2015 Goals

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rut

Prior to stepping away from golf with his back surgeries last Fall, I can remember Tiger Woods telling the media time and time again after disappointing rounds that he was "close to playing well." I would think to myself, "no, Tiger, you're not." He seemed all over the place and lost--quite the opposite of "close." I'm starting to have some sympathy for him now because I feel very close to playing well, but my recent results do not exactly hint that great play is hiding just around the corner. On a rain-softened golf course here at the Byron Nelson that was yielding great scores on Thursday, I posted a birdie-free, seven-over-par round of 77. That sounds closer to playing in the second flight of a club tournament than it does to contending on the PGA Tour. Still, I truly do believe that I am close to playing well.

That belief is not blind optimism. There are positive signs despite my egregious scores lately. I am driving the ball well. In fact, I hit 11 fairways just today in the first round of this tournament. My  iron play is there in practice, and I hit some good ones in the tournament, too, but even with my good ones, I haven't been able to dial it in close to the hole. I definitely feel like my full swing is better now than it has ever been, but clearly I need to get things synced a little bit better. The weakest part of my game lately has been my putting. It has actually been downright awful in my last three tournament rounds. I know that to be successful on Tour, I have to be an above-average putter. The good news is that I am; I just haven't been lately. Much like with my iron play, however, my putting is feeling good in practice, and I know that performance fluctuates, so I am confident that I will get it going in a good direction here soon. Again, I feel like I am close.

I'm just in a rut right now. My game is still in there; it's just hiding at the moment. In fact, once I get it going, I believe I'm poised to play the best golf of my life. My process is all about steady improvement over time, and my plan works. I'm not changing. I'll keep getting better, and I will get out of this rut.

I'm going to have some fun on Friday in the second round of this tournament. I have no expectations to make the cut--a feat which will likely require a score of 60 or better--but I do think that I can climb out of my rut with a solid round. My scores lately don't indicate it, but I'm telling you, I'm close!

Thank you for keeping up with me and for your support. Great stuff is coming!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Quick Step Back

I am frustrated with my poor results lately. There is no doubt about that. I work really hard on my game, and it feels bad to play poorly for an extended period. In the last 11 weeks, I have played nine PGA Tour events and made just one cut. That is not good.

I want to take a look at this from a different perspective, though. Three years ago in May, I was a mini-tour player with a big plan to Monday-Qualify my way onto the Web.com Tour. Two years ago in May, I was a completely overwhelmed and over-matched PGA Tour rookie. Last year in May, I was on the Web.com Tour playing well and earning my way back to the PGA Tour. This year in May, I am a PGA Tour winner who presently happens to be in a bit of a slump. Now that seems like a healthier way to look at things than that first paragraph.

I struggle to think this way when I'm mired in stretch of disappointing play, but when I take a step back and see a broader perspective, I know that I am doing great. My "big-picture" trend of improvement and accomplishment is incredible; and I have the work-ethic and attitude to ensure that it continues.

Since my last post, I have played two events. I prepared really well for both and felt good heading into them, but the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass ended for me after 36 holes. The results disappoint me, but my game is showing some encouraging signs each week. At a long and wet Quail Hollow course, I struggled off the tee and left myself too much work to do around the greens. At The Players Championship, I felt that my full swing was as proficient as it has ever been, but I struggled around and especially on the greens. My practice has been feeling good in all of these areas, though, so I know that I will get things clicking soon.

I am currently soaking up a few quick days at home. I will fly Wednesday morning to Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship this week. I truly am excited to have the opportunity to keep playing. Great things are in store, and I am pumped for a busy summer.

One last note: I haven't blogged much lately. I guess I haven't really felt like it. I want, and even need, to do more of it. Sharing my thoughts on here is cathartic for me. It helps me process things more healthily. I say this simply to hold myself accountable for using this valuable tool more.

Thank you very much for following and caring about my career. I really appreciate the support. Keep it here for reports(!) from Dallas.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Fun Update

The word "Fun" is going to be a big part of this post. It is in the middle of the motto by which I have been trying to live my life (Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom), and remembering to do it is a key to success for me. Many people believe that they will have fun only when they succeed, and I have certainly fallen into this trap, too. The truth is that enjoying the journey is essential for me to achieve the results I want. I have always loved to play and practice, but sometimes I let thoughts of results and stress and pressure rob some of the joy from my profession. I don't want to let that happen anymore. I'll always work hard because that is a part of who I am, but I am going to make sure I have fun while I'm doing it!

