Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Big "Next" Step

I want to start by saying that I have just completed another great week of work. I finished my Full Fitness Routine and my Full Practice Schedule. I am feeling great physically and am very excited about the state of my game. Over the past three weeks, I have had the best practice that I can ever remember. My optimism and my motivation to keep improving continue to grow. I say it in every post, but I'm going to reiterate it here: I will be playing the best golf of my life when the New Year gets here. 

I have been talking about a lot of the things that I am doing this off-season to improve. The basis of my plan is, and will always be, a well-rounded and thorough practice routine. However, there is one major new thing that I am doing this off-season that I have not yet discussed. I am consulting with a new instructor in Orlando, Florida. 

Before I go farther, I need to take a minute to clarify some things. My long-time coach is Bobby "Bobbo" Bray, and he won't cease to be that. Bobbo and I go way back, and there is no way that I'd be where I am without him. He is a coach, mentor, and great friend to me. He is still the most genuine and generous human being I've ever met. He's also one heck of a golfer and a great coach. He and I will continue to work on my game together, and he'll be there when I win my first major!

I'm also lucky to have a brilliant golf-swing mind that lives 12 minutes from me in Knoxville, TN. Jake Reeves has helped me with my game and become a great friend. I'm thankful to have him in my court and will continue to learn from him. He and I are both going to play in the same PGA Championship here one year very soon! And if it comes down to the two of us for the title, he'll ball-strike the heck out of it, so you'd better believe I'm going have to make a big putt to beat him!

This offseason, though, I decided that I wanted to get some input from a new set of eyes. I spoke with several instructors around the country and found that I communicated the most comfortably with Mitchell Spearman. I have had three sessions with Mitchell, and we are working to eliminate some excess movement, solidify my leg action, and create an increased sense of connection between my arms and my body during my swing. Though changes can be hard, nothing that we have done has seemed like a daunting task. I am still in a stage of development where I am having to consciously think about my swing while hitting balls, but the results are already starting to show. As the changes to my motion become natural, I am confident that my swing will be more efficient and my ball-striking will be much more consistent. 

This is a big step for me. I will always rely on my attitude and my putting to be my greatest assets on the course, but in order to achieve my goal of being one of the best golfers in the world, I need to improve my ball-striking. My work with Mitchell Spearman is going to jump-start  that. 

Through this process, I am continuing to have balanced, complete-game practice. Though I have done something new to focus on my ball-striking, I am not neglecting the rest of my game. I believe that I will be hitting the ball better than I ever have here soon, but I'm determined to have all areas of my game reach new heights. 

This is exciting stuff. I am getting better, and I can feel it! 

As a side-note, Mitchell teaches at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando. I played the course last time I was down there. It's no wonder so many of the best players in the world live there. It's beautiful, in fantastic condition, and it tests absolutely every element of the game. 
Thank you for following and believing in me! Great stuff is coming. Keep it here for more reports from my off-season work. 
 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great Practice in FLA

The cold chased me from my beloved Home--a place that I like to be as much as possible in the offseason. I'm not afraid to bundle up and work through some cold hands, but single digit lows and windy highs in the twenties will drive me south. I traveled to Florida on Monday and will return to Tennessee after a good day of work on Friday. 

My practice has been fantastic. I am definitely working on a few things with my full-swring mechanics, but I feel like I am progressing in that area of my game. My short game, wedges, and putting, however, are feeling like they are in mid-season form. And I'm talking about the middle of a very good season when I say that! I feel like I am getting better and better with each session, too, so I'm confident that I will indeed be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to 2015. 

The Fitness and Practice Schedules that I laid out for myself a few weeks ago are really working well. They demand that I be focused and intentional with my time and also create a bit of a competitive-type of feeling in my work. I feel like everything I do is a small mission that is part of my larger mission. I need to stay focused and not get cocky, but I'm well on my way to completing a Full week in both my Fitness Routine and Practice Schedule again this week. 

I will be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015, and then it will keep getting better from there. I have Unfinished Business to resolve on the PGA Tour, so my first large mission is to get back there. I am going to do it. 

Keep it here for more news. I will report again from Home at the end of the weekend. Thank you for following and caring about me!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Competence Growing

I have had an absolutely fantastic week of work.

I am lucky to have spent time and become friends with a great sports psychologist at the University of Missouri. His name is Coach McGuire. He repeatedly told me during my college years, "Confidence is a choice." It took me years to understand that concept, but I have grown to truly believe it. The problem is that it can be a hard choice to make. Another statement that Coach McGuire says almost as frequently is, "Competence breeds confidence." At the end of the day, confidence is a choice, but advancing one's skill set makes choosing to feel confident easier. 

This off-season is all about increasing my competence as a golfer. I feel like I am doing that in a big way. I am proud of the week of work that I just finished. Despite a blast of very chilly weather, I executed a great plan this week and completed a Full Practice Schedue and Full Fitness Routine. I definitely had to be very focused and efficient during some practice sessions and had to endure really cold hands, too, but I stayed on task all week and did great work. Getting all of my drills and work done this week was a big accomplishment, and I can feel my competence growing. 

