2015 Goals

Monday, November 16, 2015

Good Week in Mexico; Still Getting Better

I posted two very solid rounds to finish the tournament in Mexico. After being outside the cut line with four holes to go on Friday, I finished that round with a couple birdies and then posted matching rounds of four under par (67) on Saturday and Sunday. Coming off the excitement of the previous week in Mississippi, I definitely felt a little bit strange early during the tournament in Mexico, but I was pleased with the way I stayed composed and played well over the weekend. My good play was rewarded with a sneaky, back-door top-ten finish. I finished in a seven-way tie for tenth place. It was a great week, and I'm very excited to keep it going.

The thing that excites me the most is that I am still improving. I was once again erratic off the tee at times in Mexico, but I hit some great tee shots on challenging driving holes down the stretch. My putter was not particularly "hot" during this tournament, but with the exception of a couple surprising misses early in the week, I was very solid from inside of eight feet, which is important. My iron play continued to be fairly solid, and my wedges and short game were a bright spot this week in Mexico. I am obviously playing well right now, and I feel like things will continue to get better as well. 

I was very interested to see what my mindset would be like on the course the week after a breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour. I knew that motivation to play well would be there because it always is for me, but I wasn't sure what I would feel like. I was predictably a little calmer than usual as the tournament began, but I actually got just as intense as ever as early struggles on Friday had me on the wrong side of the cut line. I got a little more anxious than I would like to be in the middle of the round on Friday, but I composed myself well enough to get the job done. Over the weekend, I was actually proud of the intensity I had. I may have gotten a little too into it in the middle of the round on Sunday, but I was definitely competing hard, and I stayed composed (that's my new word) and delivered a good performance down the stretch. One thing that I could tell for certain is that I am hungry to win again. That is a good feeling, and I'm confident that I will have a lot of chances to do just that.

Alicia and I are currently en route to Sea Island, GA, for the RSM Classic. This is the final event of the PGA Tour's Fall Series, so we are excited to put in one last solid week of work before we get a short break from competition over the holiday season. 

My focus is definitely on this week's event and being sharp for it, but I still want to do a post on here with some pictures and more information about my win two weeks ago. Keep an eye out for that in the next couple days!

Thank you very much for following me and for your support!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Feeling Good in Mexico

In many ways, this week has felt strange. Riding a high of excitement following last week's win, I arrived in Mexico late in the day on Tuesday. The late arrival and the exhaustion of trying to celebrate and decompress from last week left me in a great state of mind but not in a normal state of preparedness for this week's event. By noon on Wednesday, though, I told myself I wanted to get back to work and focus on doing my job. I played this course two years ago, so my lack of a practice round was certainly not detrimental. My intention was to be as prepared and hungry to play well this week as I had been in my first three tournaments of this young PGA Tour season. After a good tune up on Wednesday afternoon and another good practice session Thursday morning, I felt that I was in the moment and ready to go by my 12:10 tee time in the opening round. 

Of course, there was one big reminder that things are different in my life this week than they were at the start of the previous tournament. Rather than my typical tee time at the far back end of the wave with my fellow 2015 Web.com Tour graduates, I was in the front half of the wave playing with Matt Kuchar and Russel Knox. That is nice, but what was even nicer is the fact that I felt very much like I belonged there. It was definitely different, but the new tee time category felt good, and I am already used to it. 

I began the tournament with a par and a bogey on the first two holes, but I followed that with an incredibly solid fifteen holes in which I made five birdies and no bogies. I three-putted the 18th green on Thursday to end my opening round on a sour note, but the three-under-par 68 was a nice start to the tournament. I was less solid on Friday. I sprinkled in a really poor shot every few holes on Friday and my putter wasn't there to bail me out. I was two over par for my round and outside the cut-line with four holes to go, but I rallied with some good shots late. I birdied holes six and nine (my 15th and 18th on Friday) to post an even-par second round and advance to the weekend. I never got anything going on Saturday, but I played solidly and posted a five-birdie, one-bogey round of 67. I'm currently seven under par for the event and sitting in the middle of the field with a chance to make a very positive move on Sunday. 

I am definitely still beaming about my maiden victory on the PGA Tour last week in Mississippi, but I also know that win is just the beginning for me. I'm proud of the way I've been able to focus and do my job so far this week in Mexico. It'll take a Herculean effort to reach the top of the leaderboard this week, but I am excited to continue playing solidly. 

Thank you for following me and for your support. Please come back for a final-round report late Sunday or Monday.    

