Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sneaky Good in Indiana

Well, the on-paper results from Fort Wayne, Indiana, paint an all-too-familiar 2014 picture. I posted rounds of 72, 76 (+4) to finish near the back of the field and miss the cut by five shots. It might sound like I'm trying to be overly positive,  but I actually feel extremely optimistic about this week despite the poor finish. Some things definitely went wrong, but I was also much more like myself in some areas than I have been all year. I certainly didn't want to start the Web.com Tour Finals with a missed cut, but I am leaving Indiana feeling encouraged and ready to get rolling!

So, what went wrong this week? Short answer: the seventh hole. Number seven at Sycamore Hills is a 185-yard par three with a smallish green that is protected by a stone-walled pond short and right. In two rounds, I hit three balls in that pond and played the hole six over par. Both of my shots from the tee were simply poor execution. I had a good, smart plan both days, but I made poor swings and missed well to the right of my target. On Friday, I compounded my error with another very poor shot from the drop area. There is never any sense in playing the "what-if" game, but it is alarming to think that if I could have played the 185-yard seventh hole with a bogey and a par, I would have a Saturday tee time. With the exception of my shot from the drop area on Friday, I can honestly say that I don't regret anything about my thought process on that hole; I simply needed to execute better. 

So, number seven was the most obvious revelation of my weakness this week, but that weakness reared its head at other times as well. I am really struggling with my mid and long iron play right now. The par threes at Sycamore Hills ranged from 185 yards to 215 yards, and I played them nine over par for the week. I hit a lot of squirrely shots on approaches outside of 170 yards. That is an area of my game that I need to address. I really feel like the rest of my game was firing well enough to be in contention this week if I could have been just average with mid and long irons. I will put in some focused work with these clubs and will be ready moving forward. 

So that is what needs to get better, but I am very happy with many aspects of my game. I drove the ball the best that I have all year. My driving stats will show that I hit 23 of 28 fairways, but I know that two of those five misses were perfect tee shots that crept into the first cut of rough. In fact, I made two birdies from those two "missed" fairways. In addition to driving the ball well, my short-iron play was very reminiscent of times when I have been playing great golf. I hit a lot of shots right at my target and felt very in control with my shorter clubs. On and around the greens, I felt very much like myself. I had good touch around the greens and got some challenging shots up and down. My putter never got hot during my two rounds in Indiana, but my hard work on the greens lately definitely showed. I had a lot of birdie putts in the 15-25 foot range that were all over the hole, but got only one to actually fall. I was extremely solid inside of ten feet, though, and felt very confident on the greens. In short, my strengths were strong this week in Indiana.  

That's what I need to be successful. I need to hit more fairways, be better with my short clubs, and putt better than my competition to beat them. And I can do all three of those things! I am going to get good enough with my long distance approach shots to allow my strengths to win golf tournaments. I can do that, and I will. 

This week in Indiana was great. I hate leaving a tournament after two days, but seeing positive signs from the most important elements of my golf game has me feeling pumped. I will find some key to help me be better with my long approach shots and will also continue to sharpen my strengths. That means some great Peter Malnati golf is coming soon! 

I don't have to wait long to put it in action. The Web.com Tour Finals continue this week with the Chiquita Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina.
I will be ready for it!

Thank you very much for following and believing in me. Keep it here for a practice report and an update from North Carolina early next week! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Going to Trust My Strengths

I have had three great days of preparation in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I would be lying to say I feel like my ball-striking is firing on all cylinders, but I am prepared to use my strengths and my smarts to play some excellent golf. I am going to be positive, intelligent, and focused singularly on every shot this week, and I am going to have a great tournament. I get started at 8:25 Thursday morning and am very excited! Thank you for following, and keep it here for updates from the tournament!

Also, here is a truly blissful photo (taken by Alicia) from my Tuesday evening practice session: 

Monday, August 25, 2014

PREPARED

I'm sorry for my recent hiatus from my blog. Nothing has been wrong--quite the opposite really. I've been having some of my best practice and feeling absolutely great about life and my golf game. I simply have taken a little break from publishing my results and feelings. My blog is a really valuable tool for me to articulate and solidify my thoughts and plans, and I am ready to do just that. I hope that it is also a good way for you to keep up with me, and I really appreciate you caring enough to follow my career. 

