2015 Goals

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!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Prepared in Napa

I am feeling ready to go here in Napa, California. I have had two great days of preparation at the Silverado Resort golf course, and I am excited to start the tournament today. My game definitely feels good, but more importantly, I feel a real sense of calm from knowing that the work I have been doing is also very good. I'm moving in the right direction, and I'm excited to go out and give my best effort on each and every shot I face this week. And, I'm going to have a lot of fun doing it!

Keep it here for updates from the tournament, and thank you for following me!

Monday, October 10, 2016

2016-2017 Season is Here

Six weeks is pretty short as off-seasons go, but I have packed a lot of great stuff into the 43 days since I last teed it up in a PGA Tour event. I have definitely been chomping at the bit to get back to competition. It is now officially a tournament week again, and I am excited and feeling great.

I packed my off-season with lots of work on all areas of my game. I really dedicated myself to owning (as opposed to tinkering with) my swing mechanics. I had two wonderful two-day sessions with Mitchell over the course of the break, and he helped guide me and ensure that I am working to own the right things in my swing. I am very encouraged by how good and comfortable my swing is feeling. I also have been extremely dedicated to my wedge play, short game, and putting during the break. These areas are definitely strengths for me, but my statistics and results from the 2015-2016 season show that each of these areas can be much better and much more consistent. I feel great about the work that I have done to make my strengths stronger, and I'm excited to let them shine. Lastly, I have also spent a lot of time thinking about and working on my mental game. I know that my physical performance will be awry at times, but I don't want to let the way I am thinking contribute to or exasperate any physical shortcomings. I feel very confident and at peace with the work that I have done in all areas of my game, and I am excited to go compete and have fun letting that work show.

I always love my job. Even in the midst of horrible slump when I am feeling upset and frustrated, I still think I have more fun than most of my peers. This off-season, though, I really reconnected with my genuine love for what I do. I had so much fun. I balanced days of "grinding" on the practice facilities with days of playing fun matches with my buddies. I found great pleasure in both endeavors. I am determined to carry that genuine joy and enthusiasm into the tournament season with me.

I am currently at the Denver airport en route to Napa, California, for the Safeway Open. I couldn't be more excited to get back to tournament golf. Thank you very much for following and supporting me, and please keep it here for updates and insights from the tournaments.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Off-Season Update

I love to compete and play tournament golf. In that sense, having six weeks off this time of year feels a bit odd. I also love to prepare for competition, and for that reason, I have really enjoyed having this break. In addition, I love to spend time in my beautiful East Tennessee home and be with my family, and I have been able to do both of those. In every way, I have soaked up the goodness that comes with a break from the competitive travel schedule. 

I have definitely used this time to work on my golf game. I have made a couple of slight tweaks to my mechanics to continue the progress I have been making with my full-swing. It is nice to have time away from competition to really ingrain swing adjustments. As I learned this year, it is hard to compete without feeling full ownership of my swing. I have put in a lot of swings on the range and a lot of rehearsals during this break, and I have made tremendous progress. I have also been extremely focused on my wedge play, short game, and putting. These are my biggest strengths, and I'm determined to make them even stronger while I work to improve my long game. After spending the first three weeks of my "off-season" exclusively on the practice facilities, I have transitioned back onto the golf course over the last two weeks and have been balancing a "practice mindset" with a "scoring mindset." I am really pleased with how everything is feeling. I have definitely improved all areas of my game over the last five weeks, and I'm excited to keep moving in the right direction.

Being home has also given me a chance to spend a little time in the Great Smokey Mountains. A couple of weekends ago, my sister Laura, Alicia, and I went on a beautiful hike to the top of Mount LeConte. It was a blissful day!

Then, this past weekend, we had extended family and friends in town to witness Laura's wedding! I don't have any pictures of the ceremony itself, but it was amazingly beautiful. I couldn't be any happier for her and my new brother, Clarke!

It has been a really special off-season for sure. I'm excited to have one more week to put in great work on my game and soak up everything that comes with being HOME. I'll use this time to make some goals and a bit of a plan heading into the 2016-2017 season, which, I am excited to say, begins next week!

