2015 Goals

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pain, Change, and Growth

For the most part, I believe that I have a fairly healthy sense of perspective about life and golf's place in it for me. Golf is my career. It is one of my passions. It is very important to me. It is NOT life and death by any means. It doesn't crack the top three of things that are most important to me in my life. Still, it hurts when it doesn't go well and my hard work doesn't produce the desired results.

My last tournament inflicted some pain. Playing at one of my favorite courses on tour (Innisbrook), I played really nicely. Despite being just fractionally off with my driver and having a few things go wrong, I was playing very solidly. I was one under par through 35 holes, and I piped my drive up the par-four ninth hole--my last on Friday. From there, I faced a very inviting shot. I had 148 yards to a back right flag from a great lie in the fairway. I wasn't trying to be too aggressive, but I was definitely trying to give myself a good birdie opportunity. I pushed my iron shot a little bit, but it was flying just right of the pin. Unfortunately, I had misjudged the wind and selected the wrong club. My ball flew past the hole and bounded off the back of the green. From there, I misplayed a pitch shot, hit my first putt too hard, and nervously stroked my three-and-a-half foot bogey putt right of the hole. At the time, it was a bit of a soul-crushing double-bogey. It dropped me from one shot inside of the cutline to missing the cut by one. It was painful.

For a couple days, I wasn't sure how to respond. I've always been good about being intentional with my response to adversity. I have always found something positive--some kind of silver lining that I can take and build from moving forward. This time I must admit that I felt pretty defeated for the days that immediately followed.

That feeling of pain has brought around some needed change, however. The first change was not of my choosing, but it is something about which I am excited. My caddie, Shane, called me on Tuesday evening and told me that he wants to split. I've never blamed Shane for my current slump, and, despite some differences in personality and communication style, I actually have really appreciated the work that he has done for me. It's sad to see our partnership end, but I think he's right that something fresh will be really good for both of us. I'm excited to move forward in that regard.

I don't have a long-term solution to my caddie vacancy yet, but I do know who will be caddying for me in my next event. I'm going to reunite the dream team that worked so well in 2015. Alicia will caddie for me in Houston! Regardless of what I decide to do long term, I am very excited to take the things that I have learned and work to build a caddie relationship that works best for me tactically, mentally, and emotionally. This change will be a positive step forward for me.

Another change that was inspired by the pain I experienced at Innisbrook is a new sense of ownership over the thoughts I'm thinking. I've been feeling tremendous weight bearing down on me lately, and I've been blaming the last 14 months of poor results for causing that weight. I've also been feeling like golf has been difficult and that I can't seem to catch a break. I've been blaming outside things for the feelings of pressure, anxiety, and disappointment I've been feeling. In reality, those feelings are thoughts, and they originate inside of my own head. What I think is a choice, and thinking right is a skill. I have not practiced this skill nearly as much as I've practiced my physical skills lately, and it's time to change that. I control what I think, and my thoughts control how I feel. I'm going to take control of what I think.

I think I'm a great golfer. I think I'm a winner. I think I can go play with freedom and trust.

I certainly know that this isn't the last time I'll ever face adversity or disappointment in golf. I also know that I have the skills, both physically and mentally, to deal with and overcome adversity. I am ready to practice and use those skills.

I'm excited to get after it! I've decided not to play in Puerto Rico this coming week so that I can have another week off to practice my skills and rest up for a big stretch of golf ahead. I'll tee it up in Houston March 30-April 2, and I'll be ready.

Thank you for following and believing in me. Great things are coming. Keep it here to enjoy the ride with me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lowest Score Wins

In nearly every conceivable way, I am better at golf today than I was when I won on the PGA Tour just 16 months ago. I’m a much better swinger of the golf club. I drive the ball more consistently. I’m a better ball-striker. My wedge play is better. I’m more skilled and more comfortable around the greens. I’m more mature. I’m more experienced. Overall, I am simply a better golfer now than I have ever been.

Yet my scores haven’t been good lately. I’ve struggled to post consistently good scores for quite a while. What’s more, my old penchant for getting hot and posting very low rounds hasn’t come around in quite some time.

So, what gives? How can a better golfer shoot higher scores? I have two answers. The first is simple and the second a bit more abstract.

First of all, I need to putt better. I haven’t felt great about the way I have putted for most of the last 14 months. I’ve been inconsistent, had poor pace, struggled inside of five feet, and, most notably, have not made putts in that mid-range distance (10ft-25ft) where I expect to differentiate myself from my competition. Deep down, I’m still very confident in my ability on the greens. I truly believe that putting is a great strength for me and that it will allow me to stand out on the PGA Tour for the next couple of decades. The key is letting that brilliance flow. To do it, I’m going to re-dedicate myself to practice techniques and drills that have worked for me in the past. Also, I’m going to focus on having fun on the greens and stop putting so much pressure on myself.