I've actually been doing a nice job of this lately. Two weeks ago on Hilton Head Island, I had an absolute blast playing at Harbour Town. It quickly became one of my favorite venues on Tour. I did a lot of things well and was really close to having a good tournament, but I faltered just a bit down the stretch on Friday and missed the cut by one shot on a very bunched leaderboard. Though I was having a very fun week, I definitely let some anxiety get to me during that Friday round. That is where I've got to get better--remembering to fully enjoy myself even in the heat of the competition. I am getting better at that, and Alicia and I stayed on Hilton Head Island with our friends and had a lot of fun that weekend despite not getting to play. 

From a fun week in Hilton Head, Alicia and I traveled to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open, and we definitely had a fun week there. We started by participating in a fundraising "Game Show Night." Alicia and I were contestants in the Not-so-Newlywed Game, and we were the talk of the evening with our mind-meld answers. We were easily the Newlywed game champs, but I'm pretty sure that was a fun night for everyone. After the game show night, I went to work more or less as usual to prepare for the tournament. The one thing that really makes the Texas Open fun for me is the fact that the host hotel is at the golf course, and it has a huge waterpark! Everyday I couldn't wait to get done with my work and go ride the waterslides. I even spent about an hour riding them Friday morning before my afternoon tee time for the second round. I was like a kid in a candy store, and I was having fun. One of the slides was fantastically horrifying. To ride it, you stood almost perfectly upright on a plexiglass floor that dropped away to release you down the slide. It was terrifying but so much fun!
It is silly to say, but I think the waterslides reminded me to have fun on the course, too. I found myself facing difficult shots and thinking that golf, like a waterslide, is great fun for me so I should just enjoy it! 

Not surprisingly, I played some great golf in San Antonio. I fired an opening-round, bogey-free 67 that featured a hole-out from 92 yards for a two on a par four. I overcame two bogeys in my first three holes on Friday to post a 71 and stand tied for 6th heading into the weekend. I maintained a great attitude throughout a troublesome 76 in the third round. (And I rode the waterslides on repeat afterwards with Alicia and my friends!) Then I calmly put together a bogey-free 67 including a chip-in birdie on my final hole to climb back up into a tie for 13th place on Sunday. I played beautifully for most of the tournament. It was fun!

There's no doubt that good golf is more fun than bad golf. Similarly, it's more fun to have good results than to have weekends off. These things are obvious, but I am convinced that the more I commit to having fun and enjoying the process, the more I will get to experience the good golf and the great results. Bad golf and tough stretches are going to happen, but if I can remember to keep having fun even through the challenges, I know that the sky is the limit for the success I can achieve. 

So I say to myself once again, "Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom." After all, my life is essentially one big waterslide!

Thank you for keeping up with me and for your great support! I am enjoying a week off this week, but I'll be back in action for several tournaments in a row starting next week in Charlotte. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ready at Harbour Town

My caddie, Shane Joel, left an awesome note in my car this morning after we finished up a good practice session. It simply said, "Let's make this your 2nd win on the PGA Tour. You Belong!!!" Much like all of the great people I have around me helping me, Shane is not one to focus on outcomes, but he knows that if we follow our plan well, we can do something special any week. I have had a great few days of preparation here on Hilton Head Island, and that note was a nice reminder of what I have already accomplished and what I can accomplish when I let my good stuff come out. 

So now it's time to follow the plan well and let the good stuff come out. My plan this week has two components. I'm going to give focused attention to every single shot, and I am going to commit to living my motto: don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom. If I do these two things, I will do my best, and that could be good enough to win on any given week anywhere in the world. I am going to follow the plan well. 

I am super-excited to play and am enjoying Harbour Town so much. This is truly a unique stop on the PGA Tour. The course is a fantastic test that demands precision with tight driving areas and firm, tiny greens. Throw in winds that are forecasted to gust quite a bit, and it is a recipe for a very challenging tournament. Demanding elements around this course will definitely require precise ball-striking, but I think even the sharpest of players will find some trouble, so I think recovery skills and putting will be at a premium. I really enjoy playing this style of golf course. It is going to be a fun week.

