Monday, May 22, 2017

Visible Progress

I’ve been making a lot of invisible progress lately. By that, I mean that my scores have been consistently rather stinky, but beneath that, I have felt subtle improvements growing. At last week’s Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas, I made some visible progress. The end result of the tournament was still pretty stinky, but I did get to play four rounds, and I’m excited by some of the steps forward that I took.

The visible progress was in the form of a first-round 67 (-3). I played late in the day and the winds were incredibly challenging on Thursday afternoon. I birdied the first hole of the tournament, and though the blustery winds wreaked havoc, I dropped just one shot on Thursday. I executed beautifully all day and rolled in some nice putts on my back nine to shoot three under. There was one score of 66 posted in the afternoon wave, but my round on Thursday was the next best of those who played in the afternoon.

I wasn’t done with my signs of visible progress. I came out Friday morning and got my putter heated up. Starting on number ten, I made a great putt of eight or nine feet to save par after a sloppy opening approach shot. I then proceeded to take advantage of some beautiful ball-striking by holing birdie putts of 10, 8, and 20 feet on the next three holes. After a couple of solid pars on holes 14 and 15, I executed three good shots on the par-five 16th hole and rolled in a seven footer for another birdie. Through 25 holes of the tournament I was -7 and in first place by myself!

Okay, reality check time. I finished the tournament at +4 for 72 holes and in a tie for 61st place, so obviously, a lot of that stinky stuff came out over the last 47 holes. I’m really not sure why. I had some nervousness playing in one of the later groups on Saturday, but I have often thrived on that kind of nervous energy in the past, so I don’t think that was the problem. A wickedly cold putter on the weekend was certainly a big part of the reason for the disappointing performance, but I really don’t know why that happened either. At the end of the day, I don’t think I can explain why I went from so good to so bad last week, but, fortunately, it doesn’t need to be explained.

I’m super excited and encouraged by the visible progress I made last week. It only lasted 25 holes, but it was (is) there. I’m going to embrace that, and I’m going to keep working hard to improve my game so that I can perform at a great level more consistently.

I entered last week with a renewed focus to become the best player in the world from 150 yards and in, and I shaped my preparation accordingly. That is going to be a point of emphasis for me moving forward. I will continue to nurture and develop my long game, but the majority of my practice will involve putting, short game, wedge-play, and short irons. I want to be the best player in the world in these areas, and that goal is attainable.

I now have a two-week break to work on my game and make more progress. The next time I tee it up will be for U.S. Open Qualifying on June 5. Between now and then, I’m going to celebrate the visible progress I saw this past week in Dallas and also work really hard to keep improving.

I am excited, and I am having fun. Despite the poor results that have stretched on for quite some time now, I feel that I am in a great spot. I can never say for sure when, but I feel like great things are just ahead. Thank you for following me, and keep it here for a practice report sometime in the next couple weeks.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Belief

Results-wise, I still don't have anything good to report. After two more tournaments--the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina and The Player's Championship in Florida--I still haven't gotten things to click in competition. I actually did a lot of positive things both weeks, but didn't have the consistency to post good scores. I ended up missing both cuts.

I know this is sounding like the same song on repeat, but I actually do believe that I am close to playing well. Conditions were challenging in North Carolina, and I posted a two-day total of five over par. In a ten-hole stretch on Thursday, I was +7. That means for the other 26 holes on Thursday and Friday, I was two under. That is significant because the leader was only -6 through two rounds in North Carolina. Clearly, I need to play better and clean up that sloppy stretch, but this shows that there is good stuff in there.

In The Player's Championship, I had a similar positive experience despite the disappointing result. I began the tournament with a one-under-par back nine on Thursday, and after a solid par on the first hole and a perfect drive down the reachable par-five second hole, I really felt like I was going to post a good score. I made a mess of the second hole after my great drive, but even after that setback, I executed really well over the last seven holes. Unfortunately, I had a few errors in judgment on the firm and difficult golf course, and my good execution was not rewarded. I actually made bogey on three of the final seven holes without ever hitting a shot that landed more than a couple steps from where I was planning. I posted a 75 (+3) in round one, but it felt really good. I hit a lot of good shots in round two, but I also hit some lousy ones and posted another 75 to miss the cut by four shots.

