2015 Goals

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Great Week in Hawaii

In a variety of ways, the last week has been the perfect start to the 2017 portion of the PGA Tour season. Alicia and I were able to soak up seven-and-a-half days of perfect Hawaii weather, and we had a blast doing it. Additionally, I was able to shake a few layers of competitive rust from my game and delivered a very encouraging performance on the course. It’s always a bit sad to leave Hawaii, but as we fly back to the mainland today, we are feeling extremely happy about the week we’ve just had.

Off of the golf course, Alicia and I really took advantage of the chance to do “Hawaii things.” We swam with the happy fishies, worked on our paddle-boarding skills (though we spent a lot of time sitting on our butts because of the shallow water and sharp coral beneath), hiked to the top of a volcanic crater, did some wave “surfing” in an ocean kayak, enjoyed reading and breakfasts on the beach, and ate enough pineapple to make our mouths hurt. It was a really fun week!

On the course, I am really pleased with a lot of what happened. I was brilliant at times in all areas of the game. I didn’t have the consistency that I will look to develop as I get into a rhythm, but I showed a lot of promise.

I opened the tournament with a score of 69 (-1) on Thursday. I was a little wayward off the tee that day, but I battled hard and still had a chance to post a good round. Unfortunately, my tee shot on the last hole of the day ended up going out of bounds. It was a poor drive that I pulled left of the fairway, but it was a little unfortunate that it went out of bounds. It actually bounced over a harmless fairway bunker as it made its way off the course. I was a little rattled by that finish, but still, I had done a lot of things really well on day one.

In round two on Friday morning, my erratic driving continued a little bit. I wasn’t wildly off, but on Waialae Country Club’s firm and narrow fairways, I was far enough off to be constantly playing from out of position. Fortunately, I had a great attitude and a hot putter in round two. Despite not driving the ball well, my confidence was never really rattled. I kept believing I was going to hit the next one well, and I did hit some good drives over the course of the round. More importantly, I felt great on the greens. I rolled in four birdie putts from outside of 20 feet including a 60+ foot putt on the 16th hole. I posted a second-round 66 (-4).

I liked the way I played on Saturday in the third round, but on a day when seemingly everyone went pretty low, I could muster only a one-under-par round of 69. I did several things well on Saturday, but still missed a lot of fairways, and, for the first time all week, missed a couple of short-range putts that I expect to make. Still, I finished the round feeling good about my game.

On Sunday, I had flashes of brilliance. I hit some perfect iron shots, and that was very fun. On the downwind par-3 17th hole, I hit a 6 iron from 199 yards to less than three feet. Then on the into-the-wind par-4 8th hole, I hit that same six iron from 163 yards and it landed just a couple feet short of the hole before releasing out eight feet past. On the very next hole, my last of the tournament, I hit a four-iron from 195 yards into a slight wind to less than three feet. It was really cool to see such good iron shots. Actually, my last four full swings of the tournament all produced really great shots. It was a good feeling. I didn’t play perfect golf on Sunday, but each time I hit a poor shot, I followed it up with a good recovery shot. My short game felt really sharp by Sunday, and I made of couple of good par-saving putts to keep my scorecard clean. With a birdie-eagle finish, I posted a final-round 65 (-5) and moved up the leaderboard a little bit to finish tied for 27th at 11 under par. It was an exciting way to finish a great week.

Statistically, I don’t love my numbers from the tournament. I hit less than half of the fairways, and my approach shot statistics weren’t great either. I actually feel like I drove the ball much better over the weekend, but I still missed a lot of fairways by a narrow amount. In terms of my iron play, I definitely hit a lot of poor shots this week, but it was a really good sign to see some great ones on Sunday. I feel good about the way I’m swinging, and I’m confident that my consistency will improve and lead to the better stats that I’m aiming to see.

My short game and putting stats were quite good, actually. I hit some rusty short game shots early in the tournament, but overall, I was very pleased with my work on and around the greens. I will look to keep sharpening these two areas, but I am very pleased with the starting point I achieved in Hawaii.