Thank you very much for keeping up with me. Keep it here for an update or two from the tournament. I get started at 7:50 on Thursday morning. I'm going to go have fun, follow my plan, and do my best. Let's see if I can't fulfill Shane's request!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Update from Home

I don't ever want to have Masters Week off again. However, I must admit, I am enjoying this time at home right now. I have allowed myself a couple lazy mornings and done some relaxing, which is nice, but I've also been working on my game and my mindset during this "vacation." It is great to be home, and I will soak up two more full days here, but I am already excited to get back on the road and compete again.

Despite the struggle that the past two and a half month have been for me in tournaments, I really am feeling good about my golf game. My golf swing has developed so much, and it is feeling great. I'm proud of the work that I have done over the past 18 months and especially proud of the improvements I have made just within the past two months. I feel like my swing and my ball-striking are more consistent right now than they have ever been. My practice at home this week has continued to confirm those positive feelings. In addition, my wedge play, short game, and putting are all showing signs of being at the level where I expect them. My practice has been feeling really good, and physically, I feel ready to deliver great performance in all areas of my game. 

I've definitely had shortcomings in all areas of my game over the past two-plus months, but I think a poor mindset has been an umbrella over all of it. Since my win in the fall and my encouraging start to 2016 at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, I've raised my own expectations and put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. After a couple of poor performances, rather than just reminding myself that golf is hard and bad results are going to happen sometimes, I responded by putting even more pressure on myself to "validate" my good play early in the season. Those feelings of pressure reached the pinnacle during my back-nine collapse last week in Houston in which I fell from being in contention to missing the cut over the last nine holes on Friday. This week at home, Alicia and I have been working together to re-set my mindset to a more healthy place. We've had some great talks and she's led me through a couple of exercises to help me view the past couple months in a more realistic way. Some highlights from our talks have been remembering that my win on the PGA Tour was the product of the same hard work that I am still doing; it wasn't lightning in a bottle. She also helped me remember that a slump is just part of the territory over the course of a long golf career. There is no meaning to a rough stretch of results. I've always tried to hold a "long-term view" of success, and she helped me remember that a slump doesn't do anything to affect long-term success. We also re-watched the documentary from the 2015 World Series in which our beloved Kansas City Royals won despite trailing at some point in all five games of the series. The Royals overcame 30 years of "slump", the agony of losing game seven of the World Series in 2014, doubts and naysayers from all over the baseball world, and a deficit in every single game of the 2015 Series to emerge as the Champions. Perhaps the only people who believed in the Royals were the Royals themselves, but that was enough. I know that I am fortunate to have a lot of people who believe in me, and I am truly going to believe in me, too! The basic summary point from all of our talks about mindset comes back to a simple reminder that my life is amazing, I am doing all the right things, and when I tee it up in a tournament, I can whole-heartedly tell myself: "Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom." 

I am going to live by that motto. I'm so thankful for the great life that I have, and I love what I do every day. Even during the times when it is hard, I love that I get to go to the golf course for my job. And I'm good at my job, too, so I'm going to keep doing things right, and I'm going to enjoy the process.

Thank you very much for following me and caring about my career. Please keep it here for more updates from Hilton Head Island next week at the RBC Heritage. I'm going to go soak up a couple more days at home right now. After all, this could be the last time for the next few decades that I have off the first week in April...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What Follows an Epic Collapse?

Golf is a humbling game. I thought I had it this week in Houston. I prepared beautifully, and for the first 27 holes of the tournament, I looked and felt great. I was having fun and executing well. In brutal weather conditions on Friday, I played the front nine in two under par to reach five under for the tournament. I felt great and was so pleased to see my game reflecting the positive signs I have been experiencing in practice. Then, with one bad swing, it all changed. I drove it into a hazard on the tenth hole, made a bogey, and despite telling myself all the right things, I became anxious and defensive. I failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the holes that followed my bogey, and then I collapsed over the last four holes. I finished bogey, bogey, bogey, double-bogey to not only fall out of contention but also miss the cut by two shots. It was a humbling finish, to say the least.