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Something Big

I end most of my blog posts with the promise that big things are coming. This one will be no different--I still believe that big things are coming. But this past week in Jackson, Mississippi, I had an experience that I would certainly have to describe as something BIG. On a rain-soaked week that forced a marathon Monday finish to complete 72 holes, my game rounded into form. My iron play, wedge game, and putting were solid from start to finish; I started to drive the ball better as the week went on; and I stayed as composed mentally as I can ever remember throughout the week. Spread out over five days, I posted scores of 69, 66, 68, 67 for an 18-under-par total, and I claimed a one-shot victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship for my first win on the PGA Tour. I think it's safe to say that something big happened. 

It took until Sunday morning to complete my second round, but I felt great about my position at the half way point. I was six shots behind the leader, but I was feeling great about my game. I opened my third round on Sunday afternoon with a solid nine holes of 8 pars and a birdie before play was halted by darkness. When round three resumed on Monday morning, I birdied three of my first five holes, and I started to think that it could be a special day. I did a really nice job of staying in the present, though, and I closed my third round solidly enough with four consecutive pars. 

There wasn't enough time between the end of round three and the start of round four to really think about where I was in the field, but I knew that I was within one or two shots of the lead. I was definitely excited and a little bit anxious, too. I walked to the first tee to begin my final round with a simple plan in mind. I wanted to stay composed and give myself a birdie putt on every hole. I darn near did that, too. 

I hit the first four greens and rolled in birdie putts of about 15 feet on holes three and four. A poor second shot on the par-five fifth hole had me out of position, and though I hit the green with my third, I was a long way from the hole. After a decent lag putt, I hit my only poor short putt of the week and missed a three footer for my par. I was definitely surprised and a little bit rattled. I feel like I stayed in control of my emotions well, but unfortunately I missed the fairway on the par-four sixth and then missed the green way to the left. I was in trouble, but I hit a phenomenal third shot to give myself a long par putt. I missed the par, but the tap-in bogey was pretty good from where I had hit my second shot. After the back-to-back bogies, I did what I had done all week. I composed myself, hit a great shot on the par-three seventh, and rolled in a straight uphill 30-foot putt for birdie. Making that putt was a big turning point for me. From there, I played mostly great golf the rest of the way. I made birdies at 9, 11, and 12, and I knew I must be near the lead. I made a mess of the par-five 14th hole, but managed to get my third on the green and convert a long two-putt for par. I didn't know exactly where I stood, but I knew that I had a chance to do something really good with solid play down the stretch. 

Over the final four holes, I hit every fairway and every green. I converted an up-and-down for birdie after hitting a great drive on the short par-four 15th and then converted solid two-putt pars on the final three holes. I didn't know where I stood until I approached the final green. I saw that I had a one shot lead, but knew that several players behind me could potentially still catch me. In any event, I knew that I had a straight-forward 50-foot putt, and I needed to hit a good one. I went through my routine, but felt funny standing over the ball. I backed off, thought about how great my life is, and walked into the putt again. I felt the pace and made a great stroke. The ball was on a good line, but pulled up about two-and-a-half feet short. I was definitely nervous over the last putt, but I was confident, too, and I rolled it right in the middle of the cup. What a great feeling that was! 

I watched on tv as the last three groups played the final holes, and no one caught me. I won the tournament. Something big happened. 

I'm still a little bit in awe. I knew that I was good enough to do it, but to be a PGA Tour winner feels a little surreal right now. There are obviously quite a few perks that come with this win, and I'll talk about those in another post soon, but I wanted to tell the exciting story of the big week!

Now, as promised, I still believe big(ger) things are in store. This is a milestone, and it's fantastic, but it is the beginning. Winning is fun, and I'd like to make a habit of it. I have a plan in place to do just that, and after another 22 hours or resting and enjoying this win, I'm going to get back to work in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, at the Mayakoba Classic. 

The outpouring of support that Alicia and I have received is incredible. Thank you so much for caring about us and following this journey! Keep it here for more updates and some cool pictures from the win, too!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Royals, THE Plan, Unfinished Business

It has been a long time since I have posted here on my blog, and I am very excited about many things that have happened since my last update. I could write a small novel, but I am going to try to be quick and efficient as I touch on topics ranging from my goals for the year to my beloved Royals capturing the greatest prize in baseball. I am feeling rested, ready, inspired, and most of all happy as I prepare to kick off the first of three consecutive tournaments to end my 2015 competitive calendar. 