Thank you for following, and keep it here to enjoy the great ride with me!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The 2015-2016 Season in Review

I have had a chance to look back over my 2015-2016 season as a whole and discuss it with my team. Two things that jump out right away are that I won a tournament and I qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Those are two great accomplishments, and I am happy and proud of both of them. Those accomplishments show that I have really raised the ceiling on my golf ability. When I deliver my good stuff, I am a better player than I have ever been. Another thing that jumps out when reviewing my year is that I didn't deliver my good stuff nearly often enough. After compiling three top-ten finishes in a four-tournament stretch from late in the year 2015 through the opening event of 2016, I rarely contended again. It made for a very frustrating and disappointing 2016 part of the 2015-2016 season. I know that the really good golf was still inside of me during that time, but it got locked in there for much of this year. I've now had some really good time to reflect on the season, and I have some reasons that I believe that happened. I'm still incredibly proud and happy about my accomplishments this season, but I'm ready to take some steps to make sure that the good golf that is inside of me is able to come out more often in tournaments.

First of all, I need to remember why I play golf. After my win and stretch of good golf early in the season, I let my expectations go high in the sky. I was thinking about Fed-Ex Cup rankings, World Rankings, and qualifying for big tournaments. Those things are all great, but none of them are why I play golf. I play golf because I love it. I love to work at it. I love to compete. I love the challenge of fighting through a rough stretch and constantly improving. I love to play. That's why I play golf. I want all those other things to happen--to climb the rankings and play the big tournaments--but mostly, I want to lay my head on the pillow at night and say I loved my job and I did my best. When I approach each day with that in mind, my best golf will be unlocked.

I also need to continue to nurture my strengths. I'm a great putter, and my putting is something that sets me apart from my competition. Though I had an okay season statistically with my putter, I know that I developed a bit of a flaw in my putting stroke that affected my consistency. I believe that I can putt much better than I did this season, and if I take the time to do a quick mechanical check of my putting stroke at the beginning of the day, I can know that my stroke is in great shape and can trust my genius on the greens.

I definitely didn't have the type of year I wanted to have from a ball-striking perspective. It is strange because I feel like I am a better swinger of the club now than I have ever been and I hit the ball more solidly this year than I ever have before, but I never consistently hit good shots over the 2016 portion of the season. I know that I am better now mechanically than I was a year ago, but I simply played too much of this season in what I would call "golf swing" mode. In the past I had always been good about practicing my mechanics on the range and then simply trusting my feel on the course. This year I felt that I was so close to having my mechanics where I wanted them that I couldn't quite leave those thoughts on the range. I ended making swings on the course that weren't fully trusting what I was trying to do, and that led to a lot of inconsistency. It's important for me to note that I don't regret anything about the work I did this year. My swing is better now than it has ever been. I learned this year that it is very important for me to separate mechanical work from the art of playing the game on the course. I tried to mix the two a little too much this year. I'm going to keep getting better mechanically, but I'm also going to "own" whatever swing I have that day when it's time to tee it up in competition. This will help unlock the good skills that I have worked hard to develop.

I'm not going to go into huge detail about my statistics, but I have made an effort to understand stats better in the first few weeks of the off-season. I now understand the "Strokes Gained" stats that the Tour publishes. They are a quantifiable measure of a player's performance relevant to the field average at each event. Strokes Gained stats paint a more accurate picture of a player's performance than traditional measures such as fairways hit, greens in regulation, or number of putts. With the help of my caddie and Mark Broadie--the creator of the Strokes Gained statistics--I have studied my stats. I wasn't surprised to see that my ball-striking numbers left a lot to be desired--I lost more than a half a shot per round off the tee and more than another half a shot per round approaching the green--but I was quite surprised to see that inconsistencies in my short game led to a negative overall number in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, too. My putting stats were positive, but I don't feel like I putted well this year, so I'm excited to see them be even better in the coming years. If I can progressively work my Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green number back towards neutral (I was -1.143 strokes per round in that category in 2015-2016) and keep improving my putting, I'm confident that I can contend consistently on the PGA Tour.

