Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bummer Ending; Great Golf

I executed almost perfectly today. I hit only two shots that did not follow the vision that I drew in my head. Unfortunately, the second of those two shots was a slightly hooked 3-wood off of the 17th tee which led to a double bogey which has left me one shot short of playing the weekend. I was six under par through 12 holes today, but unfortunately only posted a three-under-par 69, and my one-over-par total of 145 will not get to play the weekend.

Technically, I made the cut this week, but a questionable Egolf Tour rule says that if the cut falls in such a way that the total number of people making the cut is higher than 78, those tied at the bottom do not get to play the weekend and split last place money. This means that I will technically get credited with a made-cut, but don't get to play the last two rounds and will only win something like 70 bucks. The rule is very strange. I understand not wanting such a big field for the weekend, but telling me that I made the cut yet don't get to play is frustrating.

The blame for my frustrations, though, must fall on my cold putter of yesterday and inability to finish the good round I had going today. With that said, I played awesome golf today! I striped my tee shots all day, hit a lot of great iron and wedge shots, and really putted nicely. I played aggressively, but with a great deal of patience and intelligence. I had a chance to shoot a really good score today, but just didn't finish strong. I feel better about my game right now than I have all year.

Here is a cool story from my round today. After opening with two solid holes where I missed a pair of twenty foot birdie putts, I hit what looked like a perfect drive on the par-five 3rd hole. The hole is a dog leg right that requires a fade if I'm going to hit driver. I hit the exact shot for which the hole calls: a busted fade around the corner that should land on the left-to-right sloping fairway and roll in the direction of the hole. My ball however, decided to land on that left-to-right sloped fairway with cut spin and bounce LEFT! When I walked down the fairway, I found my ball just in the edge of a fairway bunker on the left side of the fairway. I was determined get the hole back for that bad break it gave me... and I did! I smoked a hybrid over the lip of the bunker 228 yards to about two feet and made eagle!

Even though I played the last six holes in three over par and will miss out on the chance to play the weekend by a single shot, I can honestly say that I still executed well all day. The bad swing I made on 17 that lead to my double bogey was not good, but other than that, I played great. My other bogey was actually the result of a misjudged yardage on a par three that left me dumbfounded when my ball bounced off the back of the green after flying right over the flag.

My game is definitely in good shape. It's not "close to good shape" as I've been saying for a while; it's there. I just need to get over the hump mentally, and I will be winning tournamentS soon. I get another chance next week on the Tarheel Tour!

I'll give more details and a practice report soon.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drat

Well, I guess that breakthrough round of the year is coming tomorrow. I really feet good about the way I played today, but I have nothing but a lousy 76 on a fairly easy golf course to show for it. That's not really true--I honestly do have a lot of good feelings to remember from the round I played today even though the end result is definitely a disappointment.

I was determined to play intelligently aggressive today on the short but tight layout at River Hills Country Club. I feel like I had a good game plan, and I executed that plan well more often than not. On the front nine, I hit most of the fairways and greens, but missed a couple of good birdie opportunities and made the turn at even-par. I then hit two perfect shots on the tenth hole--a short par-five with a pond fronting the green. I hit a long drive for me and then a perfect punch five iron onto the green about 12 feet from the hole. I hit my line perfectly on the eagle putt, but the ball slid just past the hole on the right. I tapped in for my birdie and proceeded to hit another great five iron on the par-three 11th. The shot ended up 15 feet directly behind the hole, and another good putt narrowly missed. All that to say that I was really feeling great moving to the 12th hole. I made a poor swing at my driver on the tee and watched it rattle around in the trees before ending up out of bounds in somebody's back yard. I still felt good moving forward from that, but just didn't get anything to go right the rest of the way. A few great shots were nullified by missed putts, and I just ran out of holes to get it turned around today.

The good news is I've got a full round to get it heading the right direction tomorrow. I know this sounds like a broken record, but I like the way I'm playing right now. I'm hitting the ball well and my wedge play is on the brink of being great. I definitely need to find that lovin' feeling with the putter, but I'm never more than a couple holed putts away from that happening.

I don't play until 1:20 in the afternoon tomorrow. I'm going to do some practicing this evening, and a little more of the same in the morning. I will also relax a little bit and be fully ready to go tomorrow afternoon. My game is good. My scores are going to show it! Check here for good news from round two!!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why'd Everyone Else Show Up? : )

I'm just south of Charlotte, North Carolina in a place called Lake Wylie, South Carolina for the sixth event of the year on the Tarheel Tour. The last two days I have played practice rounds at the Palisades Country Club and River Hills Country Club, and I am feeling great! I actually did not play overly well today at River Hills, but I feel absolutely great about my game. I feel like I'm going to win this week!

These two courses suit me well. Both require a great deal of accuracy and thought off of the tee. Hazards, woods, and (most often) someone's back porch lurk to the side of the fairway on most holes at each course. Neither course is very long, however, and a lot of holes don't require or even allow me to use my driver. Anyone who plays smart, accurate tee shots will be rewarded with a lot of wedges and short irons into the undulating greens at both courses. The greens are severely sloped, but smart placement of iron and wedge shots will leave a lot of makable putts for birdies.

I'm playing well. I'm having fun. As long as I stay relaxed and enjoy myself tomorrow, I'm going to set myself up for a great week. Stay tuned for updates!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Therapy at Callaway Gardens

Since my almost-breakthrough round of the year at the Monday Qualifier for the Nationwide Tour earlier this week, I have been at Callaway Gardens and have played and average of 36 holes a day with my friend Mike Van Sickle. I must send a big thank you to my friends at Callaway who continue to feed me, house me, and and give me a great place to play and practice. Spending all that time on the golf course playing and competing with Mike has been SOOO good for my game. My ball-striking and wedge play have both been very very good. My putting has still been a little suspect, but I'm as certain as ever that I'm heading in the right direction in that respect, too. I cannot wait to tee it up in competition again, and I don't have to wait long!

I tried to get into the Monday Qualifier for the Nationwide Tour event this coming week in Athens, GA, but when I attempted to sign up, I was told that I could only be placed on a waiting list as the qualifier had already been filled. I decided that I would instead focus on the Tarheel Tour event that is just south of Charlotte, NC, this week. I really feel like I'm ready to win one of these things! I know that's a lofty expectation given my lackluster results so far, but I really feel like I'm ready!

I'll head up to Charlotte tomorrow morning to play a practice round at a place called the Palisades and will play another practice round at River Hills Country Club on Tuesday. River Hills is the main course for next week's event.

This week at Callaway Gardens has been so good for me. I'm ready to go have some fun and kick some butt next week!

Monday, April 19, 2010

So Close to Good

I was the most comfortable I have been all year on the course today. Playing in my first Monday Qualifier of the year, I started well, went on a lousy three-hole stretch mid-round, and then played the back nine in four-under par to shoot 68 and come oh so close to having my first ever start in a PGA Tour sanctioned event. It looks like the 67s will playoff for the last qualifying positions.

Glen Arven Country Club, where my qualifying round was played, is a short course that offers a lot of birdie opportunities. A lot of doglegs combined with very small, raised greens do give the course a lot of character, but I knew going into the day that I needed to shoot a very good score.

I got off to a good start. Solid driving and good short iron play had me two-under par through six despite missing a couple of makable birdie putts. On the seventh hole, I tried to force a driver up into a narrow area in hopes of reaching the par-five green in two, but a slight tug left my ball bouncing into a creek up the left side. I failed to get up and down from 70 yards for par. Two holes later, after a decent seven iron to 25 feet on the par-three ninth, I disappointingly three-putted to send my front-nine total back to even par. I was determined to stay committed to my routine and make some birdies and I did just that on the back nine. More good driving of the ball and some really good wedge play were the main contributing factors in my back-nine 32. I had a good chance to get one more birdie on the par-five 18th, but my three wood, which I absolutely smoked from 245 up a steep hill, found its way onto the back lip of green-side bunker. I was left with a difficult up and down and failed to convert.

I'm disappointed to have missed out on my goal of qualifying for this week's Nationwide Tour event, but I sure do feel good about the way I played on the back nine. I drove the ball beautifully at times and was able to shape it both ways on command. I saw some good iron play and some really good wedge play today, though I still hit a couple of really poor wedge shots. I still don't love the way I'm putting the ball. I feel great about my putting in practice, but I just seem unsure of myself on the greens right now. I know the things that I'm working on in my putting are good, so I'm excited for the day that it starts to feel right on the course. I'm certain that that day is coming soon.