I'm going to start with my Royals. Just more than one year ago, I used the motivational phrase "unfinished business" to describe both the Royals and my golf career. I had achieved the childhood dream of reaching the PGA Tour, but did not play well enough in my rookie campaign to keep my Card and establish myself at that level. Likewise, the Royals had played well enough to reach the 2014 World Series, but heartbreakingly fell short by one run in game seven. I said that we both had unfinished business because the Royals needed to get back to the World Series and win it, and I needed to get back to the PGA Tour and establish myself there. This fall, through a display of grit, teamwork, defense, and simply doing the "little things" right, the Royals' players took care of their unfinished business. They claimed the 2015 World Series, and it was an absolute joy to watch! I have achieved the first step in my unfinished business by earning my way back to the PGA Tour, and I'm ready to display the same grit and determination that the Royals did and resolve my unfinished business. 

I have a good plan to do just that. In the past, my Goal Page has always started with some big Outcome Goals that I am seeking to achieve. This year, I'm not even thinking about outcome. We all know (and me most of all!) that I'm trying to establish myself on the PGA Tour and earn my right to compete at this level year after year. Instead of pinpointing outcomes that will help me achieve this, I'm going to focus on a plan that will guide me along the way. The plan that I have come up with starts with Preparation (Process) Goals. I have a practice schedule and a fitness routine that I will commit to over the course of the 50-week PGA Tour season. The next concept in my plan is working towards key Performance Goals on the course. If I can focus my preparation to excel in a few key statistical areas, great results will follow. The final area of focus in my plan is my Personal Goals. These are commitments that I make in my life regardless of whether things are going well or poorly on the golf course. I know that being a good human being is more important to me than being a great golfer, but I also know that the two can and will work together. I'm excited about my plan. It is a good one, and following it will lead to the results that I want. Here is what my new Plan Board looks like:
I know that this board probably leaves some questions, but slowly, over the next several weeks, I will explain things in more detail. 

Using this plan as my guide, I had a great week off and have had two very productive days of preparation for this week's PGA Tour event in Jackson, Mississippi. During the first two events of this young PGA Tour season, I was over-anxious and tense. I didn't do a great job of following my Personal Goals, and that affected my ability to deliver on the course. I know that bad golf is going to happen from time to time. It happens to everyone in the entire world, but I don't want to let it happen to me because I'm not composed on the course. My game is starting to click, and I'm ready to play. I'm going to be happy and composed on the course, and if things go my way, I'm ready to have a great week. 

I feel great! I'm still on cloud nine about my Royals resolving their unfinished business, and I'm ready to follow my plan and resolve mine as well! Thank you for supporting and believing in me. Keep it here for more insights and updates from Jackson, MS.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Baby Steps in Las Vegas

I finished my week in Las Vegas with a disappointing final round. I was in the middle of a bunched leaderboard beginning the day on Sunday and had a chance to make a very positive move with a solid round. Instead, I had a terrible start and was five over par through seven holes. I fought back and finished on a high note with birdies on the 71st and 72nd holes of the tournament, but the damage had been done. I ended up tied for 56th place after rounds of 70, 67, 71, and 73 for a three-under-par total. It was definitely a very disappointing finish, but it was a great week overall. 

It is certainly not my goal to make cuts, and, truthfully, I don't like talking or even thinking about making the cut. The reality, however, is that I had missed the cut in my last four tournaments, and when my ball disappeared in the left rough on the 11th hole on Friday, I had to use my mental game and be tough. I began the day on Friday on the outside of the projected cut-line, but I felt good and was confident I would play well. I overcame an early bogey with three front-nine birdies and was feeling good as I made the turn. I birdied the tenth hole as well, and instead of thinking of the cut-line, I was focused on climbing the learderboard. Then, I pulled my drive just a few yards left of the fairway on the 11th hole. I thought at worst I would have to play a low shot around some sparse trees and run it up to the front of the green. Instead, we searched for five minutes and never found my golf ball. It was very strange, and it definitely rattled me. I took my stroke-and-distance penalty and made a double-bogey six on the hole. I had thoughts of panic, but then I remembered that I control my thoughts. I got back into the moment, and executed beautifully down the stretch. I birdied three of the final seven holes after my lost ball on 11 and posted a second-round 67 to position myself nicely in the middle of the field heading into the weekend. Again, I don't like thinking about the cut, and making the cut is not one of my goals, but I was very proud of the way I overcame the tough break early in my back nine on Friday and responded with some solid golf to get to the weekend.