Bad golf is one thing. I really don't like it, but I know that it is going to happen sometimes. This was something different in Houston, however. It's not like I forgot how to play good golf on the walk from the ninth green to the tenth tee on Friday. Rather, I let a fairly minor mistake set off a fearful reaction inside of me and lock up my good stuff. It doesn't feel good to admit that because I know that my mental game is under my control. I also know that it is one of my greatest strengths, but I haven't been using it well lately. It always stings to miss a cut, but I missed this one because of a lack of mental toughness, and that really bothers me.

I have to move forward and be better. I think a good place to start is reiterating how well I played in Houston. I had three full days of great practice at home before traveling to Texas, and then had two solid days of preparation once there. I teed it up in the tournament and performed as well as I have since the first event of the year. Given the tough conditions on Friday morning, I really believe that I played as well as I've ever played on the opening nine holes of my second round. There are some tough shots on that course, and I stepped up and executed fearlessly and well. It was really good stuff. Though my putter still didn't get hot, all areas of my game were solid, and things were clicking. That is encouraging. I will remember that.

I will also remember the collapse. I need to learn from it. I definitely battle with the same cut anxiety that I have discussed before, and in Houston, I lost that battle. On the front nine on Friday I was on offense. After my bogey on number ten, I was playing defense. I was saying the right things to myself consciously, but my inner thoughts were rushed and panicked. It is frustrating to have to learn the same lesson more than once, but I think this week's reminder will be a powerful one for me. When my thoughts turn to the cut-line, I need to stay on offense, quiet my mind, remember to enjoy myself, and play to win. My collapse in the Houston Open was mental. That hurts me. But I will be better because of it.

In recent posts, I've given myself a little motto by which I'd like to live on the golf course. "Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom." Somehow, I forgot all about this when I needed it most. Following this motto wouldn't have changed the bad swing I made on hole ten on Friday in Houston, but it certainly would have changed what followed. Moving forward, I'm going to write down this motto, meditate on it, share it with Shane, and tell him to punch me if he sees me not living by it on the course! I work too hard to let tension and fear lock up my skills. This is my positive self-talk on the course: "Don't worry, have fun, play with Freedom."

I'm definitely frustrated by my recent stretch of poor play and especially so with my epic mental collapse on Friday in Houston. Do you know what follows an epic collapse, though? An epic climb to a brand new height! My skills are greater than they've ever been before. I'm going to play with Freedom and let them out.

Thank you for following and believing in me. These last couple months have beaten me up, but I believe in me, too! Great things are coming. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Positive Signs but Poor Golf in Puerto Rico

I traveled to Puerto Rico with a simple goal. I wanted to compete in accordance with my new motto: "Don't worry, have fun, play with Freedom." I'm actually quite happy to report that I did that. I felt the normal first tee jitters and certainly felt appropriate disappointment about the poor shots, but I never once felt tension or negative anxiety during the tournament. That was great! My performance stunk, but I achieved a big part of what I wanted to do, and that has me excited moving forward.

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not happy with my performance. I posted scores of 73, 75 for a four-over-par total and missed the cut by five shots. That's lousy, but I know that my game will come around. I was very poor on the greens this week, and I hit too many really bad shots. I need to putt well to be successful, and I also need to keep my poor shots a bit more reasonable. I actually hit a lot of good shots during my two rounds in Puerto Rico, but a few of my misses were real head-scratchers. Still, I know that I will clean that up, and I know I will get my putter back in business, too. Though I didn't have my good stuff this week, I saw glimpses of it, and I know that the mindset I had in Puerto Rico will help me get the good stuff out soon and often. 

I was feeling pretty down after my disappointing performance at Bay Hill, but I actually feel really good now. I know that I'm doing things right. I know that my game will come around. And I know that I have a long, successful career ahead of me on the PGA Tour. I'm going to continue to follow my motto, and good results will come!

Now I get to sneak in a few days at home, but I don't have to wait long to get back in action. I'll play the Shell Houston Open next week, and I'm excited to have a fun tournament. 

Thank you for your continued support. Keep it here for more reports!