The Web.com event in Cartagena once again was a bit of a struggle. It was a different kind of struggle due to some rather extreme conditions as I thought might happen at the beginning of the week.
We had an afternoon tee time Thursday and by the time we put the first tee in the ground on hole 1 the wind was blowing somewhere in the constant 25 MPH range eventually picking up to 30+ with gusts 40-45. The golf course front 9 that has a little bit of tree cover on a few holes but most holes are relatively exposed. The back 9 starts on the other side of the property with all 9 holes fully exposed to the Caribbean Sea.
Club selection into such a firm wind can be a bit of a guess starting out. We guessed wrong on the first hole and ended up making bogey right out of the gate. It wasn’t an ideal start but based on the conditions bogeys were going to be inevitable. Ryan bounced back quickly with a good birdie on the second, followed by a great birdie on the 4th to move to 1 under par. A bogey on 7 was followed by a nice birdie on 8 kept the round at 1 under par. On the 9th hole we barely missed a nice look at birdie, mainly because the wind was blowing so hard that it actually took the putt off line at the last moment. None the less under par in those conditions was really good golfing.
Moving across to the back 9 was definitely going to be challenging because the wind was even stronger than it was starting out. Little did we know it was going to be a bit close to testing the limit on playability. A bogey on the 10th was a bit of a stinger because the par 5 is reachable because it was extremely downwind. But like I said bogeys can be made even with great execution due to the high winds. The par 3 11th played 178 yards into the wind. Normally Ryan is hitting either 7 or 6 iron depending on certain variables. He started with 4 iron, stood over it and ended up switching to 3 iron. He hit a great shot that still only went around 170 yards where normally he could cover 215-220 with that club.
As hard as club selection is, putting in that kind of wind can be even harder. The greens were a bit on the slow side simply because if they get too fast balls would never stop rolling in the wind so judging speed becomes a strong educated guess. Ryan 3-putted the 11th and the 12th because his ball can’t stay on line and failed to get up and down on 14 from the front bunker. Needless to say at this point is was survival golf as we were trying just to limit the damage getting it into the clubhouse.
The 15th hole is a drivable par 4 measuring 274 to the front. Being directly into the wind made it impossible to get there and even laying back would make such a long second shot. He just tried to hit 3 wood down there and pulled it a hair. With the wind being in from the right any pull could go off the map with as hard as it was blowing. He found the ball and had 80 yards from a beach type area. At this point just getting it on the green and making par would be good enough. The shot was hit a little heavy and traveled around 60 yards into this little pot bunker area just short of the green. From our vantage point you could see the 80% of the bunker.
Ryan has played golf for a long time and I have caddied for him for the last 3 years. We both saw the direction of the ball and the area it went. We walked up to the bunker and didn’t see a ball. We thought maybe it went longer into the next bunker. It was absolutely no where to be found. From 60 yards we both saw the area it went and after 5 minutes of searching a bunker the size of a twin bed and the grass around it we never found it. Rules of golf state a lost ball is a penalty and replay of last shot. It’s a tough rule to swallow especially when you physically see where the ball went. Regardless the back 9 went from bad to worse and we walked off the green making triple bogey 7. Never in his years of playing or mine caddying have we seen anything crazy like that.
It’s a very deflating hole because it’s probably under normal circumstances the easiest hole on the course. Pars on the final 3 holes yielded a (+6) 78. I’m all for challenging conditions but I think it was a joke to allow play to happen in those conditions. When players keep their hats off because they can’t stay on their head I think it’s borderline unplayable. Golf is hard enough as it is and too me the conditions didn’t test skill but brought in a large element of luck. I’m never one to make excuses as one guy in our group did shoot (-1) 71, but I really felt strongly it was ridiculous golf. Here is a breakdown of calm conditions vs windy conditions between the two waves of tee times during the first round.
None the less the Friday morning tee time would be much calmer and we had a good chance to go out and shoot a good number and get into the weekend.