That was my baby step in Las Vegas. I overcame some adversity, staired down my cut anxiety, and delivered a good Friday performance. I still have some big steps to make, though. I am struggling off the tee box. Through six rounds of this young PGA Tour season, I have hit just 30 of 84 fairways. That's not a typo or poor math--just poor driving of the golf ball. Now, in my defense, I'm getting closer and I did hit a lot of "good drives" in Vegas that missed the fairways, but those numbers are not even close to good enough, and they definitely reveal a problem. I'm not looking at them and feeling discouraged, however. I know that I will drive the ball well, and the way I see it, I am currently four under par for the year while hitting less than 36% of my fairways. I'm going to make strong strides in that department, and my results will improve dramatically. 

I'm currently heading home for one week off. I can't believe it, but I'm actually going to pass on the opportunity to go watch my Royals in person as they kick off the World Series. I need to rest and regroup before Alicia and I head out for a final three-week run of tournament play in 2015. I'm going to relax a little bit, get in some quality work on my golf game, cheer for my Royals from afar, post on here about my goals for the 2015-2016 season, and be ready to finish the golfing year on a high note when Alicia and I leave on Sunday for a three-tournament trip starting in Jackson, MS. 

Thank you for following and believing in me. I'm a broken record, I know, but great things are coming. Please keep it here for an off-week report and for more details about my 2015-2016 goals. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting Ready in Vegas

I am excited to write a good post detailing my goals for the 2015-2016 Season. I have made some changes and am excited to already be working on them. I am going to hold off and share those in a post next week, though. Right now, I am focused on having a great week and a good tournament at the Shriners Hospitals Open in Las Vegas. 

I am really happy with the work that I have put in so far this week. After struggling badly off the tee last week in Napa, the long clubs have been a major focus of my practice, and I feel like I've made a great deal of progress. I know that accuracy off the tee is one of my strengths, and I'm ready to drive the ball great!

I have had really good practice sessions here in Vegas, and yesterday afternoon I played a little practice round match with some buddies and felt very sharp out on the course. I enjoy to have some kind of match in a practice round because I like the focus that it helps me bring into my shots. I had a little bit of an epiphany this morning, though. The effort and focus that I bring during a practice round match is pretty close to the effort level that I should give during tournament rounds. I often find myself tyring too hard during the competition rounds. Focus isn't something I need to force; it occurs naturally when I go through my routine well. In tournament rounds, I often find myself trying too hard to focus, and that can cause me to feel anxiety. During the tournament rounds, I need to be disciplined enough to be in the present and go through my routine on every shot, but once I do that, I also need to relax and enjoy playing the GAME! 

That is my commitment this week. I am going to continue to work hard and prepare well, and then I am going to enjoy myself on the course. I will have the discipline to stay in the present and go through my routine on each and every shot, but when it is time to start my swing, I am going to be relaxed and confident! 

I'm excited to continue a great week and have a good tournament here in Las Vegas. Thank you for following me and please keep it here for updates throughout the event! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Excited and Bummed after Round Two

I'm not going to be playing this weekend at the Fry's.com Open in Napa, California, and that stinks. I gave it a heck of a run on Friday, though! A lot of the same problems that plagued me during round one lingered into the second day, but I did a lot things well and made it very interesting right down to the final hole Friday evening. I played the last 11 holes in four under par to post a second-round 69 (-3) and reach one under par for the tournament. Unfortunately, the cut fell at two under par. I was in the final group, so I knew I needed to eagle the last hole to make the cut, and my wedge shot from 93 yards looked as though it might have a chance before settling some four feet away from the hole. At that point, I knew I would have the weekend off, but I proudly knocked in the putt to break 70, and I feel great about the effort I gave to get back into the tournament.

I definitely need to improve my play off the tee dramatically. I hit just 10 of 28 fairways for my two rounds in the tournament. That is not good. My swing feels pretty good, and I'm happy with the way that I am putting the club on the ball, but I've got to get it pointing towards my target a little better. I need to do it a lot better, actually. My tee shots were way way off on Thursday, and, though they were closer to the fairway on Friday, I still felt out of control. I showed some really positive signs with my irons and wedges, and I was fairly solid with the putter, too. I feel like I could be in contention in the tournament with even a mediocre driving performance. I'm going to work on it, and I'll be ready to play next week. 

Despite my early exit from the tournament, I am very encouraged by much of what happened this week. I feel great about the work I put into preparing for the event, and I am very pleased with my mental game. I was composed and in the moment on nearly every shot. I was definitely a little bit jittery at times, but I used my routine well and forced myself to stay in the present. I didn't get the results that I want from this event, but it was still a step in a good direction. 

I'm bummed to be done with this tournament, but I'm excited overall! Thank you for following me and keep it here for a "what's next" report over the weekend.