I have two cool stories from the past several days that I would like to share. On Wednesday evening, I was finishing up a great day of practice in some very chilly conditions, and I was ready to call it quits for the day. I realized that I hadn't hit any bunker shots, and decided that despite my nearly numbed-frozen hands, I should hit a few bunker shots before I left. I took five balls into a bunker and picked a short bunker shot. I told myself when I got three in a row inside a combined 12 feet (it was an easy bunker shot), I would be done for the day. I hit the first two shots to about a combined five feet and then holed the third ball. So, with that goal achieved, I turned to a more distant flag and thought I'd hit the other two balls to it. I holed the first one. I don't know that I have ever holed consecutive bunker shots before. Sure made me glad I stayed! Then on Sunday, I needed to complete just one putting drill and a couple minutes of wedge practice to complete a Full Practice Schedule for the week. The weather was rainy and quite cold, so after finishing my remaining practice requirements, I decided to leave the practice facilities and go play nine holes. I had played two full rounds earlier in the week, but something about this nine holes felt special to me. I played the back nine at Holston Hills, which is not a difficult golf course in good weather conditions, and I challenged myself to shoot under par. Given the wet and cold conditions, the course actually played fairly long, and I was extremely happy with pretty much all elements of my game. I made two birdies and one bogey.  35 on the back nine at Holston is nothing to write home about, but in those conditions, it was a good score. More importantly, it was a great baseline for my off-season improvement. 

The process is working. My competence is growing. It is already becoming an easier choice to feel confident. I will be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015. 

The Web.com Tour published the dates for its first two events of the 2015 season. I officially get to work on resolving my Unfinished Business the last week in January when the Web.com Tour kicks off the season in Panama City, Panama. I'll be ready. 

I'm having fun! I love the process of getting better. Thank you for caring and sharing the journey with me. I have more news and ways that I'm getting better to discuss. Keep it here!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Good Practice

I will be playing the best golf of my life when the New Year rolls around. This week has been great so far. After a quick morning practice, I took a beautiful Monday afternoon off to enjoy my East Tennessee home:
Any golf time that I may have missed, I have more than made up for the last two days. I enjoyed a morning round of golf at Holston Hills on Tuesday
and have had two full afternoons of practice the last two days. Despite a cold weather pattern arriving today, I am in great shape to finish a Full Practice Schedule this week. My game, my body, and my spirits are all feeling great! 

One of my strategies for having a great offseason is to spend time working on all areas of my game rather than focusing on my weaknesses only, which I have done in past winters. I am going to dedicate time to all disciplines of golf in practice and make sure I am playing some rounds as well. I think this well-rounded approach will have me ready to compete when January arrives.

I am definitely excited about the trajectory of my game right now. As I have said and will continue to say, my short stay on the PGA Tour has left me with Unfinished Business, and I am hungry to resolve it!

Keep it here for more updates. Thank you for following me! 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Track

My current mission is to execute an off-season plan and be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to 2015. The last seven days have been a good start. Prior to the start of this past week, I laid out my practice and workout schedule for November and December. I published that plan last Sunday and then got after it! I completed both my Full Practice Schedule and Full Fitness Routine in the first week (see previous post to learn what that means). My practice schedule requires me to have focused and efficient practice, and some of my drills even replicate tournament-like pressure, so it's a great feeling to get it all done. In addition to that, my physical training is definitely a notch or two more intense than it was during my season, and I am feeling great about that, too. One great week of work has me motivated for more, and I am excited to fulfill that mission and be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015. I'm going to do it.

January 1 is a seemingly arbitrary date in this case because my tournaments on the Web.com Tour won't actually start until February of next year, but I am going to be ready to compete again in January. I'm not yet sure what that is going to look like, but I'll keep you posted as that nears. For now, I'm going to keep following my plan and get my game sharp. My short stay on the PGA Tour has left me with Unfinished Business, and I intend to get back there and resolve it.  

Thank you for keeping up with me. I'll share more about specific things that I am doing to get better this off-season in posts this week. I've got good stuff. Keep it here for more updates!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Off-Season Go-Time

After spending the last five weeks following my beloved Kansas City Royals (see previous post!), I am ready to turn my focus back to golf. I intend to be playing the best golf of my life as the calendar turns to 2015, and I have a plan to make sure I will be. As usual, the plan begins with a solid practice routine. Starting this week, I will be holding myself accountable for completing weekly goals, and I am excited to have some focused work. Here is a look (I'm sorry if it's hard to read) at my preparation schedule for the next eight weeks:
This schedule is a great baseline for my off-season work. In addition to the drills listed here, I am also going to be doing some work on my swing mechanics, and I will keep you posted about everything going on in that realm, too. My ultimate goal for the next two months is to enter 2015 playing the best golf of my life, and I believe that I will do it. 

