Monday, February 28, 2011

Great Days of Practice/Starting the Journey to Morocco

Last week as a very solid one for me in terms of my practicing. Things didn't always come easily for me, but I worked through a couple of rough practice sessions to end the week feeling as sharp as I have all year. My ball-striking steadily improved with my new clubs all week, and I feel that the new clubs are really going to help me be a more consistent golfer. I also made great strides with my putting and wedge game. After an early-week struggle with the putter hindered my progress toward my weekly process goals, a thursday putting session with some help from Bobbo put me on the right track and I breezed through all my putting drills easily by Sunday afternoon. I had a great week of practice with my new wedges, also, and, as I checked off the last of my goals for the week by completing my final proximity drill on Sunday evening, I smiled because I can tell that my commitment to the process of improving is going to get me to the outcome goals that I want for the year. From my fitness level to my putting and everything in between, I feel like I am firing on all cylinders right now, so I am extremely excited moving forward.

Today was an interesting start to this week. I had planned to work out early and then practice in the morning before heading home to pack and hit the road for Georgia and Callaway Gardens before my Wednesday flight out of Atlanta starts my journey to Morocco. Everything went perfectly through the morning part of the plan as I had a great work out and a very productive three-hour practice before heading home. Storms were in the afternoon forecast, so my plan was to pack during the storms and then drive once they had passed. All was on schedule until the storm decided to dump three inches of rain on our house in just more than one hour and flood our basement. My Mom and I must have carried 300 gallons of water out the basement one five-gallon bucket-full at a time. That is obviously no good, but through a good family effort (dad was home in plenty of time to help us), we managed to keep everything dry enough to be salvageable. It wasn't what I had planned, but it turned into a very productive and interestingly fun day.

The basement clean-up did delay my departure considerably, however. All is well, though, and I am currently spending the night in Cartersville, GA, where I will get to be "Uncle Pete" tomorrow at breakfast to my almost-4-year-old nephew and 2-year-old and 6-month-old nieces. That'll be great fun! Then I'll head down to Callaway Gardens for an almost-full day of practice before taking a shuttle up to the Atlanta airport on Wednesday morning to start the trip over to Morocco.

I am really excited right now about my life, my golf game, and my upcoming trip to Morocco. I know that I will play well over there because I am well-prepared physically and mentally. I'll try to jot another post on here before I leave the States on Wednesday, and will definitely be doing a good job of keeping the blog updated from Morocco. Come back often for progress reports, tournament updates, and maybe even some cool pictures from Morocco. Thank you for following!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Concerns About Morocco

I must admit that I do not do an adequate job staying current with what is going on in the world, but I certainly have noticed that there is a lot of political unrest and violence taking place in Northern Africa right now. I am set to fly to Morocco this coming Wednesday for a two week stay that will include two Egolf Tour events in the Moroccan cities of Marrakesh and El Jadida. The trip is sure to be both a great time and a fantastic learning experience for the global travel that occasionally exists at golf's highest levels. With that said, however, I want to ensure everyone that I will not even consider sacrificing my safety for any amount of fun or great experience. I have been monitoring the United States Department of State's reports and have found no warnings about Morocco. Seeking further comfort, I spoke with the Chief Operations Officer of the Egolf Tour this morning and asked about the information they have sought in order to deem our two week trip to Morocco safe. He relayed to me that the Egolf Tour has been in daily contact with the U.S. Embassy in Morocco and with a United States Army General based there since violence first erupted weeks ago in Egypt. The Tour has been continually assured by both parties that we will have no disruptions during our stay in Morocco. Watching the news certainly can cause some apprehension right now, but I am doing my research and really trust that the administrators of the Egolf Tour will not go through with the trip if any danger exists. As of right now, I feel that I can safely travel to Morocco and compete in the two Egolf events there. I will continue to monitor the situation in the coming days and will re-evaluate my decision before leaving on Wednesday.