The second reason my scores haven’t been good is that I haven’t consistently allowed myself to play with freedom in a long time. I have let a prolonged stretch of sub-standard results weigh heavily on me. Each time I tee it up, I do so with a strong desire to “get it right this time.” This causes me to feel anxious and worried, and that is not a recipe for good golf. It is quite the vicious cycle, really. Struggles lead to a stronger and stronger desire to play well, and sometimes that very desire is the biggest challenge. (I told you this was going to be abstract.) It’s tough to nail down a solution to a problem so intangible, but I’m going to do it.

I think it was the late, great Arnold Palmer who once said “golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated.” I’ve been focusing lately on the endless complications. I’ve been trying so hard to do everything correctly. I’ve been trying to swing properly and make sure I’m strategizing properly. I’ve obsessed about trying to think the right thoughts at the right time. I’ve tried and tried and tried to get all the little details right. I think I’ve worked myself into a bit of an over-thinking nature and that is causing my tension.

So now, I’m ready to focus on the deceptively simple nature of my sport. At the end of the day, it’s no more complicated than this: lowest score wins. I’m going to go out and try to shoot the lowest score. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. It doesn’t matter what other people think. It doesn’t matter what’s on the line or who else is in the competition. Lowest score wins. I’m going to go shoot the lowest score.

Clearly, lots of little things go into producing the lowest score, and I’m not na├»ve to that fact. But here’s the thing: I’m ready. I’ve been working my butt off to have everything in place. It’s time to go play. It’s time to go shoot the lowest score.

I absolutely love what I do, and I’m really excited to keep doing it and start doing it with freedom more consistently. I’m just outside of Tampa Bay, Florida, this week at one of my favorite courses on Tour for the Valspar Championship. I’m going to have a lot of fun this week!

Thank you for following me and for your support. Keep it here for an update from the tournament.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Agonizingly Close at PGA National

A cold putter on Thursday and a driver that was just a fraction off on a difficult golf course on Friday cost me at the Honda Classic. I played beautiful golf for much of the tournament, but those two areas of weakness got me as I posted rounds of 70, 71 (+1, total) to finish tied for 71st place and miss the cut by a single player.

I was pretty devastated on Friday evening when the final verdict became official. I wasn't devastated simply because of the fact that I missed the cut or that I was so close to making it; rather, I was devastated because I truly believe I was in position to have a great weekend and a great finish in the tournament. When the day ended on Friday, I was ten shots behind the leader and just four shots behind 17th place. More importantly, I was playing some terrific golf. It was hard to swallow that I wouldn't get the chance to compete over the weekend.

Now, with a couple of days to process it, I'm able to realize how incredibly positive my performance was last week at PGA National. With thick rough, narrow fairways, and water in play on nearly every hole, the course was a strong challenge. But I was ready for it, and handled it really well.

In round one, I had one of my best ball-striking rounds I can ever remember. I drove it well, hit my irons very solidly, and was really never in any trouble at all around the course. I gave myself a lot of good birdie opportunities, but unfortunately converted very few of them. With a cold putter, I posted a two-birdie, two-bogey round on Thursday.

On Friday, I putted a better, and my iron play was again very solid, but my driver was just a fraction off. I never missed a fairway by more than a few steps, but I missed several by that narrow margin, and that was trouble. Three times in my round I ended up near the lip of a fairway bunker and couldn't advance my ball to the green. I made four bogies in Friday's round, and all were the result of a missed fairway that prevented me from hitting my second shot onto the green.

Despite the disappointing result, I really feel incredibly encouraged by the way I played. I really need to work on my putting and find the consistency on the greens that has helped me achieve the things I have in golf, but from a ball-striking perspective, I feel that I am better today than I have ever been. I need to continue to improve and become sharper and more consistent, but I know that I am moving in the right direction.

I have this week off to hone my skills at home, and I'm excited to have a great week of work. Next week the Tour visits one of my favorite stops at Innisbrook's Copperhead Golf Course for the Valspar Championship just outside of Tampa. I will be ready to go for that event.

Thank you for following me and for your support. Great things are coming, so please keep it here to enjoy the journey with me!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Focused on the Positives from Riviera

I'll start with the bad news from Riviera. I opened the tournament horribly with four bogies in the first seven holes despite perfect scoring conditions. Throughout the week I really struggled on the greens. My pace was very poor at times and I missed several short putts. For the tournament I had six or seven three-putts. On top of that, I lost my way with my swing a little bit over the final 16 holes of the tournament and hit a lot of poor shots. I ended the tournament with a tie for 64th place finish--a disappointing result.

That is the end of the bad news! I did a lot of things really well last week. I drove the ball beautifully for most of the week. I hit some of my best iron shots in a long time. I battled back from being four over par through the first seven holes of the tournament to get myself back into a position to fight for a good finish over the weekend. I played Riviera's signature hole, the drivable yet diabolical par-four tenth in 12 shots for the week. I twice laid up and hit beautiful wedge shots to the Ping-Pong table sized back section of the green and twice drove it perfectly to the fringe short and left of the green to set up easy up-and-down birdies. That was really good. I began my fourth round birdie-birdie and had the feeling like I was going to really play well. So many good things happened, and I feel great about them!

I've definitely been suffering from a bit of low golf self-esteem lately. My results have been poor for the past 13+ months and it has taken a bit of a toll on my confidence. I know that I've been working on the right things, though, and I know that I have made great progress in my practice. That means that I am ready to play well, and good tournament play is just around the corner. I'm ready to get back in the mix consistently. My play at Riviera showed signs of that.

Today is a travel day as Alicia and I head from the West Coast to the East Coast for the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. I'm excited to keep competing. Great things are coming. Thank you for following me, and please keep it here for an update from Florida!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Short Post to Catch Up

It has been two weeks since my last post. In that time, I enjoyed a great week of recharging away from tournament golf and then gave a really disappointing performance at one of my favorite venues.

I started with five days at home in Tennessee. I worked on a my game a little bit, had two fun and productive matches with my buddy Jonathon Hodge, and worked hard on my fitness during that time. Alicia and I then had the privilege of attending (and participating, in Alicia's case) in the wedding of two of our good friends in Atlanta. It was great to kick back and really enjoy a happy occasion with some great people. I probably didn't get as much golf work done as I should have during my week away from competition, but I did a lot of productive things and really rested up as well. It was great.

From the wedding in Atlanta, Alicia and I traveled to one of my favorite places in the world--Pebble Beach, CA. Despite ugly conditions including lots of rain, wind, and cold temperatures, I still really enjoyed being there. In the challenging conditions, I feel like I prepared fairly well for the event last week, and at times my performance reflected that. I had stretches of good golf in each of the first two rounds. My short game was on point for each round last week, and I had stretches where my ball-striking was good, too. Unfortunately I putted very poorly throughout the week and everything except my short-game abandoned me on Saturday. Because of the three-course rotation for the event, the cut is made after Saturday's third round rather than the traditional half-way point. I entered the third round feeling like I had a good chance to get back into the tournament. I was playing the most score-able course in the rotation on Saturday, and, I was feeling pretty good about the way I was trending. Sadly, I played really poorly in round three. I didn't drive it well, my iron play was poor, and I was atrocious with the putter. It all added up to a six-over-par round of 77 and it meant I didn't get to return to Pebble Beach for the final round on Sunday.

That's a sad story because I never want to miss an opportunity to play Pebble Beach! In addition to that, my performance on Saturday stung a little bit because it came out of nowhere. I really expected to play well. I'm going to respond to that disappointment in a strong way, though. Though I certainly haven't been lazy the last two weeks, I haven't been intentional about my preparation, either. I've been a little sloppy with my mental approach to my practice, and that has carried over to my mental game on the course. I'm going to be meticulous with both the structure and execution of my practice this week, and I'm going to have myself in the best possible state to take care of business in the tournament.

By the way, the tournament this week is the newly named Genesis Open (The Los Angeles Open) at Riviera Country Club. This is a great event on a storied course, and I'm excited for it. I'm going to prepare well and then compete with focus and freedom. It's going to be fun! Keep it here for an update from LA. Thank you for following me!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Positives from Torrey Pines

I don’t get to play this weekend at Torrey Pines. I did my best and feel really good about much of what I did this week in San Diego, but at the end of 36 holes, I had made a few too many mistakes and hadn’t putted well enough to get to be a part of the final two rounds.

On Thursday, I felt really good as I set out to tackle the famed beast that is the South Course. I knew the course would be extra demanding with soggy fairways and dense, wet rough, but I felt ready for it. Beginning on number 10, I hit great shots on my first two holes and started with two solid pars. On the long par-four 12th, I narrowly missed the fairway in the left rough and gouged my second shot out into the fairway some 60 yards short of the green. From there I was simply too aggressive with my wedge shot to a back pin. I flew it past the hole because I knew it would spin back on the soft greens, but it took one small hop and got all the way into the rough over the back of the green. I did my best from there to chip to 15 feet and two-putted for a double-bogey. I hadn’t really hit any terrible shots, but my mistake with the wedge was punished. I stumbled through the next two holes with a sloppy bogey on the par-five 13th and a three-putt bogey on 14, so I stood at four over par through five holes. I was rattled and disappointed, but still determined and confident. I missed only two greens the rest of the day—a strong accomplishment around that course—and played the next 13 hole in two under par to post a reasonable first-round score of 74 (+2). I was very pleased with my attitude and my performance after the tough start.
On Friday I moved to the North Course, which, despite a recent renovation to add length and change the green complexes, plays a bit easier than its neighbor. The winds picked up on Friday, however, so there was still plenty of challenge. I again put myself behind the eight-ball early. After two good swings and an opening par, I hit horrific pull-hooks off the next two par fours. Both found hazards and led to a double-bogey and a bogey, respectively, so I found myself three over par through four holes and in trouble for the second day in a row. I hit another lousy tee shot which led to a bogey on the sixth hole, but over my final twelve holes, I played beautiful golf from tee to green. I actually gave myself opportunities to get back in the tournament, but I couldn’t convert my birdie chances on the greens. I ended up fighting back for a one-over-par round of 73 on Friday, but my +3 total left me three shots out of a weekend tee time.

Despite the disappointing end result, I will take so much encouragement from this week. My iron play was very solid and at times exceptional this week. On the South Course on the Thursday, I hit a three hybrid 224 yards to seven feet on the par-three 16th and then hit a five iron 190 yards to three feet on the par-three 8th. On the back nine of the North Course on Friday, I nearly hit the hole on both par threes with a five iron and six iron. The five iron was from 204 yards downwind, and from the tee it looked for sure like it was going to go in. Another stat that speaks to how well I was hitting my approach shots is that despite both courses playing very long, I missed only one green in two days after driving it in the fairway. I am extremely encouraged by much of what I saw at Torrey Pines.
What do I need to do better? I need to eliminate big mistakes and putt more consistently. I missed ten fairways in two days, and that’s really not horrible around those two courses, but three times I missed the fairway wildly into situations where I either had to take a penalty shot or couldn’t reasonably advance my ball to the green. I need to clean up those misses. I also need to putt more like myself more often. Putting is a challenge on the soft poa annua greens of the South Course, but I was sloppy with my pace a few times and missed a couple of short putts that I expect to make. I also three-putted from 15 feet once on the North Course and failed to convert a number of make-able birdie putts as I tried to climb back into the tournament. I know I can clean up these two areas.

I hate to be traveling on a Saturday, but I am excited about our destination. We are heading HOME. The year is young and I am still incredibly excited about playing and competing, but three weeks on the road is enough to make me crave a few nights at home. I’m going to take next week off, and I’ll work on my game, continue to work on my fitness, rest up, and get ready to go on another three-week stretch.

I really do feel great about my game and the direction everything is heading. It's going to be a great year! Thank you for following and caring about me. Please keep it here to enjoy the ride with me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Feeling Strangely Prepared at Torrey

It has been a weird week in San Diego. It's been cold, rainy, and windy. I played a pro-am on the South Course at the Torrey Pines--the tournament's host venue--on Monday, but by the seventh hole of the day I had lost feeling in my hands, so I can't say that I got a lot out of that. I put in some nice practice on Tuesday and played nine holes on the North Course, which I will play on Friday in the tournament's second round, but again, I was just cold and a bit out of sorts most of that day as well. On Wednesday I felt a bit more normal, but I was an alternate for the pro-am and didn't get in, so rather than playing any holes, I just had a couple of nice practice sessions. So to be honest, I have hit very few good shots on a golf course this week. That's a little disconcerting, but I feel strangely at peace.

Though I haven't really gotten my game to click yet this week, I'm happy with the way I've been going about my practice. My swing drills have felt good, and I've also put in some quality time working on my putting. My short game has been sharp lately, too. Both courses at Torrey Pines require really solid ball-striking, but even more than that, they require determination and the ability to grind out tough pars. I think that's why I'm at peace. I feel ready to display both of those characteristics.

Though the mornings will be chilly, the forecast promises beautiful weather for the tournament. The golf courses are long and soft with thick rough, so there will be a nice juxtaposition between the views around me and the golf experience in front of me. The views will be peaceful, serene, beautiful, and soothing. The golf will be an intense challenge that requires focus and grit. I find beauty in that, too, though!

It's weird to say given that I've not hit many good shots in the last three days, but I'm very excited to take on Torrey Pines this week. I'm going to be patient and tough. I'm going to be focused. Most importantly, I'm going to have fun. I get started at 9:20 PST on the tenth tee of the South Course. Keep it here for an update from the tournament. Thank you for following me!