Thank you for following and caring about me. I really appreciate all of the support I receive. Keep it here for updates as I get better!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Unfinished Business

The last six weeks have been incredible. My rookie year on the PGA Tour officially ended unceremoniously, and I immediately began making plans for how I will get back there. I have great ideas and am even more motivated than ever, but I can proudly admit that that I have had a happy and healthy diversion from golf since late September. My favorite team in all of sports, the Kansas City Royals, has swept me off my feet this Fall, and I have so enjoyed their magical season. As a loyal fan of the long-struggling Royals, this run has been an absolute joy to watch, but it has also been inspirational from a professional standpoint. The way the Boys in Blue play baseball has me inspired to work harder than ever at my job so that I can write my own Cinderella story. 

I want to discuss my off-season plans and lay out some clear goals, but first, let me just share with you some of the joy that Alicia and I have experienced cheering for our Royals over the last several weeks. The Boys in Blue have given us four champagne celebrations. The first such celebration was on the third-to-last day of the regular season when they clinched a Wild Card birth and ended a playoff drought that began in 1986. Next came an unbelievable, win-or-go-home Wild Card game during which the Royals rallied from a deficit three different times on the way to winning in the 12th inning. From there, our boys travelled to Los Angeles to face the American League's top-seeded Angels. There, Kansas City gutted out two more extra innings victories. 

At that point, Alicia and I decided we needed to get to Kansas City in time for Game Three, and we were there when our Royals swept the star-laden Angels. 

From there, the Royals moved on to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) where they faced the Baltimore Orioles. Alicia and I returned home, but when our team opened the ALCS with a pair of wins in Baltimore, we got a call that my sponsor, MLB.com, would like us to be in KC for a golf outing during Games Three, Four, and Five of the series. Gladly we went, and we were there to see the Royals sweep the power-hitting Orioles and earn a birth in the World Series. We had some real fun with that, and got to meet a little Kansas City royalty, too. 
That is me with actor/comedian Paul Rudd and then Alicia and I with Royals owner David Glass.

With the Royals hosting Games One and Two of the World Series, there was no way we were going home this time. We were there as the Royals and the Giants split the first two contests at home. A convincing performance from our boys in Game Two made us joke that we should go out to San Francisco for Games Three, Four, and Five. In a matter of hours, our joke became reality as we decided a trip to the Bay Area to watch our team in the World Series would be a great anniversary gift to ourselves. So off we flew, and we were on hand for a Royals' victory in Game Three, two losses in Games Four and Five, and three great days of adventures in San Francisco.
As the Boys in Blue returned home facing elimination, both the team and the fans spoke confidently heading into Game Six. The Royals' starting pitcher for the contest was 23-year-old rookie fire-baller, Yordano Ventura. All he did was throw seven shut out innings! The offense exploded for ten runs, and the Royals dominated their first elimination game since the Wild Card. 

Then Game Seven happened. It was the best sporting event I have ever witnessed. The stadium was electric. The Royals played great. The Giants played better. Our team fell 3-2. Just minutes after the final out, heartbroken Kansas City fans serenaded the Royals with chants of "Let's Go Royals" that soon changed to "Thank You, Royals".
It was an amazing experience, and I am so thankful that Alicia and I were there for all of that. 

Alicia and I are both so thankful to be a part of the MLB.com family. It is a great relationship with great people, and they gave us the opportunity to witness the Royals' great run in person. 

So, how has that experience inspired me? In several ways, actually: first of all, the Royals are a team devoid of an individual "big-name" player. They simply work really hard and combine their individual strengths in a way that results in excellent team baseball. Similarly, no singular part of my golf game stands out as a superstar-level talent, but the combination of my skills and a steady work ethic can have me at the top of my sport just like the Royals. Secondly, the Boys in Blue just have fun playing baseball. Even as the regular season dwindled and they were fighting for that first postseason bid in three decades, the Royals seemed loose and confident. That relaxed attitude carried into and through the playoffs. The team continued to work hard, play hard, and especially have fun regardless of the situation. I definitely let the big stage of the PGA Tour get me a little bit out of my normal routine and attitude this year. I wasn't as disciplined with my preparation, and I was definitely trying too hard on the big stage. The combination of focus and lightheartedness shown by the Royals throughout the second half of the year and the postseason was a great example to me. The Royals showed that with a great attitude and a great work ethic, the underdog can win. 

Another thing that the Royals and I have in common is Unfinished Business. The Boys in Blue made it to the World Series but didn't win, and, similarly, I made it to the PGA Tour but didn't earn my right to stay there. I am confident that the Royals will get back to the World Series soon and give themselves another chance to win it all. I am also confident that I will get myself back on the PGA Tour and earn my right to stay there for many years. We are both going to take care of our Unfinished Business. 

As for my plan to do that, the general formula won't change. A solid plan plus a disciplined work ethic plus a great attitude will equal success. Right now I am working on the details of that plan, but by the end of this weekend, I'll have laid out a practice schedule and off-season goals. 

My Royals deserve a rest, but they have already given me mine. It's time to for me to get back to work! 

Thank you for caring about me and supporting my career. After a long hiatus from blogging, I plan to regularly document my off-season work on here. Keep it here to follow my progress as I seek to resolve my Unfinished Business!