Friday, October 31, 2014

Unfinished Business

The last six weeks have been incredible. My rookie year on the PGA Tour officially ended unceremoniously, and I immediately began making plans for how I will get back there. I have great ideas and am even more motivated than ever, but I can proudly admit that that I have had a happy and healthy diversion from golf since late September. My favorite team in all of sports, the Kansas City Royals, has swept me off my feet this Fall, and I have so enjoyed their magical season. As a loyal fan of the long-struggling Royals, this run has been an absolute joy to watch, but it has also been inspirational from a professional standpoint. The way the Boys in Blue play baseball has me inspired to work harder than ever at my job so that I can write my own Cinderella story. 

I want to discuss my off-season plans and lay out some clear goals, but first, let me just share with you some of the joy that Alicia and I have experienced cheering for our Royals over the last several weeks. The Boys in Blue have given us four champagne celebrations. The first such celebration was on the third-to-last day of the regular season when they clinched a Wild Card birth and ended a playoff drought that began in 1986. Next came an unbelievable, win-or-go-home Wild Card game during which the Royals rallied from a deficit three different times on the way to winning in the 12th inning. From there, our boys travelled to Los Angeles to face the American League's top-seeded Angels. There, Kansas City gutted out two more extra innings victories. 

At that point, Alicia and I decided we needed to get to Kansas City in time for Game Three, and we were there when our Royals swept the star-laden Angels. 

From there, the Royals moved on to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) where they faced the Baltimore Orioles. Alicia and I returned home, but when our team opened the ALCS with a pair of wins in Baltimore, we got a call that my sponsor, MLB.com, would like us to be in KC for a golf outing during Games Three, Four, and Five of the series. Gladly we went, and we were there to see the Royals sweep the power-hitting Orioles and earn a birth in the World Series. We had some real fun with that, and got to meet a little Kansas City royalty, too. 
That is me with actor/comedian Paul Rudd and then Alicia and I with Royals owner David Glass.

With the Royals hosting Games One and Two of the World Series, there was no way we were going home this time. We were there as the Royals and the Giants split the first two contests at home. A convincing performance from our boys in Game Two made us joke that we should go out to San Francisco for Games Three, Four, and Five. In a matter of hours, our joke became reality as we decided a trip to the Bay Area to watch our team in the World Series would be a great anniversary gift to ourselves. So off we flew, and we were on hand for a Royals' victory in Game Three, two losses in Games Four and Five, and three great days of adventures in San Francisco.
As the Boys in Blue returned home facing elimination, both the team and the fans spoke confidently heading into Game Six. The Royals' starting pitcher for the contest was 23-year-old rookie fire-baller, Yordano Ventura. All he did was throw seven shut out innings! The offense exploded for ten runs, and the Royals dominated their first elimination game since the Wild Card. 

Then Game Seven happened. It was the best sporting event I have ever witnessed. The stadium was electric. The Royals played great. The Giants played better. Our team fell 3-2. Just minutes after the final out, heartbroken Kansas City fans serenaded the Royals with chants of "Let's Go Royals" that soon changed to "Thank You, Royals".
It was an amazing experience, and I am so thankful that Alicia and I were there for all of that. 

Alicia and I are both so thankful to be a part of the MLB.com family. It is a great relationship with great people, and they gave us the opportunity to witness the Royals' great run in person. 

So, how has that experience inspired me? In several ways, actually: first of all, the Royals are a team devoid of an individual "big-name" player. They simply work really hard and combine their individual strengths in a way that results in excellent team baseball. Similarly, no singular part of my golf game stands out as a superstar-level talent, but the combination of my skills and a steady work ethic can have me at the top of my sport just like the Royals. Secondly, the Boys in Blue just have fun playing baseball. Even as the regular season dwindled and they were fighting for that first postseason bid in three decades, the Royals seemed loose and confident. That relaxed attitude carried into and through the playoffs. The team continued to work hard, play hard, and especially have fun regardless of the situation. I definitely let the big stage of the PGA Tour get me a little bit out of my normal routine and attitude this year. I wasn't as disciplined with my preparation, and I was definitely trying too hard on the big stage. The combination of focus and lightheartedness shown by the Royals throughout the second half of the year and the postseason was a great example to me. The Royals showed that with a great attitude and a great work ethic, the underdog can win. 

Another thing that the Royals and I have in common is Unfinished Business. The Boys in Blue made it to the World Series but didn't win, and, similarly, I made it to the PGA Tour but didn't earn my right to stay there. I am confident that the Royals will get back to the World Series soon and give themselves another chance to win it all. I am also confident that I will get myself back on the PGA Tour and earn my right to stay there for many years. We are both going to take care of our Unfinished Business. 

As for my plan to do that, the general formula won't change. A solid plan plus a disciplined work ethic plus a great attitude will equal success. Right now I am working on the details of that plan, but by the end of this weekend, I'll have laid out a practice schedule and off-season goals. 

My Royals deserve a rest, but they have already given me mine. It's time to for me to get back to work! 

Thank you for caring about me and supporting my career. After a long hiatus from blogging, I plan to regularly document my off-season work on here. Keep it here to follow my progress as I seek to resolve my Unfinished Business!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

At Sawgrass

Here I am at the home of the PGA Tour--The Tournament Players Club (TPC) Sawgrass. This picture is of the 18th hole on the Stadium Course, the famous host of The Player's Championship, but this week's event is on the Valley Course. The Valley Course is much less notorious than it's brother with the island green, but it is an excellent course and will be a great test for the Web.com Tour Championship this week. 