My game is coming around. I really do feel like I'm ready to play well in a tournament. I'm not sure whether my next event will be the Monday Qualifier for next week's Nationwide event in Athens, GA, or the Tarheel Tour event which begins a week from Wednesday in Charlotte, NC. Either way, I will be ready to play and play well!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Excited for a Monday?? What a Great Job!

I should be in bed because I have to be up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to continue my journey to southern Georgia for my first Monday Qualifier of the year on the Nationwide Tour. I'm excited. It's been a great week of practice, and I'm feeling ready to go! The course I'm playing in the Monday Qualifier is called Glen Arven Country Club. I'm playing a practice round there tomorrow and will tee it up at 9:10 on Monday morning for the qualifier. Then, the Nationwide Tour event itself is at a golf course called Kinderlou Forrest. I'm excited to play well on Monday and get in the event!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Improving

On Sunday, I traveled and then took the afternoon off to watch the final round of the Masters. What good golf we got to see! The things that struck me the most were not the crazy hole-outs, but rather the way that Phil was able to get the ball up-and-down every time his crazy driver caused him to miss a green and the ease with which Anthony Kim and others rolled in 25-footer after 25-footer. I went to bed on Sunday determined to get better on and around the greens this week.

Of course, I don't want to ignore my ball-striking either. Some wayward drives contributed to my struggles over the final three rounds last week, so I am determined to tighten my misses with the driver. So far this week, I feel like I have made great progress in that area of my game. I'm continuing to keep my full-swing thoughts as simple as possible. All I have been thinking about is having good alignment and really good rhythm in the transition from backswing to downswing. I have been absolutely striping the tee ball! I think sometimes in tournament play when I'm not perfectly comfortable, I rush the transition in my swing, and it leads to some wayward shots. The simple thought, "rhythm," over each shot seems to be very effective for me. I'm excited about the way I've been driving the ball this week.

I have also felt great putting the ball of late. I have spent a lot of time on the putting green using tees in the ground as a guide to ensure that my putter is staying on a good path. I had been "hooking" some putts because I was taking the putter back to the inside and shutting the face, but I have eliminated this move and am starting to get comfortable with my new and improved putting stroke. The results have been dramatic. The ball is rolling truer and I am hitting my lines much more consistently. I've been knocking my three-footer drill out with ease this week!

My wedge play is still holding me back a little bit. I'm pretty sure that my hands and arms are a little too involved in my wedge shots right now, but I'm struggling to fix the error. Tomorrow (Thursday) morning, my coach, Bobbo, and I are going to go out on the course with a handful of balls so that he can watch me hit a bunch of different types of wedge shots. I'm hopeful that his insight will expedite my improvement. Wedge play is one of the strengths of my game, so I know that the talent to succeed is inside me, I'm just hoping to tap into again sooner than later.

Another bit of exciting news is that I changed my grips today. I had changed them just a couple of months ago, but the grips that I had put on must have sat in someone's basement for years, because they were dry, hard, and slick within days after I put them on. Now I have good, tacky grips on all my clubs, and I'm feeling ready to go.

I've got a couple more days in Tennessee before I will start the trip down to Valdosta, Georgia, for my first Nationwide Tour Monday Qaulifier of the year next Monday. I really do think I'm close to playing great golf. Next Monday could be my breakthrough round of the year! Keep it here for another practice report before then.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yuck Today... Yay Tomorrow!

Well, I played lousy in my first "final round" on the Tarheel Tour. I was birdie-less, and hit a lot of putts on my way to a rather miserable 79. From the get-go, it just seemed like things weren't going to go well for me. For the first seven holes, I made just one bad swing--a 30-yard block onto someone's porch off of the 11th (my 2nd) tee--but was three-over-par. I guess a few bad breaks and missed birdie putts from close range discouraged me because my game went south quickly after those opening seven holes. I struggled to hit the ball solidly and putted very poorly. All-in-all, it was just bad golf on the weekend. After making my first cut, I beat only one person and finished T74th. Bad golf. Bad finish. Bad paycheck.