I am really sick of reporting this news, but I'm not discouraged. If anything, I feel like I'm having a re-awakening of sorts. The frustration of the last 16 months has forced me to do some evaluating, and I had a revelation yesterday morning. My practice for the last two years has been focused largely on becoming a better long-game player. I've worked hard on my golf swing and become a better five iron player. This work has been valuable and necessary, but it has taken me away from my essence and from what makes me great at golf. I want and need to be the best player in the world from inside 150 yards. And the good news is that I can be! And what's more? I haven't been even close. In fact, this year, I've been a below average wedge player and an average-at-best putter. With a renewed focus on the things that make me great, I'm going to get after being the best in the world from 150 yards and in. My long game has improved, and it good enough to allow me to accomplish everything I want in golf, but I must (and will!) be better than good from inside 150 yards.

This revelation and the new practice mindset it is encouraging does not guarantee that things will turn around immediately, but I'm filled with a new belief that I am going to get things turned and going in the right direction. I'm super-excited to get after it.

I'm currently on my way to Dallas for the Byron Nelson Tournament. I'm excited for a great week. Thank you for following and please keep it here for more updates!

Saturday, April 29, 2017


After two weeks that truly were great fun for me, I don’t have a whole lot of good news to report results-wise. The Valero Texas Open in San Antonio is definitely one of my favorite stops of the year, but unfortunately I didn’t play very well so my week there was cut short. Then, I played the Zurich Classic of New Orleans for the first time since 2014. Brand new for this year, the event featured a team format. I paired up with one of my closest friends, Mark Wilson, and despite having an absolute blast, Mark and I had a tough start and couldn’t quite play well enough to recover. So, I’m heading home early from New Orleans, too.

It stinks to miss cuts and to not be competing on weekends. I’m really sick of it, but I am still proud of the effort that I’ve been putting in and am confident that my hard work will bear results.

I’m not really sure which variables will play the biggest role in helping me to get things turned around, but I do have some definite areas in which I need to improve. First of all, I need to regain my swagger on the greens. It’s not just that I haven’t had any great putting weeks lately; I’ve actually been putting poorly. My putting practice has been going okay, but I’m never feeling great over my putts right now. I know that I am brilliant with a putter in my hands. Through smart practice and a free mindset, I can release that brilliance again and do so consistently. Next, I need to be much more consistent with my wedges. I have weeks when I feel okay about my wedge play (Hilton Head), but then I also have weeks where my wedge play is atrocious (Texas Open). Even at my worst, I need to be an above-average wedge player, and I know that I can be through disciplined practice and smart execution. Finally, I need to clear my mind to compete more freely. I am currently feeling a lot of stress, pressure, and anxiety when I’m on the course because I feel desperate for better results. I know I play my best golf when I feel freedom, and I also know that I can choose that feeling. It is very difficult for me right now, but I can choose to feel free, and I am progressing toward doing it.

Finding excellence in these three areas is not a far-fetched task for me. I can do it. I’ve been excellent in these areas before, and I will be again.

I’m definitely disappointed, frustrated, and even sad about my results lately. But all I can do with the past is learn from it, and I feel like I’m ready to do that. I am excited to keep going and keep growing. I have incredible opportunities ahead, and I’m ready to seize them! I’m still living my dream, and I still have the best job in the world. I’m ready to do it well.

Thank you for believing in me and following my journey. Keep it here for great news moving forward!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Progress at Harbour Town

I moved forward in a big way last week at Harbour Town. A slow start to the tournament created a challenge and a disappointing final round kept me from have a good finish, but in between, a lot of extremely encouraging things happened. I'm continuing to make physical progress in all areas of my game, but more importantly, I am moving toward feeling more freedom and having more mental clarity on the course as well. I'm excited to keep playing!

Last week was fun. Harbour Town is possibly my favorite course on Tour, and I had one of my best friends, Ryan Nelson, caddying for me for the week. I had three great days of preparation, and really felt ready for the tournament. Despite a frustrating and unsettling poor start in which I was three over par through six holes, I still felt like I was ready to play well. I chipped in under the watch of the lighthouse on Harbour Town's iconic 18th hole (my ninth) on Thursday for my first birdie of the tournament, and for the next 45 holes, I played a lot of good golf.