Right now, I am heading to the California desert for the old Bob Hope Classic—now called the CareerBuilder Challenge. This event features a pro-am format and is contested over three courses before the final round is contested at the Stadium Course at PGA West. The pro-am format makes for long rounds during the competition, so I am excited to continue to prepare intelligently. I will put in some work on my golf game and in the gym, but I will also prioritize being fresh and clear for the tournament rounds.

It was an amazing week in Hawaii. We had a lot of fun and did a lot of great work. I’m excited to build on that and keep improving.

Thank you for following me and for your great support. Keep it here for updates from the desert.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Feeling Ready in Hawaii

We've packed so much fun into our first three days in Hawaii. It is so great to be here!

In addition to preparing for the event, Alicia and I have also:

-Been to Pearl Harbor with our friend Billy Hurley to see the Naval Destroyer on which he served for three years.
-Hiked to the top of Diamond Head Crater in the dark to observe the Sunrise from 800+ feet above the Hawaii coast.
-Sat on the beach to read our books just 150 feet from the little cottage where we're staying.
-Practiced our balance on stand-up paddle boards in the Pacific Ocean. (One of us did a handstand on a paddle-board in the water. I'll let you guess who.)
-Watched dolphins swim and play.

Doing these things has me feeling so great. I have put in great work at the course, too. My game is feeling ready. I tee it up at 12:10 Hawaii time for the opening round, and I'm excited to go play. I know that I am prepared to play well, so I'm going to go play with confidence and deliver my best on every shot. It's going to be a great week.

I'll give you an update as the tournament progresses and I'll try to post some pictures from our adventures. Thank you for following and for your great support!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Great Offseason; Ready for a Great 2017

Hmmm… So much for that commitment to keep my blog updated over the offseason. I’m currently on a plane to Hawaii to start the 2017 tournament season, so I can officially say that it is no longer offseason. I have some catching up to do.

Fortunately, the catching up that I am talking about is on my blog and not in my golf game. I had a really productive break that featured a nice blend of soaking up time with family, working on my game in traditional ways, and adding a couple of new and exciting things to my preparation. It all has me feeling re-charged, energized, and optimistic for what 2017 and the future will hold.

I’ll start with the new and exciting things. I started working with a physical trainer in early December. I have always tried to prioritize health and fitness as a big part of preparing to be my best, but despite feeling like I was in great shape, certain movement patterns in the golf swing have been difficult or impossible for me. I went and had a great two-day meeting with a golf fitness expert, and he has helped craft a workout program for me that will accentuate my strengths and help to address some of the limitations that have been challenging me. I won’t go into any biomechanical detail here, but I have definitely learned a lot and am really having fun doing workouts that are specifically aimed to help me perform better on the golf course. One of the most enlightening things is that fitness is not always about training harder, faster, and heavier. Rest, recovery, and mental clarity are important components to be physically at my best, too, and I am learning to be intentional about achieving them. In just one month, I can already tell that having this trainer helping to guide my physical preparation is going to make a big positive difference for me.

The work that I am doing with the trainer greatly complements the work that I Mitchell and I are doing in my golf swing. Improving my mobility in certain areas and stability in others through the training is going to help expedite the improvements that I will make. I spent some great time with Mitchell over the break, and we are continuing to improve together. I’m becoming a much more consistent swinger of the golf club, and I’m excited to keep getting better.

I also made a trip to Southern California over the break to visit the Titleist equipment test site. I spent a great day on the driving range getting my equipment all dialed in and spent an incredibly valuable few hours with Scotty Cameron’s great putter fitter at their studio. I didn’t make any big changes anywhere in my bag, but there are a few little tweaks here and there that I think will make a very positive difference. I also learned a lot about myself and my tendencies, particularly with the putter. For example, if I’m not intentional about engaging my core muscles during my setup, my body will move slightly to seek balance just as I start my stroke. When I do engage my core, my body stays incredibly still and allows for maximum consistency. Similarly, on the range, I learned that if I don’t trust that a club is going to go high enough, that’s when I make some of my poorest swings. We tweaked just a couple of my clubs to ensure that I never have to wonder if they will go high enough. When I trust that the club will get the ball in the air, I make a committed swing. I didn’t actually change very much about my equipment, but the things I learned at Titleist are valuable lessons for me.