Here is the fact. I enter this week's event needing a top five finish to retain my playing privileges on the PGA Tour for the 2014-2015 season. Anything less than that and I will be a Web.com Tour player for the 2015 season. So, I'm going to shoot four rounds under par and get the job done this week. Now that I've said that, I'm going to do the things I need to do to make it happen: work hard and play one shot at a time! 

There is no question that it has been a tough and frustrating year for me, but I'm proud of the work that I've done, and I am feeling progress. I'm ready to play great, and this is my week!

Life is great! If you missed my last post, check it out because it's really cool. Thank you for keeping up with me and believing in me. Come back for good reports from this week's tournament rounds. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Missed Cut, Royals Slumping, Life is GREAT

I'm going to get some sleep and get ready for a great week at the Web.com Tour Championship, so this will be very brief, but I want to share some info from the past week. I felt great about my game and hit the ball solidly, but I wasn't sharp in Columbus, Ohio, and the Ohio State University Scarlet Course pitched a birdie shutout for 36 holes against me. I posted 32 pars and four bogeys to miss the cut by two shots in the third Web.com Tour Finals event. Speaking of shutouts, my beloved Kansas City Royals have been really struggling of late, too! With the season coming down to crunch time, the Royals have fallen out of first place and need to right the ship if they are to break their long playoff drought. So in my world as a professional and as a sports fan, things are a little rough right now. 

My week in Ohio was a great reminder of just how great life is, though. The world is full of great stories and amazing people. I'm going to work my tail off and find top form on the golf course again, but that will never define me. Relationships with amazing people and having a positive impact in the world will define my life. Life is great! 

Watch the video by clicking this link: http://youtu.be/jTmOvT12vDsand then laugh and smile at these two pictures:

I am going to have a great week of work and play well this week, but last week made me feel like a winner, too! Thank you to the Richardson family and thank you to my wife, Alicia, who reminds me that I am a winner every week!

Thank you for following and caring about me. Keep it here for a full golf-report in the next two days!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cut(s)

I'm going to talk about the elephant in my golfing mind. I am really tired of talking about, writing about, thinking about, and worrying about the cut line at golf tournaments. Mostly though, I'm sick of missing the cut. When I first turned professional, having to survive a 36-hole cut at tournaments was the biggest difference from my college golf experience. It took me a while to get used to it, and I missed a lot of cuts my first year. During that year though, I learned to replace the "make-the-cut" thoughts in my head with simple "play-good-golf" thoughts, and for a three-year stretch from 2011 through 2013, I did just that quite a lot and missed very few cuts. This year, for a number of reasons, I missed a few cuts early in the year and my thoughts have spiraled all the way back to where they were when I was a newly-turned professional golfer worrying about making cuts. My game hasn't been sharp all year, and therefore, I have found myself lingering around the cut-line a lot on Thursdays and Fridays. In these situations, I have found myself thinking about the cut, which puts even more stress on my already not-as-sharp-as-I-want-it golf game. It all adds up to a recipe for struggles, and I have cooked up plenty of those this year. 

This past week fit that mold perfectly. The second event of the Web.com Tour Finals was at River Run Country Club, a course that I know and really like, and I was ready to play well. On Thursday, I did play well, but a few errant drives and a luke-warm putter led to an opening-round 71 (-1), and I sat in a tie for 45th place heading into Friday. I opened Friday's round with seven consecutive pars and definitely was thinking about staying ahead of the cut-line. A tense swing on the par-three 17th hole (my eighth of the day) resulted in a terrible tee shot that kicked out of bounds. I made a triple-bogey, and though I played hard the rest of the way, the damage was done. I ended up posting a second-round 75 and fell three shots outside the cut. It was a really disappointing feeling to head home early from a course where I have such fond memories. 

Here comes the good news! These first two paragraphs are about the past. This is the first time all year I've actually talked about all of my missed cuts. It stinks to miss cuts, and I hate having weekends off in my line of work, but I can do something about it. Poor play and missed cuts are going to happen from time to time, but, as I've already shown in 2011-2013, with the right mindset, they don't have to happen to much. The right mindset is one in which the focus is on playing good golf and trying to win tournaments. I can and will get back to thinking that way! 

The other good news is that my not-as-sharp-as-I-want-it golf game is coming around. All year I have shown deficiencies in every area of my game, but over the last several weeks, my practice has greatly improved. I still haven't put all the elements together in the same round, but I have seen bright spots from all areas of my game in my last three golf tournaments. I am definitely getting some of my confidence back, and I thoroughly believe that I am good enough to compete at the highest level of professional golf. 

So yes, there is definite frustration in this post, but in letting out that frustration, I find much more optimism. I am really good at this golf stuff. I know how to practice and the right way to think, and, though I haven't necessarily been doing both this year, I'm going to get back on track. 

I'm back in action this week at the third event of the Web.com Tour Finals in Columbus, Ohio. I'm going to prepare well and get myself in position to win a golf tournament. Thank you for continuing to believe in me! Keep it here for updates from Ohio! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

River Run Ready

The second event of the Web.com Tour Finals--The Chiquita Classic--is about to begin for me. The Chiquita Classic is at River Run Country Club in Davidson, North Carolina. In addition to playing well here last year, I have great memories from numerous eGolf Professional Tour events on this course. My practice continues to feel better and better each day, and I feel like I am ready to play really well. I am going to believe in myself, trust every shot, and play Peter Malnati golf the next four days here in North Carolina. Thank you for following, and keep it here for updates along the way!



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: