2015 Goals

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good Three Weeks To Start 2016

Alicia and I are home for a week off right now. I'm hungry to play, so it was a hard decision to skip an event, but I must admit that it is nice to enjoy HOME. We returned to East Tennessee from a three-tournament stretch that included one good result and two disappointing outcomes, but I am feeling great about our start to the 2016 portion of the season. We will use this time at home to rest, build on the positive things from the first three events, and prepare for another fun stretch of tournamnents that will begin next week. 

The Sony Open in Hawaii did not exactly go according to plan. Coming off a great week with a good result at the Tournament of Champions, I entered the week of the Sony with high expectations. I actually had a very nice week of practice and work, but I was never sharp on the course. I drove the ball erratically and struggled with my putter. Still, despite feeling like I was struggling, I posted scores of 69, 67 on the first two days and went to the weekend in position to make a positive move. I struggled mightily early in my round on Saturday, and though I came back to play my final nine holes in two under par, I posted a third-round 72 (+2). I was tied for 79th place after Saturday's round, and because so many people had made the cut, I was not allowed to play on Sunday. The Tour calls that an "MDF," which stands for "Made Cut, Did Not Finish." I still get credit for a made cut, but it was disappointing to play poorly on Saturday and not have the opportunity to compete in the final round. Even though it didn't always show during the tournament, I still had a nice week at the Sony Open and feel like I continued to improve. 

From Hawaii we traveled to La Quinta, California, for the Career Builder Challenge. The Career Builder is the old Bop Hope Classic, and it is still a pro-am format where the first three days of competition take place over three different courses. I never felt like a played badly there in the California desert, but I made three costly mistakes and never got hot with the putter. I posted rounds of 68, 70, 70 for an eight-under-par total, but I finished the first three days tied for 71st. In other words, I missed the cut. I was extremely disappointed on Saturday afternoon because I felt like I was close to playing very good golf, and I really hated to not have a chance to go compete on Sunday. It's no fun to miss a cut, and I'm pretty sure I will always hate it, but nothing about my performance in the desert has me worried. I actually saw some bright moments with my driver during the event, and I know that I can clean up the costly errors I made. I wasn't far from playing well, and I'll get it clicking. 

When I look back on the first three tournaments of the calendar year, I am really encouraged. From an outcome standpoint, I played ten rounds and accumulated a total of 27 under par. That's not great given the golf courses that I played, but 2.7-under-par per round is certainly not a bad statistic to build on moving forward. More importantly, when I look back over my practice log from the last three weeks, I see that I am doing good work, and I know that my game will keep progressing. Two specific things on which I am working very hard are my driving accuracy and my bunker play, and I'm happy to report that I saw some great signs in both of those areas during the last tournament. (Shout out to caddie Shane for the help in the bunkers!) I am proud of the way that I work and prepare, and I am confident that I will continue to achieve great things because of that. My first three tournament weeks of 2016 were a great start in that regard. 

I'm excited to keep getting better. Having this week off will help me do that. I'm going to play a lot this year, and that is a privilege to which I am very much looking forward, but I know it is something I need to approach with a bit of caution. Shane had to talk me out of signing up for this week's event because I badly wanted to play. If I had, I would be starting the year with at least eight consecutive weeks of tournament play. I know I could handle that, but weeks off are valuable, and I have earned the right to pick my schedule. I am going to make this week valuable by charging up and being ready when Alicia and I travel to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday. 

Thank you for following me and believing in me. We are just getting started! Keep it here to enjoy the journey!

In case you missed it: Alicia and I hosted Inside the PGA Tour in Knoxville, and they did a nice job telling a little bit of our story. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2Nr2LgxKnE&feature=youtu.be

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Catching Up from Hawaii

I'll start with the present. I'm currently getting ready to go to bed at 8:15 pm on Wednesday evening in Honolulu because I have a 7:30 tee time on Thursday morning in the first round of the Sony Open. I have had two really good days of preparation here on the island of Oahu, and I am feeling great heading into the tournament. Waialae Country Club, the host of the Sony Open, is one of my favorite courses on Tour, and I am ready to have a great event here. 

In addition to two good days of preparation here at the Sony Open, I am also carrying the good vibes of a solid performance from last week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions into this tournament. After a six-week break from competition, I teed it up in the winners-only tournament last week in Maui with high expectations for myself in 2016. I had put in a lot of hard, focused, intelligent work over the off-season, and I was ready to let that shine against an elite field to start the year. I began the tournament in an unsettling fashion by bogeying the first two holes, but I recovered to post a two-under-par round of 71 in my first round of the year. I followed that with rounds of 66, 69, 69 for a 17-under-par total and a tied-for-sixth-place finish in the tournament. It was a solid score and a solid result with which to start the year, and both my performance and the result validated the effort that I put in over the offseason. 