So, since my last post, quite a bit has happened. I played the weekend in my final event of the 2013-2014 PGA TOUR season. I had a strange day on Saturday at that event--The Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC--during which I felt great the whole time, but never got anything good going and posted a 74 (+4). I followed that with a very solid effort on Sunday and carded a final-round 67. That score didn't move me up much in the field, and I finished tied for 64th, but it was a great feeling to finish my PGA Tour season with a solid final round. 

This past week, I was home in Tennessee and had a great week of work. From my workouts to my practice sessions to my play in a few friendly matches, I was focused and on point. I completed all of my Map Goals, played well in some semi-competitive rounds, and enjoyed quality relaxing time with my wife and family. It was a perfect week, and I'm feeling great as I head out on my next adventure.

I need to point out something here. I deviated from what makes me ME for the first two-thirds of this year. I found the PGA Tour to be filled with distractions, and though I was still putting in hours on the practice facilities, I was not having focused practice or completing my usual work goals. Though I tried to remain upbeat and positive, I truly did not feel great about my golf for much of this year. Over the past seven weeks since refocusing on my process and recommitting to my Map Goals, I have had a resurgence of sorts. I have completed my Map Goals six of the past seven weeks (and the week I missed was by just one putting drill and a holed bunker shot). Though my game hasn't necessarily turned the corner yet on the course, I feel great about myself and my golf game again. I am proud of my work ethic, but though I have worked hard all year, I had forgotten to work smart. I am back on track now, and it has me very excited moving forward! 

I am currently in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where this week I will compete in the first of four Web.com Tour Finals events. I played in this series of events last year, and this time around, it is my ticket back to the PGA Tour for the 2014-2015 season. At the end of these four events, the top 25 money winners in addition to the top 25 from the Web.com Tour's regular season Money List will earn PGA Tour Cards for next season. My "Outcome Goal" for the next four weeks is to be the top money earner at these four events. I believe that I can achieve that goal. 

Now that I've stated that outcome goal, I'm going to get back to doing the thing that will help me accomplish it: following my process. I am prepared for this because I have been committed to a disciplined, focused routine for nearly the last two months. I am going to continue to trust that and believe in myself. 

I am a huge fan of this week's golf course in Indiana. It's called Sycamore Hills, and I am going to have a great week here. Here are a couple of pictures from this beautiful track. 

Thank you for following me, and please keep it here for frequent updates! (I promise this time! :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Following the Plan and Making Progress

Friday, August 15, was a good day! It's been the weeks leading up to it, however, that have made the difference. On Friday I played a solid round to move from slightly outside the cut-line to safely playing the weekend at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC. Now, I understand that I shouldn't be trying just to make the cut, and that is certainly not my aim, but I'd be lying if I said the cut-line wasn't on my mind after quite a few frustrating weeks on the wrong side of it. For the past six weeks, I have been diligently following my work routine with a strong belief that I will regain the consistency that has characterized my solid play over the past few years. Friday's round just might serve as a turning point for me. My hard work has definitely been showing in my practice, and it was great to feel it yield results in a tense situation in Greensboro. I'm going to keep doing my work and keep getting better, and I'm confident that consistently good results are in my near future! 

Rounds of 70, 67 (-3 total) have me seven shots behind the leaders heading to the weekend here at the Wyndham Championship. This is the last event of the PGA Tour's regular season, and I need a special weekend to advance to the Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs. I'm just going to believe in myself and focus fully on each and every shot. I'm always saying great things are coming, so watch out for me this weekend! 

Thank you very much for following and believing in me! Keep it here for an update after the tournament.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Finding Form

I am feeling great about things. After the disappointment of my early exit from last week's event in Reno, I traveled home and finished up a solid week of practice with a thorough day on Sunday. This week I have taken full advantage of my week off with some really productive work. I have balanced quality time on the practice facilities with three good matches on the course, and my game is definitely moving in the right direction. I am back in the habit of a Peter Malnati-like practice routine, and if my "friendly" matches here at home are any indication, good results are soon to follow. 

On Tuesday, I played at Fox Den Country Club before playing Wednesday and Friday at Holston Hills. I had a rocky start with three bogies in the first six holes at Fox Den on Tuesday, but since then I have played 48 holes of bogey-free golf with 17 birdies. Obviously, that is here in the comfort of my East Tennessee home, but still, I have hit a lot of quality shots, holed a few key putts, and in general played very steady golf in the face of some serious ("friendly") competition. It is encouraging to see good shots and shoot some good scores.

