May 16, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
It would be easy to look at the 66 Anders Albertson fired Thursday in the first round of an NCAA regional in Tallahassee and assume that he picked up where he left off. Last time out, after all, he was medalist at the ACCs.
That would presume that golf is a linear game, however, and it surely is not.
Albertson banked a clean card – six birdies, 12 pars, no bogeys – yet he shaped his shots a bit differently than when he won the ACC. The sophomore from Woodstock made decisions that you might not think about.
“I told coach when I walked off, `I don’t feel like I played that well,’ ” Albertson recalled while taking a break from the team dinner at Carrabba’s. “I was uncomfortable for some reason. You have a shot in mind, you see it, and usually you execute it.
“Today, sometimes that shot wasn’t coming out. You notice it and adjust. I had to be conservative. You may have to give yourself more room.”
The “adjustment” did not take long. Albertson birdied the first and third holes, and he’s tied for second place among 75 golfers, one stroke off the lead of North Florida’s M.J. McGuire.
Sometimes, it’s a better idea to avoid trouble by not trying the shots that you’d like to make only to risk a mess, and instead play the shots that your day is allowing you to make.
It’s the fine line always walked on the links, often the wrong way.
Where in the ACCs Albertson for the most part went about sticking high-level shots with a smattering of miscues, Thursday was more than usual about managing the game and avoiding mistakes.
You can get away with that on a day when you’re not quite striping it, yet the course is giving up scores (35 of 75 players were under par) – if your decisions are sound, and your lower-risk shots are as well.
“Sometimes, you just aim for the wide part of the fairways,” Albertson said.
A look at recent results suggests something like Thursday’s result, although not only for sake of a strong stretch of scores.
Albertson finished fourth in the weather-shortened Linger Longer Invitational in late March, tied for sixth in the Gary Koch Invitational in early April, and then won the ACCs by shooting 15-under par.
His record in that time was 199-8 (opponents beaten/tied and lost to).
There are different ways to play well, and Albertson is a working model.
To be completely transparent, he said there has been some carryover from earlier tournaments.
Albertson is working to hold his pace rather than pick it up or – more importantly — slow it down.
On occasions (most notably at the Gary Koch) when he was sniffing the gold medal, Albertson began deliberating more prior to shots.
Each player is supposed to have 40 seconds from the point when officials deem it to be their turn to hit.
“I put myself in position to win in Tampa [Gary Koch], and . . . when I got in or around the lead, I slowed down and changed my routine,” he said. “I started trying too hard.
“You can talk about it all day, but when you get under the gun and it’s time to perform, or there’s water staring you in the face or whatever, it can be difficult not to take extra time and think about what you want to do. I was going way over . . . a minute, a minute and a half.”
That wasn’t really helping.
At Gary Koch, in fact, Albertson shot 69-68-75 to fall to that sixth-place tie.
He was never penalized, but Albertson said he’d heard that opposing coaches complained on a few occasions. It was probably a matter of time before time would bite him not only on the course but on his scorecard.
So, in a way, Albertson has picked up where he left off.
In better keeping his pace the same while at times changing his game, he shot 66-67-68 – 201 to easily win the ACCs.
The Yellow Jackets are hoping he stays steady.
They’re tied with Oregon and South Florida for fourth place in the regional at Florida State’s Golden Eagle Golf and Country Club.
Tech is eight shots behind leader North Florida, needing to finish in the top five over the next two days to advance to the NCAA Championship at Capital City Club Crabapple in north metro Atlanta in less than two weeks.
If the Jackets are going to make it home, Albertson may lead the way with his even gait.
Thursday was his fourth consecutive competitive (collegiate) round of 68 or lower, and seven of his last eight have been 69 or lower.
He learned something at Gary Koch from that final-round 75 — the only plus-par round he’s fired in his last 10.
The lesson: keep moving.
“After reviewing it and talking with coach [Bruce] Heppler and coach [Brennan] Webb, I’m obviously playing well,” Albertson said. “I just want to focus on maintaining my routing, my rhythm, no matter where I’m at; whether I’m in first, 10th or 20th.”
Here’s hoping Anders and the Jackets keep the pace and faith. If only we could all find it so easy to just play the game while disregarding circumstances. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.