Playing in the Tournament of Champions was a very cool experience and one that I would like to have each and every year for the next few decades. I won't lie; it was extremely fun and even a little intimidating to share such an intimate tournament with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, and other top players in the world. It was almost overwhelming, in fact, early in the week to look around at the players with whom I was sharing the practice facilities, but as the week wore on and the tournament began, I firmly grasped the facts that I had earned the right to be there and I belong in that company. What I cool feeling! And my play showed that I believe it. I truly believe that I belong in that tournament and among those players, and I'm ready to keep doing the work that will get me back there every January. 

I could tell several stories, golf and non-golf related, from the week in Maui, but I'll just mention some cool things in bullet-point format. 

-I saw sea turtles! I don't know anything about marine biology, but using my parent's snorkeling gear right off the beach in front of the hotel, I swam with sea turtles. 

-I shot -17 for four rounds without ever feeling like I putted as well as I can. 

-I got to see humpback whales breach from the golf course. 

-On the twelfth hole on Sunday, I hit a poor drive into the wind and it went into a bunker that was less that 250 yards to carry. When I got to the bunker, I couldn't even see my ball. It had plugged so deeply into the face of the sand that I had to remove some sand to identify my ball and then re-cover it. I was in a bad spot, but I swung hard and advanced my ball about six feet. From there, I faced a blind shot of about 180 yards into a strong wind from the first cut of rough. I hit a four iron into the sky ahead me. It ended up on the green about 25 feet from the hole, and I made that for par. It was one of the better pars of my life, and it helped me keep a solid round going on Sunday. 

My week in Maui was a great start to 2016. I'm really excited to keep following my plan and to continue improving, and I'm ready to have another good tournament in Hawaii at this week's Sony Open. 

Thank you for following me! Keep it here for another update later this week.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Hard-Work Phase of the Off-Season

In my last post, I said that the term "off-season" can be a little misleading when used to describe my time away from competition. I don't like to take much time off, but this month I have actually done a really nice job of adding rest and time away from the golf course into my routine. Alicia and I have relished some lazy mornings from time to time here in December, and we enjoyed severel great days of Christmas-ing with both of our families. So I guess I have had something of an off-season, and I have really appreciated it!

With that said, I've also been getting after my golf game pretty hard, too. I took the week of Thanksgiving completely off from golf and the gym but have been back at both with quite a bit of energy since then. 

If you follow my blog regularly, you may remember me writing at the beginning of this PGA Tour season about replacing my Goal Board and the idea of big Outcome Goals with a more process-oriented Plan Board. Here it is:
That Plan Board is guiding my work. My Performance Goals and Personal Goals don't need a lot of explanation. My performance goals are simply statistical benchmarks for which I will strive thoughout the season. I did well in many of those areas in my five events of the Fall Series, but I can definitely continue to improve in all of them. As it says on my Plan Board, I want to continuously "work towards" my Performance Goals. My Personal Goals are simply statements about the character with which I want to live my life on and off of the golf course. I feel like if I am working towards my Performance Goals and living out my Personal Goals, it puts me in a great position to be successful. 

The part of this board that might require some explanation--and the part that is specifically applicable to the conversation of hard work--is my Process Goals. My Process Goals define my preparation. So what do "Practice 20, 20, 10" and "Fitness 25, 20, 5" mean? Simple. I have created for myself a Full Week Practice Schedule, Light Week Practice Schedule, Full Week Fitness Routine, and Light Week Fitness Routine. These schedules and routines simply lay out the practice drills and workouts that I will do during a full or light week of work. So, back to the 20, 20, 10 and 25, 20, 5. The 2015-2016 PGA Tour season--from the Fry's.com Open back in October through the Tour Championship in late September--covers exactly 50 calendar weeks. During those 50 weeks, I will complete 20 weeks of Full Practice Schedue, 20 weeks of Light Practice Schedule, and 10 weeks off from practice. Similarly, I will complete 25 weeks of Full Fitness Routine, 20 weeks of Light Fitness Routine, and 5 weeks off from fitness activities. Having my Process Goals structured this way holds me accountable to following a strong plan but allows me to have flexibility and rest when I need it, too. My Process Goals are really the basis for my success in golf. My improvement starts with following my process, and steady improvement is the reason that I have and will continue to achieve the things I want.  

As for what is contained in my Practice Schedules and Fitness Routines, I will just say that both are made up of a challenging but realistic set of expectations that work all areas of my golf game and my body. Following the Practice Schedules I have set up makes my practice fun because I am always trying to achieve goals and complete a task. It makes my practice very focused and intentional.  Similarly, following my Fitness Routines gives me extra motivation to get my work done in the gym and be prepared physically to be the best that I can be on the course. 

In the four weeks since Thanksgiving, I have completed my Full Fitness Routine all four weeks and have completed two weeks of Light Practice and one week of Full Practice. That is some pretty good work for the "off-season," and I am feeling great.

In addition to that work towards my Process Goals, I have also put in some really good work on my golf swing. I feel like my mechanics are continuing to develop and my swing is becoming more repeatable, more efficient, and more effective. It is cool for me to see how much working towards my Process Goals helps to integrate new swing feelings into my game quickly. Because I am always doing drills that require me to achieve some result, I am forced to balance "swing practice" with actually hitting shots to specific targets. Practicing in this way has allowed me to work on my golf swing without losing the target-orientation that has always allowed me to play well. The bottom line is that as my swing improves, I am improving my golf game right along with it. Though it sounds counterintuitive, those two do not always happen together. In this way, working on my Process Goals is helping me with the work that I am doing on my swing, too. 

I couldn't be happier with the way that I am following my Plan Board this off-season. That is the hard-work phase. Now, for just a minute, I get to have a little extra fun and enter the dream-big phase of the off-season. But, before I do, I want to make one thing clear: My Plan Board has replaced my Goal Board. I'm not into Outcome Goals. I want to play well; I want to win tournaments; I want to have a long and successful career at the highest level of golf. Those things are obvious. I don't need to write them down. Instead, I need to follow a great plan so that I can make them all happen. I have the great plan in place, and I'm going to follow it. The dream-big phase isn't about writing down specific outcome goals. It's more fun than that. It is day-dreaming about possibilities that are very realistic for me if I stay committed to my plan. 

Here are the things I day-dream about: 

Qualifying for and contending in major championships.
Climbing towards the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Winning the Fed-Ex Cup.
Playing on Ryder and Presidents Cup teams. 

See? Wasn't that fun? Now, here's the coolest part: I can make all of those things happen. 

That is the end of the dream-big phase of the off-season. It's time to get back to following my plan. That is the thing that is written down. That is the formula for success. That is the thing that I can control. It will bring me the results that I want. And, most importantly, following my plan is pretty darn fun, too!

Thank you very much for following me and for your support. The off-season is nearly over, and I'll be back in action next week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Keep it here for more frequent reports as I get back into the tournament schedule. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Celebratory Phase of the Off-Season

As it applies to me, the term "off-season" might be a little misleading. I genuinely love to work at my profession. I made it a full seven days without practicing the week of Thanksgiving, but that felt like a very long time to me. I know the importance of rest, and I am certainly taking things fairly easy this month, but I love the process of getting better too much to spend much time away from golf. The off-season does offer an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the great things that happened over the past year, and we have certainly enjoyed doing some of that, but it is also the time to set the stage for an even better season moving forward. We have already celebrated, and I will continue enjoy some rest, but my focus is very clearly set on being prepared to reach new heights in 2016.

It is important to look back on 2015 and really celebrate all that I accomplished. After getting banged up from a confidence standpoint during my rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2014, I knew that I either needed to get better or find a different profession. I decided to do the former. I dedicated myself to a thorough plan that addressed all areas of my game during the long off-season preceding the start of the 2015 Web.com Tour schedule. I began the season with my sights set on returning to the PGA Tour, and I remember feeling confident. I won the fourth event of the Web.com Tour season, collected several other top-ten finishes, and finished the season number four on the money list. After the final event on the Web.com Tour, I had just one week off before the start of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season. My second year on the PGA Tour started with a missed cut, but despite that, I knew that I was ready to compete at the highest level this time around. Three weeks later I won the Sanderson Farms Championship for my first PGA Tour win, and I collected another top-ten the next week in Mexico. Clearly, from simply looking at the results, there is a lot to celebrate this off-season. The thing that I will remember the most, and of which I am most proud, however, is the fact that I bounced back from a low point at the end of the year in 2014 to achieve what I did in 2015. I know that with the right plan and a smart work-ethic, I can achieve great things in golf. That knowledge is worth celebrating. 