The most encouraging thing is that I can see my practice working. I am back in the routine of having focused, goal-oriented practice, and this week I have seen some of my successes from the practice facilities show up on the golf course. I have a few more putting drills and a little bit of wedge work to do this weekend, and I am very excited to keep following my process and improving.

Sunday afternoon, Alicia and I will hit the road and drive to Greensboro, North Carolina, where the final PGA Tour event of the regular season is next week. I am going to try my hardest not to worry about the results at that tournament, but I can honestly say that I will be going into it the most prepared to play well that I have been all year. 

But for now, I'm going to stay in the present. Keep it here for a report late this weekend as I am going to keep getting better! Thank you for following and believing in me. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Not Yet

It's Saturday, and I'm traveling home. Erratic play in Reno earned me an early exit from the Barracuda Championship and a couple of extra days off before my final regular season event of the 2013-2014 PGA Tour season. It is never fun to miss a cut, and this one certainly adds to my growing frustration, but I am committed to my plan and believe that I am heading in the right direction. 

The final results from Reno look pretty ugly. Needing to birdie the final two holes to make the cut on Friday, I finished with consecutive double-bogeys instead. That dropped me into the bottom of the field. My play was certainly inconsistent and at times very sloppy, but I actually showed a lot of positive signs during my two tournament rounds. I hit great drives, and some quality iron shots, and I actually felt really good over the putter for the first time in a while. Unfortunately I could never string together enough good shots consecutively to get anything going. I just haven't been able to capture the sharpness or consistency yet this year that has characterized my past success. 

I am definitely back on the right track, however. I have been thoroughly committed to my work routine for the past four weeks, and I show great signs in my practice. I have always been a better player on the course than I am on the practice facilities, but I am clearly fighting some sort of confidence issues during my tournaments right now. I have the next week off and will use it to continue sharpening my physical skills, but I will also think about some strategies for recapturing my mental edge during tournament play. 

I am very excited about the progress I feel in my game. My process works, and I can see improvement as I practice. As for my mental game, I have always used my mind as my greatest strength on the golf course, and I have a great resource to help me get the positive thoughts flowing again. Confidence is a choice, and I will make some good choices to ensure that I am feeling great the next time I tee it up. 

As I said in multiple posts a couple weeks ago, I need to have a long-term vision of success. This year's golf results have been really lousy so far, but I have learned a tremendous amount and truly believe that my plan has me on a trajectory to be one of the best players in the world. I am going to continue to improve, and I am very excited for the future. 

I will be working from home this next week and preparing for the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. That is the final PGA Tour event of the regular season, and I will go into it in my best form of the year! 

Thank you for caring about me and keeping up with me. Stay tuned for updates as I continue moving forward! 

*Random side note and cool picture: I think it is important for me to get my mind off of golf every now and then, too. Here is a view from a quick adventure that Alicia and I took before leaving the Reno-Tahoe area on Saturday.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Barracuda?!

I am at the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada. Barracuda, an information technology company, is the new title sponsor of the Reno-Tahoe Open, and I think a tournament with such a cool name will be a fitting place for me to have a great breakthrough. 

I had a great weekend of practice in Montreal, Canada, and for the third consecutive week, I finished all of my map goals last week. I have continued my solid work with some good practice the last few days, but I have really emphasized time on the golf course in my practice here in Reno. I played 27 holes on the tournament course on Tuesday, and went offsite for a great match with some other players on Wednesday. I am probably a little bit behind on my practice goals for this week, but the time on the golf course has been high quality preparation for me. 

I really feel like I'm back on a Peter Malnati-like schedule. My game is still not as sharp as I would like for it to be, but for the first time in a while I am genuinely believing in my process and my method. I know that I am getting better and am confident that I will be very successful moving forward. 

Now it is time to go to bed! Remember as you check results from the Barracuda Championship that the scoring this week works in a modified Stableford format. That means rather than counting strokes in relation to par, a player's score is determined by a point system. Birdies and eagles earn points while bogeys and doubles cost points. This is the only week all year that you should be rooting for me to have high scores!

Thank you very much for keeping up with me, and please check here for great updates throughout the week.