The strongest memory for me from the week will be the way I played the final seven holes on Friday. Though I'm trying hard to not let outside distractions affect my mental process towards each shot, I must admit that I was acutely aware of the cut as I was playing on Friday. That definitely caused some stress for me, but I executed beautifully over my final seven holes. I converted two beautiful shots on the par-four 12th hole into a birdie. I continued to hit really good shots, but narrowly missed great birdie chances on holes 13, 15, and 16. I stood on the 17th tee believing I would need to play the final two holes one under par to make the cut. The par-three 17th was between an eight iron and seven iron for me on Friday. I wasn't sure that I could quite get an eight iron to the hole, but I knew that I would have a hard time stopping a seven iron on the green with a strong wind at my back. I decided to commit to the eight iron, and I hit a beautiful shot. The ball flew high with just a tiny draw and fell perfectly on my selected target just right of the flag. The ball rolled out perfectly and finished twelve feet short and right of the hole. I definitely felt some nerves, but I was composed, and I rolled my putt into the left edge of the cup for a birdie! It was a great feeling. I proceeded to hit a shockingly poor tee shot on the closing hole, but I hit a great four iron from right of the fairway to just in front of the green, chipped close, and finished with a par to post two under par for the first 36 holes.

I still felt way more stress and anxiety related to the cut than I would like to feel, but this time, I took control of those feelings and stayed in the present. It was a huge step in the right direction!

I played an interestingly great round on Saturday during which my ball-striking felt a little off the entire time, but I managed it very well and shot a 67 (-4) to move up quite a bit on moving day. Then, on Sunday, I had the most beautiful warm-up session and striped my opening tee shot. I felt confident, but it didn't happen for me on Sunday. I hit too many errant shots and never got the good stuff flowing. My Sunday 75 (+4) dropped me down the final standings quite a bit.

I did have one very cool Sunday highlight, though. On that same 17th hole, with the same wind and the hole location just a little farther back on the green, I hit a seven iron that landed just over the front bunker and released right into the middle of the cup for a hole-in-one! What a memory!

I am striving to improve in many areas, and my week at Harbour Town was definitely a move in the right direction. I'm excited to keep it up. Physically, I'm prepared to play well and feel like I'm only getting better. Mentally, I've had a lot going on inside my head, but I feel ready to quiet some of the noise, come back to the present, and have a lot of fun.

I am currently on the way to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open, and I'm excited to keep progressing. Thank you for following me and please keep it here for more updates moving forward!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Close in Houston

A birdie-free 75 in the opening round was not the start I was looking for or expecting after two weeks of great preparation for the Houston Open. I was feeling primed physically and mentally to get after it, so I was definitely pretty bummed after the first round. When I look back on it though, I really was prepared. I just had a rough day. I hit some bad shots at the wrong times and didn't make any putts. I was prepared, I just didn't execute very well. That first round had me behind the eight-ball for round two, and I did end up missing the cut, but this week felt different and better than some of my recent disappointments. I'm prepared to play well, and it's going to happen soon!

Round two was really fun. I woke up Friday morning feeling a little bummed about my poor score from the day before, but I discussed those feelings with my caddie (Alicia!), and we decided that I was going to forget about everything and just go play as if I was having a fun round with my buddies. I had absolutely not given up on getting back into the tournament, but I knew that the best way to do that would be to go have some fun. I felt relaxed and confident during my warm-up and was  genuinely excited to go play. The wind was picking up for the afternoon, and I felt ready for the challenge. I hit a good drive down the middle on the first hole and then hit my second shot too well as I pierced an eight iron through the wind and over the flag into the back fringe. From there, I casually rolled in a fifteen footer for my first birdie of the tournament, and I smiled real big. I went on to birdie four of the first six holes in round two. After a good drive on the par-five eighth, I was really feeling it. I committed to my second shot and was feeling good, but I splashed my three wood into the pond right of the green. Despite the bogey, I was still feeling good, but I just couldn't get it going the rest of the way. Still, with winds increasing and conditions becoming more difficult, the cutline began to rise, and I still had a great chance to make it to the weekend with four holes to go. I hit a disappointingly poor wedge shot into the par-five 15th hole and made a par. I then hit a lot of good shots over tough final three holes, but ended up finishing par-bogey-bogey to post a score (72, even par) that wasn't nearly as good as how I felt I had played. It was really fun to play well and feel some excitement again, though!