Alicia and I have done a couple of things to celebrate the great year that we have had. First, we took a trip with our agents to New York City to see the MLB.com offices and to visit with another possible partner in KIND Snacks. I had never been to NYC before, so the trip was a thrill for me just to see that crazy place, but to get to spend time with our friends from MLB was special. They were super excited for the success that we have had, and also, just like me, ready and expectant for more of it. Getting to see the corporate offices of KIND Snacks was really cool also. I have greatly admired that company since finding out about them earlier this year, and my admiration grows the more I learn. No relationship with them is official, but whether I represent them in any way or not, I will enjoy their products and share their passion for trying to make the world a KINDer place. 
The other thing that we did to celebrate our year was host a dinner to say "thank you" to all of our friends who have supported us and made it possible for us to live the lives that we do. It was a great night, and it was amazing to see all of the people who showed up to share their love for us. I'm so thankful to Alicia for planning the party and making it happen. 

It is important to celebrate, and we did so with those two incredibly fun and fulfilling events this off-season, but now my focus is on making sure we have the need for another celebration dinner next December. I have been working on my golf game since the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I am excited to say that I still feel like I am getting better. I have a three-day trip down to Florida scheduled for later this week so that I can get in some intense work, and I will continue to put in solid half-days of work here in Tennessee throughout this month. In my next post, I will describe what my practice and fitness goals are for this 2015-2016 PGA Tour season, but for now, just know that my off-season work is being guided by a focused plan. I am preparing to be better in 2016 than I was in 2015. That should make for a couple of fun celebrations next December. 

Thank you for following me and for your continued support. Keep it here for the next installment of my off-season series which will focus on my practice and fitness goals. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Great Look Back; Time to Move Forward

I have had a break from everything--even blogging, apparently--over the past six days. Since finishing the PGA Tour's Fall Series last week at Sea Island in Georgia, I have not done any serious golf-related activities. I know that time off is valuable, and I certainly won't go all-out over the next couple of weeks, but I am ready to get back to work. It was an amazing Fall Series for me and one definitely worthy of celebrating, but I still have much to accomplish and am ready to keep improving. 

I'll start with a quick recap of the last event. I played nicely at Sea Island, but unfortunately, my off-season started one day early. I made the cut, but hovered near the bottom of the leaderboard on Saturday and ended up getting MDF'd. "MDF" is short for made cut, did not finish. The MDF policy is enacted in events where more than 78 players make the cut. It exists to limit the field to a more managable size so that the everyone can finish within the television window. It didn't feel good to be sent home before the final round, but that end result was not indicative of the way I felt about my game. Playing in windy conditions, I had some of best ball-striking stats ever. I feel like I turned a corner with my driving of the golf ball, and my iron and wedge play were good as well. I hit a very high percentage of fairways and greens, and really had plenty of chances to get something good going, but I was just a little bit off on the putting surfaces. I never did a good job with my pace on the greens, and that made a big difference. I suffered a couple of very uncharacteristic three-putts during the week and never got into a good groove at all. I posted scores of 69, 71, 70 (-2, total) and missed the chance to play on Sunday by a single shot. It was disappointing to go home a day early, but it was nice just to make the cut feeling as "off" as I did on the greens. I'm not the least bit worried because I know that I will usually putt well, and if I continue to the hit the ball the way I did at Sea Island, I will be in contention a lot. Though the end result will show a tie for 75th place for me in the Fall's final event, I feel great about my game and the opportunities that exist heading into the 2016 portion of the schedule. 

Those opportunities changed just a little bit three weeks ago. Remember this:
That win changed a lot of things for me. Now, instead of wondering which events I will get into, I need to be pondering some different things, such as, which events will I choose to skip. To answer one of the most common questions I have recieved, my win did NOT earn an invitation to the 2016 Masters. What it did do, however, is put me into the fully exempt winner's category on the PGA Tour for the rest of this season and the next two full seasons as well. That means that I will get into all of the "regular" events and a lot of the special tournaments as well. To put it another way, when I was a rookie on Tour, I played every single event that I got into, and that totalled 18 tournaments. This season, I will have the opportunity to play in neary 40 events. That is really cool, and I love to play, so I may get fairly close to that number, but I obviously need to be smart about it. 

I am still really motivated, however. The fact that I have not yet secured an invitation to the 2016 Masters has me very hungry to win again soon. Plus, I really like this feeling:
The post-victory glow looks pretty good, too:
That first win was definitley unforgettable, but I am hungry to have that winning feeling again. I would like to make it a habit, actually!

The way to do that is with consistent, intelligent, focused preparation. That is why I am excited to get back to work. Rest is preparation, too, and I know that, so I am excited to combine all the hard-work elements of preparartion that I enjoy with some quality down time over the next five weeks. I will hit the ground running and ready to compete in 2016. That reminds me of one other opportunity that my win secured for me. I will be starting the 2016 tournament schedule at the Tournament of Champions in Maui the first week of January. That kind of makes me wonder what the post-victory glow would look like in Hawaii. I'm motivated to find out!