With that said, what an encouraging thing to have earned a paycheck for the first time in a while! Sure, it was not enough to recover even my entry fee for the event, but it definitely was a step in the right direction. I played some really good golf in round one and had some really good stretches in the second round. I know that I have it in me to be successful out here. I'm just not quite firing on all cylinders YET.

After the round today, my very gracious host for the week wanted to play a little golf. He asked if I'd like to join him on one of the other courses here at St. James Plantation. We hopped in a golf cart and played 18 holes in two hours, and I played so well. Without a care in the world, I shaped shots left and right like an artist and hit wedges perfectly just eyeing the yardages. It was great and fun. Despite continued woes with the putter, I shot an effortless 69 this afternoon with my host. It was a gentle pat-on-the-back reminder that I am very close to where I want to be.

I definitely need to sharpen all aspects of my game. I have to drive the ball better, and I have to find that lovin' feelin' with the putter. Perhaps most importantly, I need to find that fine line between relaxed and careless and learn to walk on it when I'm playing golf. I truly don't think I'm far from being back on top of my game. I'm going to get better at all three of those things this coming week.

After much deliberation, I signed up for the Monday Qualifier for the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic which will take place a week from this coming Monday in Valdosta, GA. My game is not where I want it to be right now, but I know that in an 18-hole qualifier, I can get it done. I feel like a week from now I will have my game in a position where I am ready to do just that!

I'm heading home tomorrow and will start a week of really good practice. Check back here for a couple of practice reports leading into my first Monday Qualifier of 2010.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Disappointing Day 3

I didn't play very well in the third round. My good friend and former first-team All-American Mike Van Sickle caddied for me (after he had a frustrating start in his first Tarheel Tour event), but I just couldn't turn the helpful companionship into anything positive on the course. A few good shots here and there were the exception on a day when I felt for the most part uncomfortable and out of sync. Everything from my driving to my putting was just off, though I did hit a few nice pitch shots about which I feel really good. The end result was a disappointing 77 that moved me backwards a little bit in the field.

I tee off at 9:30 tomorrow morning for the final round, and could really use a nice move forward. I'm definitely excited to be playing in a final round, but I really believe that my game should have me in a position to be competing for wins. That is obviously not the case just yet, but I'm confident that good things are coming, and I think I am going to start a trend in that direction with a great round tomorrow.

The plan will be the same as it has been: commit to every shot, trust myself, and have fun! I failed to commit to a lot of shots today, and it definitely cost me. I'm going to execute my plan tomorrow, and I believe that good results will follow!!

I'll give you an update tomorrow about the final round and talk about some things that are coming up next, so come back here for more info!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bad Golf, Good Fight in Round 2

I didn't play very well in the second round. The Reserve Course at St. James Plantation bit me in the butt a little bit. I drove it into a lot of trouble a few times, hit some lousy iron shots and misjudged a putt or two, but I battled hard all day and managed to shoot a 76 in slightly blustery and difficult conditions. This left me at +4 for the tournament and safely below the +5 cut line. So I will be playing a weekend for the first time this year on the Tarheel Tour. I'm excited for that, and glad that my game is continuing to feel better each week.

My round today was weird. I started solidly, hitting the first three fairways and playing the first four holes in one-under-par. Then I snarf-hooked a drive into a hazard on the fifth hole and made a double bogey. A few holes later a similar shot with a three wood off the tee led to another penalty drop and a bogey. A poor wedge on nine and another hooked drive on ten led to two more bogeys and had me at three-over-par for the day. I composed myself on the the 11th tee and was determined to get control of my round. Three perfect shots on the 11th led to a birdie, and then my putter went to work saving pars for me in blustery conditions on each of the next four holes. I bogeyed two of my last three to shoot 76, but the two bogeys were more the result of misjudged wind than anything else. I'm proud of the way I was able to salvage a decent round when it seemed to be getting away from me there in the middle of the day.