I also did some traditional work on my game. I put in my first two “full” days of work just this past Thursday and Friday on a quick preparatory trip to Florida, but I was mindful of having little bits of practice most days during my offseason. It will take me a little time in good weather to sharpen all the finer points of my game like my feel on and around the greens and my distance control, but I feel like I did a great job of improving mechanically over the break. I’m confident that I’ll be able to dial in the feel components quickly. I was able to have some friendly matches this past week, and though I showed some signs of rust, I did most things really well and felt great on the course. I am really excited to get on site at a tournament and to prepare and compete!

Off of the golf course, it has been an amazing offseason. Alicia and I enjoyed the holidays very much with our families and really relished spending a prolonged period at home. We made some cool improvements at our house, too. I had been using our small third bedroom as an open-space gym and golf room, but it was quite small for that. In December, we embraced our attic, and in doing so added two new rooms to our house. We moved all of the stuff that had accumulated in our garage into the attic, turned our two-car garage into a great gym, and turned our third bedroom into a wonderful office. We love it! But most of all, we enjoyed just getting to relax and spend time with family, friends, and each other.

We are both feeling really great and are preparing to do big things in 2017. Alicia is working to make the world better through her job at the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. She also has embarked on a lofty campaign that she has coined #BetterEveryDay in which she will do 100 push-ups every day in 2017 as a way to show that a commitment to being better can be as simple as making a choice and sticking to it. Follow her campaign on Twitter and Facebook. By the way, my commitment to be #BetterEveryDay is to trade in 15 minutes of mindless media consumption for at least 15 minutes of reading a book or something academic each day. It may seem small, but we are committed to being #BetterEveryDay. Join us!

2017 is going to be a great year! I’m excited to get the golf started this week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. I guess my claims to keep you updated here on my blog aren’t very trustworthy, but I’m going to try to do better. I really appreciate you caring about me and keeping up with me. I will return the favor by giving you good updates from the tournaments. Great things are coming. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me.

Thank you!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Poor Results to End a Disappointing 2016 of Golf

I'm sorry for the long time it's been since my last post. I want to do a better job of updating my blog more consistently. I know that some of you really enjoy following me on here, and I appreciate that very much. Now I have a bit of time away from competition, but I will use this time wisely, and I will report occasionally during the break to keep you posted.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of positive news to share since my last post. I started the event in Mexico with a 9 on the par-four opening hole and proceeded to play my way to an eight-over-par through five holes start. I played the next 31 holes in two-under-par and felt really good about my efforts, but never seriously threatened the cutline after my poor start. From Mexico, I traveled to Sea Island, Georgia, for the final event of Fall Series. I did a lot of things well in Georgia, but a poor performance on the greens and a triple-bogey finish to my opening round doomed my hopes of the weekend. I finished the first 36 holes at one under par, four strokes away from the five-under-par cutline.

I guess in a way it was a fitting way to close the competition schedule for me in 2016. It's not that I feel down about my game or my prospects for the future, but my results this year were just pretty lousy. After beginning the year with a great showing at the winner's only field in Maui, my expectations went through the roof, but my performance didn't follow. I struggled mightily, and though I'm very proud of the work I did throughout the year, I managed to crack the top 25 only one time after the Tournament of Champions in 2016. So, to end the year with a two more disappointing results sadly kind of fits.