All travel concerns aside, I am very excited to compete again. I have had a difficult but good week of practice. I haven't always looked as sharp as I would like, but I have fought through some frustrating stretches of practice and feel like my game is continuing to round into very solid form. Check back here soon for more of golf-centered update about my week of practice and my feelings moving forward. Plus, how have I done on my process goals so far this week? Come back to find the answer! (Suspenseful, huh?)

Thank you for following me, supporting me, and encouraging me! I appreciate the concern that some of you have expressed about my trip to Morocco. Please let me know if you have any further thoughts or fears about the matter.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Got the New Clubs!

All of my new clubs for which I have been fit have arrived with the exception of the three wood (or "mini-driver," as Miss Alicia calls it). My new irons are going to be absolutely great, but are requiring an adjustment period because I have been manipulating my swing to hit my old, poorly fit irons well. I'm already starting to to feel comfortable with the new irons, though, and can tell that they will definitely make hitting consistently good shots much easier for me. My new driver is not requiring very much "getting used to" at all. I have really hit it well from the beginning and can tell that my ball flight is much tighter with it. I haven't hit the new hybrid very much yet, but I know that I am going to like it, too. My new wedges also have me excited. I have been working a lot on my distance control this week, and I can already tell that the yardage gaps between my wedges is going to be very manageable and that I am going to be very very good from 125 yards and in. I am very thrilled to have almost all of my new stuff, and I know that with just a few more days of practice, I will be ready to go win with it in Morocco.

I need to have a good few days of practice the rest of this week. The last couple days I have seen inconsistent results from both my ball-striking and my short game, but there have been plenty of highlights to remind me that I still have things going in the right direction. With my new clubs in the bag, I'll try to sharpen all areas of my game and eliminate some of the poor shots that still creep in from time to time. I will get in some work with Bobbo tomorrow and will do a lot of short game, putting and wedge play work on my own. I already feel like I'm playing very well, but I really believe I'm just a few good practice sessions away from being able to dominate my upcoming tournaments.

Come back here for another update on how the clubs are working and a practice report in the next couple days. Also, I will give some more information about my fast-approaching trip to Morocco!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Evaluation of Tournament Week #1 + A Look Ahead

As I said in yesterday's post, I feel incredibly positive about my game, my attitude, and the year that waits ahead of me after my first tournament this week. I learned a lot from the Egolf event at Palmetto Hall and know some things that I definitely need to practice as I move forward. I have nine days on American soil to practice and prepare myself for my next events--two Egolf Tour events in the country of Morocco, which is on the northwest corner of Africa. I'm very excited about the opportunity to be taking my game abroad, but even more excited to simply go out and compete for my first win of the year. I believe that I am more than ready to win at the mini-tour level, but I have to take care of business and make sure that I am firing on all cylinders next time I tee it up in competition.

When I look back on my first tournament, the first thing that stands out to me is the fact that I hit more than enough good shots to win the tournament. For the 72-hole event, I totaled 18 birdies and 1 eagle on two golf courses that are very demanding. The problem this week was that I also made 4 double-bogeys and 1 triple-bogey. I hit a lot of very good golf shots, but clearly I also hit a few very bad shots. A few of the troubling scores can be blamed on my putter, which turned cold in stretches over the final two rounds, but for the most part, I made the big numbers due to a particularly bad golf shot here or there. There is an old cliche that claims, "Golf is a game of misses." That statement is very true because no matter how I am hitting the ball, poor shots are inevitable, but in order to be competitive, I have to be able to play my misses. This week I hit a few shots into places from which recovery was simply impossible. I'm not terribly worried about it because I know that my game will sharpen with a few more tournaments rounds under my belt, but I am going to work hard to tighten my misses in the next week. When I eliminate the big numbers, I will be that much closer to the top of the leaderboard.

Another thing that jumps out at me from my first tournament is my low production on the par fives. I played 16 par fives for the week and was only two under par on them. The par fives at Palmetto Hall are not very easy, but I had the ability to either reach the green in two or lay up to a favorable wedge-shot yardage on each of them. To play them only two under for the week is giving many shots back to the field. After thinking back on my par-five play for the week, it is clear to me that my decision-making was quite good but my execution with my wedges and my putter was not good enough to achieve the results that I expect. I know that as I continue to work particularly hard on those two areas of my game, my par-five scoring average will plummet. My mindset is to attack and dominate the par fives, and I believe that I will do so moving forward.