It has been a great journey to the milestone achievement that happened this Fall, but I'm still going to sign off with my traditional promise: great things are coming! I will post periodically on here during the off-season, so keep it here to see how I am getting better! Thank you for following and believing in me!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Good Week in Mexico; Still Getting Better

I posted two very solid rounds to finish the tournament in Mexico. After being outside the cut line with four holes to go on Friday, I finished that round with a couple birdies and then posted matching rounds of four under par (67) on Saturday and Sunday. Coming off the excitement of the previous week in Mississippi, I definitely felt a little bit strange early during the tournament in Mexico, but I was pleased with the way I stayed composed and played well over the weekend. My good play was rewarded with a sneaky, back-door top-ten finish. I finished in a seven-way tie for tenth place. It was a great week, and I'm very excited to keep it going.

The thing that excites me the most is that I am still improving. I was once again erratic off the tee at times in Mexico, but I hit some great tee shots on challenging driving holes down the stretch. My putter was not particularly "hot" during this tournament, but with the exception of a couple surprising misses early in the week, I was very solid from inside of eight feet, which is important. My iron play continued to be fairly solid, and my wedges and short game were a bright spot this week in Mexico. I am obviously playing well right now, and I feel like things will continue to get better as well. 

I was very interested to see what my mindset would be like on the course the week after a breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour. I knew that motivation to play well would be there because it always is for me, but I wasn't sure what I would feel like. I was predictably a little calmer than usual as the tournament began, but I actually got just as intense as ever as early struggles on Friday had me on the wrong side of the cut line. I got a little more anxious than I would like to be in the middle of the round on Friday, but I composed myself well enough to get the job done. Over the weekend, I was actually proud of the intensity I had. I may have gotten a little too into it in the middle of the round on Sunday, but I was definitely competing hard, and I stayed composed (that's my new word) and delivered a good performance down the stretch. One thing that I could tell for certain is that I am hungry to win again. That is a good feeling, and I'm confident that I will have a lot of chances to do just that.

Alicia and I are currently en route to Sea Island, GA, for the RSM Classic. This is the final event of the PGA Tour's Fall Series, so we are excited to put in one last solid week of work before we get a short break from competition over the holiday season. 

My focus is definitely on this week's event and being sharp for it, but I still want to do a post on here with some pictures and more information about my win two weeks ago. Keep an eye out for that in the next couple days!

Thank you very much for following me and for your support!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Feeling Good in Mexico

In many ways, this week has felt strange. Riding a high of excitement following last week's win, I arrived in Mexico late in the day on Tuesday. The late arrival and the exhaustion of trying to celebrate and decompress from last week left me in a great state of mind but not in a normal state of preparedness for this week's event. By noon on Wednesday, though, I told myself I wanted to get back to work and focus on doing my job. I played this course two years ago, so my lack of a practice round was certainly not detrimental. My intention was to be as prepared and hungry to play well this week as I had been in my first three tournaments of this young PGA Tour season. After a good tune up on Wednesday afternoon and another good practice session Thursday morning, I felt that I was in the moment and ready to go by my 12:10 tee time in the opening round. 

Of course, there was one big reminder that things are different in my life this week than they were at the start of the previous tournament. Rather than my typical tee time at the far back end of the wave with my fellow 2015 Web.com Tour graduates, I was in the front half of the wave playing with Matt Kuchar and Russel Knox. That is nice, but what was even nicer is the fact that I felt very much like I belonged there. It was definitely different, but the new tee time category felt good, and I am already used to it. 

I began the tournament with a par and a bogey on the first two holes, but I followed that with an incredibly solid fifteen holes in which I made five birdies and no bogies. I three-putted the 18th green on Thursday to end my opening round on a sour note, but the three-under-par 68 was a nice start to the tournament. I was less solid on Friday. I sprinkled in a really poor shot every few holes on Friday and my putter wasn't there to bail me out. I was two over par for my round and outside the cut-line with four holes to go, but I rallied with some good shots late. I birdied holes six and nine (my 15th and 18th on Friday) to post an even-par second round and advance to the weekend. I never got anything going on Saturday, but I played solidly and posted a five-birdie, one-bogey round of 67. I'm currently seven under par for the event and sitting in the middle of the field with a chance to make a very positive move on Sunday. 

I am definitely still beaming about my maiden victory on the PGA Tour last week in Mississippi, but I also know that win is just the beginning for me. I'm proud of the way I've been able to focus and do my job so far this week in Mexico. It'll take a Herculean effort to reach the top of the leaderboard this week, but I am excited to continue playing solidly. 

Thank you for following me and for your support. Please come back for a final-round report late Sunday or Monday.