That is a very negative sounding paragraph. It's important for me to note that I'm not discouraged about my game. I actually feel really good about some of the progress I made this year, even if it never really started to show in my results. I worked really hard on my golf swing, and the benefits of that are starting to show. I began to drive the ball much better late in the year. That is incredibly encouraging. My iron play was never very good in 2016, but I definitely improved the strike that I get on the ball. My accuracy and distance control were not sharp, but the solidity of contact with my irons improved a lot over the year. These things are very positive, and I feel really good about the direction my game is heading.

After showing steady improvement each year during my mini-tour days in 2010-2012, my last four years have been more volatile. I had an amazingly successful year in 2013 during which I rose from a mini-tour player with no status to winning on the Web.com Tour and earning a PGA Tour Card by the end of the year. Then in 2014, I had a bit of step backwards as I posted very poor results but gained valuable experience on the PGA Tour. In 2015, I had an incredible year that included a win on the Web.com Tour in March and then my maiden PGA Tour victory in November. My 2016 campaign was a definite letdown from the year which preceded it, but, again, I feel like I learned some valuable lessons. I am ready to keep my trend of the last four years going, and that means that 2017 will be a big year for me!

There are two main lessons from 2016 that I will carry with me going forward. The first is not to let my expectations supersede the joy I get from simply playing golf. After holding my own and playing well in Maui, I began to get frustrated much more easily when my performances didn't immediately stack up to my higher expectations. I played my way into a highly frustrated state and temporarily lost some of pure love that I have for playing. The second lesson is that sometimes a week or two off might be the best way to halt a slump. I kept trying to play through my struggles, and I probably played too much. I have no problem playing several weeks in a row when things are going well, but I learned that trying to play week after week after week (after week after week after week after week, in my case a couple times) is not a healthy way to respond to a rough stretch.

I still feel good. 2016 wasn't the year I wanted to it to be, but it wasn't a wasted year either--far from that, actually. Though my results didn't show it, I improved in a lot of ways in 2016. I'm excited to have a little bit of an off-season, and I'll use it to continue to improve and to get ready for a great year in 2017. I still believe my best golf is ahead of me, and there is a lot of it to come over the next few decades.

Thank you very much for keeping up with me and for your support. Keep it here for occasional updates and progress reports over the off-season.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Weekend Off in Vegas

Most people would love to have a weekend off of work in Las Vegas. That is what I now have, but for me, it's disappointing. I enjoy the golf course and the weather here, and after a quick rest stop at home early in the week, I felt prepared to play well heading into the tournament. A very tough start and poor iron play throughout the first 36 holes left me with scores of 74, 70 (+2) and a missed cut by five shots. My game continued to show plenty of promise, though, particularly off the tee. I'm definitely bummed about the results here, but overall, I'm still feeling encouraged by most of what I see. I may have the weekend off from competition, but I'm going to work hard to improve, and I'll be ready to put it all together and play great soon.

I really felt ready to play well as I walked to the 10th tee for my 8:05 starting time on Thursday morning. I nailed a drive down the middle to open the tournament, too. From there, things went a little haywire. I faced a simple 120 yard wedge shot after my great opening drive, but I pushed the approach shot well right of my target and watched in shock as it flew some ten yards farther than I had intended, too. I did my best from a tough spot, but made an opening bogey. I proceeded to hit similarly poor short-iron approach shots into the next two greens as well. I missed each of the first three greens well long and slightly right, and on the 12th hole (my third), my ball rolled off the back of the green and into a pond. I began the tournament four over par in my first three holes. Tough start!

From there, I stayed patient and calm. I was really pleased with my attitude and mindset throughout both rounds. I never panicked or got angry. I stayed positive and optimistic. I tried to play my way back into the golf tournament one shot at a time. The cool thing is that in some areas of the game, I played well enough to get back into it. I drove the ball beautifully both days. I was aggressive and in control off the tee. I was hitting the ball long (for me) and was only out of position off the tee a couple of times in two rounds. I also putted well enough in spurts to get back into it. I still wasn't happy with the way I putted overall, but I did make a couple of good putts in the two rounds. My short game showed good promise at times as well. I hit a lot of good chip shots and bunker shots to keep myself in it and even holed a nice chip for birdie early in my second round to give myself a little boost. From my mental game to most aspects of my physical game, there was a lot to like this week.