One more cool story about the second round: I ended up bogeying the final hole, but that doesn't tell the story of what really happened. After my bogey on the 17th hole, I needed an eagle on the 484-yard 18th hole to make it to the weekend. I smoked my drive down the watery par four and had 187 yards to the front left pin which was tight to the water. The wind was helping off the right, and I had 179 yards to the front edge of the green. I knew to make it I had to hit a seven iron up in the air and have it land softly right on the front of the green. I hit the most beautiful shot, and it was falling left on the wind and going right at the flag. It landed on the edge of the front fringe and skidded forward past the flag all the way to the back tier of the green. It was so cool to hit that shot and actually see it have a chance while it was in the air!

So, at the end of the day, this will go down as a missed cut and that is always a little bit disappointing for me, but this was actually a really good week. I am feeling physically prepared to play great, and I will continue to work to make my swing more autonomic so that it's more consistent in tournament situations. I'm also really close to feeling mentally prepared to play great. There is definitely a big part of me that still wants success too badly and is too obsessed with results right now, but the attitude of just having fun and being relaxed is a good start to overcome that. I was close to getting it in Houston, and I am going to get there!

I now have Master's week off unfortunately, but I will use it to prepare well for a long and great stretch of golf after the Masters. I'm super excited, and I know that great stuff is coming.

Thank you for following and believing in me, and please keep it here for good news moving forward!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pain, Change, and Growth

For the most part, I believe that I have a fairly healthy sense of perspective about life and golf's place in it for me. Golf is my career. It is one of my passions. It is very important to me. It is NOT life and death by any means. It doesn't crack the top three of things that are most important to me in my life. Still, it hurts when it doesn't go well and my hard work doesn't produce the desired results.

My last tournament inflicted some pain. Playing at one of my favorite courses on tour (Innisbrook), I played really nicely. Despite being just fractionally off with my driver and having a few things go wrong, I was playing very solidly. I was one under par through 35 holes, and I piped my drive up the par-four ninth hole--my last on Friday. From there, I faced a very inviting shot. I had 148 yards to a back right flag from a great lie in the fairway. I wasn't trying to be too aggressive, but I was definitely trying to give myself a good birdie opportunity. I pushed my iron shot a little bit, but it was flying just right of the pin. Unfortunately, I had misjudged the wind and selected the wrong club. My ball flew past the hole and bounded off the back of the green. From there, I misplayed a pitch shot, hit my first putt too hard, and nervously stroked my three-and-a-half foot bogey putt right of the hole. At the time, it was a bit of a soul-crushing double-bogey. It dropped me from one shot inside of the cutline to missing the cut by one. It was painful.

For a couple days, I wasn't sure how to respond. I've always been good about being intentional with my response to adversity. I have always found something positive--some kind of silver lining that I can take and build from moving forward. This time I must admit that I felt pretty defeated for the days that immediately followed.

That feeling of pain has brought around some needed change, however. The first change was not of my choosing, but it is something about which I am excited. My caddie, Shane, called me on Tuesday evening and told me that he wants to split. I've never blamed Shane for my current slump, and, despite some differences in personality and communication style, I actually have really appreciated the work that he has done for me. It's sad to see our partnership end, but I think he's right that something fresh will be really good for both of us. I'm excited to move forward in that regard.

I don't have a long-term solution to my caddie vacancy yet, but I do know who will be caddying for me in my next event. I'm going to reunite the dream team that worked so well in 2015. Alicia will caddie for me in Houston! Regardless of what I decide to do long term, I am very excited to take the things that I have learned and work to build a caddie relationship that works best for me tactically, mentally, and emotionally. This change will be a positive step forward for me.