I feel so encouraged when I look back over my second season on Tour! I did have some really good accomplishments, but I also have tremendous room for improvement. I can improve my mental game, my putting, the consistency of my short game, and my ball-striking. I have a great plan to attack these needed improvements, and I'm excited about it. As I prepare to move forward with my career, I'm truly going work in such a way that I can always say I loved my job and I did my best. I know that will be enough.

Thank you for following and please keep it here for another off-season update in which I'll discuss some of the work that I am doing to prepare for the 2016-2017 season.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to the Blog

To the many of you that follow my blog and keep up with me through this medium, I say thank you! I'm sorry that it has been nearly two months since my last post. During what was a long and at times frustrating 2016 schedule, blogging seemed burdensome at times and a bit of a distraction as I tried to get back in touch with the things that allow me to be my best. But now, after finishing the 2015-2016 season on an upswing and having already had two weeks away from travel and tournament golf, I am feeling great and am excited to share my off-season thoughts and plans. I'm going to get back into a good habit of using my blog because just as much as it is a fun way for several of you to keep up with me, it is also a great tool to keep me grounded, focused, and accountable. So, thank you for caring and for following me, and keep it here for some off-season updates in the coming days and weeks.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Major Disappointment

Time to take some inventory. I played my first Major Championship this week. That is a good thing. I had to do something special to earn the right to be in the PGA Championship. I can't forget that I won on the PGA Tour last Fall. That was less than a year ago. And it was very good.

I missed the cut this week in my first Major. I posted consecutive rounds of 73 for a six-over-par total and finished four shots outside the cut. This marks my tenth consecutive missed cut and 17th in my last 18 events. That is bad. I presently feel far-removed from the celebration of the win that qualified me for my first major. I feel beaten up, and it feels very bad.

If I were to trust everything that I feel, I would be in trouble right now. I feel beaten up. I feel bruised and battered. I feel like I'm failing. These are the things that I presently feel. Here are some things that I know, even if I can't feel them right now. I know that I am a PGA Tour winner. I know that I am continuing to work on the right things in my golf game. I know that my process leads to steady improvement, and that my best golf is still ahead of me. I know that I will continue to get better. I know that I will come out of this slump. I know that I have a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. Most importantly, I know that results on the golf course don't define me as a success or failure. I may not be able to feel all of these things right now, but I know they are true.

I'm definitely bummed, but I've got too much good stuff going on to sulk. First of all, I have an amazing wife, family, and team of supporters who love me and are there for me exactly the same whether I've just won a tournament or just missed my 17th cut in 18 weeks. Secondly, even though the results don't show it, I really am working on the right things and improving my golf game. I can't exactly explain what's going on with my tournament play. My practice feels better and better each week, and I feel like all areas of my game are ready to excel. I'm hitting the ball more solidly than ever on the range, and I'm really starting to control it well, too. My putting was definitely off at the beginning of this slump, but my stroke feels good again, and I'm starting the roll the ball really well. My short game and wedge play are both solid. I just need to relax and let it happen. Subconsciously, I know I'm putting added pressure on myself to end this slump and get back in the hunt on the weekend, and I find myself playing with a lot of tension. It's easier said than done, but I've got to be tough enough to let go of worrying about results and go play with freedom. I'll be honest: I'm not sure how to do that right now, but I'm going to figure it out. I've got too much talent, and my game is rounding into form too well to allow myself to continue to play with tension.

I usually have a specific action plan for how I'm going to make things happen. Right now, I really don't. I'm going to keep working hard on my golf game so that it is even more ready to perform in tournament conditions, and I'm going to make the conscious decision to let go of results and play with freedom. When I truly play with freedom and let the good golf that is in me come out, I'll qualify for a lot more majors.

The tone of this post has been largely negative, and it is coming from a place of great frustration, but I don't want to forget the place it started. I just played in my first Major Championship. That is really cool. And there will be many more; I am confident of that.

I know a lot of you out there are rooting for me and believing in me. I really appreciate it, and I believe in me, too. I'm off to Hartford, CT, now for the Traveler's Championship next week. It is one of my favorite events on Tour, and I'm going to prepare well and play with great freedom. Keep it here for updates!