I'm currently at +4 and tied for 51st. The leader is at -7, but only ten players managed to better par for the first 36 holes. I tee off on the the 10th hole at the Founders Club at 9:20 tomorrow for my third round, and I feel like I'm going to make a positive move! I'm going to commit to every shot, trust my game, and have fun tomorrow!! I think that will result in a good score!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Solid Round 1

I played well in the first round of this week's event. The Founders Club at St. James Plantation was playing difficult as the small and undulating greens were quite firm and the wind was blowing fairly hard all day. I did not do anything extremely well, but I hit fifteen greens (if you let me count two fringes) and I shot a nice round of even-par 72. There are only two shots on which I really wish I could have had a do-over in round 1. I missed a three-and-a-half foot putt on the fifth hole (my 14th) and on the eighth hole (my 17th), I got in front of a three wood and hit a weak, thin spinner to the right that rode the wind all the way out of bounds. These two errors cost me three shots, but other than that I really did play nicely. I didn't make any birdie putts, but I rolled the ball nicely and felt like I was very close to playing a great round today!

Tomorrow I play the Reserve Course at 12:50. The Reserve is slightly longer than the Founders Club, but is much more forgiving on and around the greens. With that said, it is still a strong test. It requires great accuracy off of the tee, and while the greens are bigger and have less sporadic humps and bumps than those at Founders, severe slopes still add difficulty to all short-game shots. There is a lot of wind in the forecast as well. It will definitely be another very challenging day. I'm up for the challenge, though! My game is good and my attitude is great! I'm ready to go out and play another solid round, and tomorrow I'm going to make some of the birdie putts!!

Check back here for updates!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hard Courses, Good Golf, Loving It!

I'm at a place called St. James Plantation in North Carolina playing the Reserve Course and the Founders Club. Both courses are great and hard! The Founders Club is the host course for the event, and I will play my first round on it tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8:40. The Founders Club is absolutely demanding. There is trouble off of the tee, a lot of hazards all around the course, and the most undulating greens and green surrounds that I have ever seen. The course requires accuracy, precise distance control, and great touch around the greens. I'm not firing on all cylinders by any means, but I feel amazingly comfortable and relaxed.

I'm going to have fun tomorrow! I'm going to commit to every single shot! I'm going to play well!

Check back here for a report from round one and information about the Reserve Course where I will play my second round.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Change and Progress

I've had a great and productive week off from competition. My time at Callaway Gardens was good as I got to play both of the golf courses down there and get in some quality practice while also relaxing with some great friends. Then, in the past three days at home, I've been able to have very productive practices at two of my home facilities and spend some time with my long-time instructor Bobbo while mixing in a lot of good time with my family and my girlfriend, Alicia. The past week has me feeling better both physically and mentally, and I'm as hungry as ever to get back to competition.

The first day I was home, I made the biggest change to my putting that I have made in quite some time. I have always tried to be as "un-mechanical" as possible with my putting stroke, but for some reason, my stroke had become very inside-out, and I was actually hitting my putts from inside the line with a closed putter-face. This is not an easily repeatable way to hit putts. I have known about this problem for the better part of the last two months, but have not known how to fix it. With one look, Bobbo saw that my right hand had worked its way too far under the grip and was becoming very involved in my takaway. Though I felt like my shoulders were controlling the stroke, the position of my right hand was allowing it to be way too involved in my putting motion. So I took the "fat" grip off of my putter and put on a standard diameter one and have gotten my right hand back on top of the grip. The results feel great. I'm hitting putts much more solidy and hitting my line with greater consistency. It's still a new feeling for sure, but a lot of practice this week has it feeling good already. I'm pumped about the change and know that it is going to be a good one for me!

I've continued to try and keep my thoughts simple with the rest of my game. I'm still not hitting it perfectly, but I love the way I feel when I'm playing right now! I need to get better with my wedges. My wedge play and chipping have been average to below-average all year, and that needs to change. I'm confident that that, too, is moving in the right direction.

I'm leaving tomorrow evening to start the trip out to Southport, North Carolina, for next week's Tarheel Tour event at St. James Plantation. The event starts Wednesday. I have found a member at the club who has volunteered to host me, and I'm excited about that. Come to think of it, I'm just all-around excited for the coming week! I feel good, my game feels good, and I feel like good things are coming my way!

Check back here for practice-round reports and to hear about the golf courses this week!

Catching Up on a Positive Last Month

I've been too busy playing golf tournaments and working on my game to update my blog! That's really not true, but I have been keepin...