And then there was my iron and wedge play. There is not a whole lot I can say about that area other than I have a lot of room to improve. As well as I drove the ball, I had the opportunity to hit a lot of short irons and wedges into greens, but rather than using them as great scoring opportunities, I found myself working hard trying to save pars on many occasions. I'm not really sure why my play with the short clubs was so bad, but I will work hard this weekend to get it back in order. I am a really good short iron and wedge player, so I'm confident that I will be able to get this sorted.

After a good weekend of practice here in Vegas, I will head to another of my favorite events on Tour: The Mayakoba Classic in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I have had success there in the past, and I really enjoy that course.

I am excited to keep working. I feel good. I'm loving my job. I feel like really good golf is just around the corner for me. Thank you for following and believing in me. Keep it here for more updates.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Frustrated but Much More Encouraged

I really enjoyed my week as the defending champion at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi. In addition to a flood of great memories, it was fun to be showered with a little extra attention from the media and others involved with the tournament. It was the first chance that I’ve had to “defend” a win on the PGA Tour, and it was definitely a cool experience and one that I would like to have many more times! In the end, I was disappointed to not put up a better result, but I’m still quite pleased with much of what happened and feel excited moving forward.

My time in Jackson was great. After a 27-hour travel day from Malaysia to start the week, I was pleased with how quickly I adjusted and began a fairly normal preparation routine for the tournament. My sleep patterns were disturbed only slightly and only for the first two nights. By the time my afternoon tee time arrived for the first round on Thursday, I felt rested and ready to go play well.

And I did, somewhat. Thursday I played one of the better ball-striking rounds of my life. I drove the ball beautifully and was very in control with my irons and wedges. I had 17 birdie putts in the first round, and with the exception of two, all were from less than 25 feet. Unfortunately, I made just three of them. The one hole on which I didn’t have a birdie putt resulted in a double-bogey, so my first round added up to a one-under-par 71, but it felt really good. My ball-striking wasn’t as sharp on Friday, but I putted the ball better and posted a two-under-par 70 to advance to the weekend. I had a great practice session on Friday afternoon and felt poised for a strong weekend performance, but that never materialized. On Saturday I was just a little bit off with my ball-striking and putting and couldn’t quite get anything going. I settled for a third-round 71. Then, on Sunday, my putting woes from Thursday returned and I let frustration affect me a little bit. I stayed really committed to giving my best effort on every shot, but despite giving myself 14 birdie putts (and 12 inside of 25 feet), I looked and felt hopeless on the greens. I made zero birdies on Sunday and posted a final-round 75.  

I ended my title defense tied for 68th place. I was actually surprised how disappointed I felt during my round on Sunday. I never gave up, but it was clear from fairly early in my final round that I didn’t have things clicking on the greens. It was really frustrating. One of my goals for this season is to make a conscious decision to love my job every day. (That usually comes quite easy!) When it became clear that my title defense at the Sanderson Farms Championship was going to finish somewhere in the bottom of the field, I let the frustration sink in and, for a time on that Sunday, overshadow the love that I have for what I get to do. Jackson feels special to me, and floundering on the weekend and finishing towards the bottom of the field just didn’t seem right.

Looking back on the week, I can honestly say that deep frustration I felt on Sunday is my only regret. I feel great about the way I prepared and the attitude that I carried into the week. I wish I had stayed a little more upbeat throughout the weekend, but I will learn from that. From a performance standpoint, I’m actually really encouraged by most of what happened in Mississippi. I had a few shaky stretches of ball-striking on Friday and Saturday, but for the most part, I hit the ball really well. Similarly, my short game was really good with the exception of a couple of shots. The thing that held me back was an extremely poor performance on the greens, and I know that will go down as an anomaly. I certainly wanted a better result from the week in Jackson, but after a little reflection, I definitely leave there feeling really encouraged about my game.