Another change that was inspired by the pain I experienced at Innisbrook is a new sense of ownership over the thoughts I'm thinking. I've been feeling tremendous weight bearing down on me lately, and I've been blaming the last 14 months of poor results for causing that weight. I've also been feeling like golf has been difficult and that I can't seem to catch a break. I've been blaming outside things for the feelings of pressure, anxiety, and disappointment I've been feeling. In reality, those feelings are thoughts, and they originate inside of my own head. What I think is a choice, and thinking right is a skill. I have not practiced this skill nearly as much as I've practiced my physical skills lately, and it's time to change that. I control what I think, and my thoughts control how I feel. I'm going to take control of what I think.

I think I'm a great golfer. I think I'm a winner. I think I can go play with freedom and trust.

I certainly know that this isn't the last time I'll ever face adversity or disappointment in golf. I also know that I have the skills, both physically and mentally, to deal with and overcome adversity. I am ready to practice and use those skills.

I'm excited to get after it! I've decided not to play in Puerto Rico this coming week so that I can have another week off to practice my skills and rest up for a big stretch of golf ahead. I'll tee it up in Houston March 30-April 2, and I'll be ready.

Thank you for following and believing in me. Great things are coming. Keep it here to enjoy the ride with me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lowest Score Wins

In nearly every conceivable way, I am better at golf today than I was when I won on the PGA Tour just 16 months ago. I’m a much better swinger of the golf club. I drive the ball more consistently. I’m a better ball-striker. My wedge play is better. I’m more skilled and more comfortable around the greens. I’m more mature. I’m more experienced. Overall, I am simply a better golfer now than I have ever been.

Yet my scores haven’t been good lately. I’ve struggled to post consistently good scores for quite a while. What’s more, my old penchant for getting hot and posting very low rounds hasn’t come around in quite some time.

So, what gives? How can a better golfer shoot higher scores? I have two answers. The first is simple and the second a bit more abstract.

First of all, I need to putt better. I haven’t felt great about the way I have putted for most of the last 14 months. I’ve been inconsistent, had poor pace, struggled inside of five feet, and, most notably, have not made putts in that mid-range distance (10ft-25ft) where I expect to differentiate myself from my competition. Deep down, I’m still very confident in my ability on the greens. I truly believe that putting is a great strength for me and that it will allow me to stand out on the PGA Tour for the next couple of decades. The key is letting that brilliance flow. To do it, I’m going to re-dedicate myself to practice techniques and drills that have worked for me in the past. Also, I’m going to focus on having fun on the greens and stop putting so much pressure on myself.

The second reason my scores haven’t been good is that I haven’t consistently allowed myself to play with freedom in a long time. I have let a prolonged stretch of sub-standard results weigh heavily on me. Each time I tee it up, I do so with a strong desire to “get it right this time.” This causes me to feel anxious and worried, and that is not a recipe for good golf. It is quite the vicious cycle, really. Struggles lead to a stronger and stronger desire to play well, and sometimes that very desire is the biggest challenge. (I told you this was going to be abstract.) It’s tough to nail down a solution to a problem so intangible, but I’m going to do it.

I think it was the late, great Arnold Palmer who once said “golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” I’ve been focusing lately on the endless complications. I’ve been trying so hard to do everything correctly. I’ve been trying to swing properly and make sure I’m strategizing properly. I’ve obsessed about trying to think the right thoughts at the right time. I’ve tried and tried and tried to get all the little details right. I think I’ve worked myself into a bit of an over-thinking nature and that is causing my tension.

So now, I’m ready to focus on the deceptively simple nature of my sport. At the end of the day, it’s no more complicated than this: lowest score wins. I’m going to go out and try to shoot the lowest score. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It doesn’t matter what other people think. It doesn’t matter what’s on the line or who else is in the competition. Lowest score wins. I’m going to go shoot the lowest score.

Clearly, lots of little things go into producing the lowest score, and I’m not na├»ve to that fact. But here’s the thing: I’m ready. I’ve been working my butt off to have everything in place. It’s time to go play. It’s time to go shoot the lowest score.

I absolutely love what I do, and I’m really excited to keep doing it and start doing it with freedom more consistently. I’m just outside of Tampa Bay, Florida, this week at one of my favorite courses on Tour for the Valspar Championship. I’m going to have a lot of fun this week!

Thank you for following me and for your support. Keep it here for an update from the tournament.

Visible Progress

I’ve been making a lot of invisible progress lately. By that, I mean that my scores have been consistently rather stinky, but beneath that,...