyone I left off the list - I didn't have time to handicap the whole field of 51):
Olivia Prokopova: 3-1
Matt McCaslin: 4-1
Joey Graybeal: 5-1
Brad Lebo: 6-1
Danny McCaslin: 7-1
Rick Culverhouse: 10-1
Gary Hester: 12-1
Kevin Lacey: 12-1
Fred Stewart: 15-1
Brian Johnson: 16-1
Pat Sheridan: 100-1
I'b box Olivia and Matt in an Exacta. Olivia played well last time here, is on fire in practice (shooting a 30) and is coming off a win in the UK. Matt won last time here and looks to be putting good.
In the Trifecta, I'd add in Rick Culverhouse into the box. Solid finish at the 2016 U.S. Open and is playing for Team USA this year in the World Adventure Golf Masters.
For the Superfecta, I add Gary Hester and box the whole group. Gary has had solid finishes in the past couple of U.S. Opens.
If you are looking for a longshot to possibly place, Todd Barfield is a local who is playing well but you'd also get good odds on Brian Johnson, another Team USA member, breaking into the podium. Don't sleep on Danny McCaslin taking the top spot either given his recent success in the tournament.
I'd put the over/under of the winning average at 35.2. We might get a touch of storms tonight so it will be interesting to see how the course plays in the first rounds of the morning. If it's off of the speeds from practice, I would take the over of that average. Otherwise the weather still looks to be hot for the two days so the winner will have to manage the heat and the course.
Now's it's time for some relaxing television, a good sleep and get ready to hit some putts true tomorrow!