I snuck home for a day after Jackson and am currently heading to Las Vegas for this week’s event. I am going to keep working hard and keep loving my job. Things are really close to coming together, and I’m confident that great results are just around the corner. Thank you for supporting me, and please keep it here for an update from Vegas!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Napa -> Malaysia -> Jackson

I'm definitely a bit behind again on the updates, and so much has happened over the past two weeks. I've been on airplanes a lot in the last seven days and am now one short flight away from being in Jackson, Mississippi, for the Sanderson Farms Championship. My golf has almost been overshadowed by the adventures of the past week, but I have great things to report on both fronts.

My results certainly haven't been great on the course, but I am really pleased with much of what has happened. I opened the 2016-2017 season with a bogey-free 67 (-5) in Napa, and though I didn't sustain that pace through the tournament, I added rounds of 72, 71, 70 in tough conditions. The end result was a tie for 35th place. Obviously, that is not an exciting finish, but some exciting stuff did happen. I had to battle steady rain and gusty winds during my second round on Friday, and I hung in there well to shoot even. Then, on Saturday, I had an atrocious start. After a routine par on the first hole, I bladed a bunker shot on the second hole and made double-bogey. I then pulled my tee shot on the third hole and got a bit unlucky as it hit a tree and bounced way left to end up out of bounds by less than an inch. That led to another double-bogey. At four-over-par through three holes, I was determined to just keep playing, and I fought all the way back to one under par for my round by the end. That was cool! I will remember Napa for the great round I played on Thursday and the perseverance I showed through tough conditions. It was a very solid week to start the season.

From there, the adventures really began. Alicia and I were scheduled to make our first trip to Asia from San Francisco on Sunday night after Napa. Excited for our journey, we shuttled down to the airport from Napa and arrived at the ticket counter well in advance of our flight. When our passports swiped at check-in, we were alerted to a problem. Our passports expire in January 2017, and Malaysia requires six-month validity of passports for entry. After three hours in the airport begging for answers, reasons, and options, we realized we weren't going to fly that night. I was so discouraged. It is a good thing Alicia was with me because I likely would have just gone home if I had been by myself. She encouraged me to not give up, so we booked a hotel in downtown San Fran, arrived there after midnight, awoke before 6 a.m. to try to reschedule potential flight options, and then went and got in the walk-up line at the U.S. Passport Agency an hour before it opened. I still can't believe it, but we walked out of there three hours later with new passports and headed straight to the airport. We caught a 12:20 p.m. flight to Tokyo, and by 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, we were at our hotel in Malaysia.

So I definitely didn't have a normal week of preparation for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, but I was thrilled to be there and, in hindsight, am thrilled we made it work. My game and body both felt a little rusty when I teed it up in the first round on Thursday. I managed to shoot even par, which isn't a good score on the course there, but I was pleased with the way I fought. I actually formed up very nicely from a ball-striking perspective over the next three days, but my short game and particularly my putting were really bad. I posted scores of 72, 73, 71, 68 (-4, total) for the week, and finished tied for 51st. That's not a good finish, and those weren't good scores, but I feel good about the way I played. My game is in good shape, and I know that I am not going to putt as poorly as I did over the last three rounds there in Malaysia very often. It was a great experience to play in Malaysia in the first place, and I'm taking a lot of positive things away from that week.

Alicia and I have had a much smoother experience traveling back from Malaysia. We left our hotel at 4:30 a.m. Monday Malaysia time, and after 28 hours of travel, we will magically land in Jackson at 6:00 p.m. Monday Jackson, Mississippi, time. We're in Houston now with just one short flight left.

I am excited to be back in Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship. I obviously have great memories from this event last year, and I feel like my game is better now than it was then. I know that it will be a challenging week in a lot of ways, but I'm going rest up from the travel, prepare well, and enjoy myself. It will be a lot of fun!

Thank you for following me and please keep it here for updates!