I have to admit that my work towards my weekly process goals took a hit this week. I was struggling to complete some of putting drills, and I let short, insufficient wedge practice sessions be the norm for the week. I hid behind the excuse that "I was doing the things I needed to do in order to be successful in the tournament," but I clearly was not because my putting failed me at times in the final two rounds and my wedge play was not quite as sharp as I needed it to be throughout the week. I did achieve my fitness goals for the week, but only because I got up and pulled a "two-a-day" workout this morning. I think that my tournament-week process goals are very realistic and something to which I need to hold myself accountable in the future. I am going to give myself a pass for this past week and chalk it up as a learning experience, but I now know that I need a strong focus on the processes of getting better in order to achieve the outcomes I am looking for in my tournament play. I am going to start with a clean slate tomorrow, but I will be committed to my tournament-week and non-competition-week process goals moving forward.

Now I want to brag on myself for a minute. My attitude was fantastic this week. I got a little bit down in the third round when I missed six putts from inside of five feet, but I never got discouraged or stopped believing in myself. I was four over par through the first four holes of the tournament, and I came back to not only make the cut but actually be in contention on the weekend. Of course, a great attitude facilitated my comeback from the rough start, but it was good execution that actually made it happen. I drove the ball beautifully nine times out of ten this week, and from 10 to 20 feet on the greens, I rolled the ball as well as I can ever remember. I was creative around the greens, and made a lot of really hard shots look easy. (I also made a few easy shots look hard, but I'm going to use the "it's early in the year" excuse for those.) I felt awesome 90 percent of the time, and I really feel like I have a great groundwork from which to start as I try to sharpen all the areas of my game moving forward.

I will be home in East Tennessee for the next week or so as I work on my game and prepare for the trip to Morocco. I will balance some quality time on the practice facilities with time on the course by myself as well as having some matches with friends in the area. Bobbo and I will also spend some time together to make sure I'm working on the right things that I have everything on the right track. Bobbo and I never make drastic changes to my game, but his insight is always something simple that has remarkably positive impact.

I am super excited to break in my new clubs (which haven't arrived yet, but should be here very soon) and know that they will do wonders for my golf game. I did have new wedges waiting on me when I got home, and I can't wait to see the positive effects that they will have for me. I am changing from carrying a 54 and a 60 degree wedge to carrying 51, 55, and 60 degree wedges. My pitching wedge is 47 degrees, so adding the additional wedge will help me a lot by decreasing the large yardage gap that has long existed for me between my pitching wedge and 54 degree. To allow for the extra wedge, I'll be taking my three iron out of the bag, but when I underwent the club fitting two weeks ago, we experimented with a couple of four iron options that will help my new four iron stand in for both the three and four irons. I know that creating smaller gaps between my wedges will make it easier for me to control my spin and be more precise with my distance control. I will be a better player because of this switch. I'll keep you posted on my progress as I work on my wedge play this week.

I am excited about where my game is now, and I know some things that I need to work on to get it to where I want it to be moving forward. I really feel like the sky is the limit for me this year, and it is a firm commitment to my process goals that will help me realize my potential. I am going to have a great week of practice this week. Come back every couple of days for progress reports as I work to get my game ready for a couple of wins in Morocco!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Lot of Positives

At the end of the day in the final round today, my scorecard read 74 just as it did in the third round. That is definitely not a score with which I am happy, but I really feel like I did a lot of things well and had a good tournament overall. I felt great this morning and just knew that I was going to play well. My round looked promising early as I made great birdies on the first and third holes to walk to the fourth tee at -2 for the day. Unfortunately, the next seven holes would see me make two double-bogeys and a triple-bogey. I swapped a birdie with a bogey at 11 and 12 and stood at +5 with six holes remaining. I stayed positive and managed three consecutive birdies on holes 14-16 before narrowly missing birdie putts on each of the last two holes. I made just a few really bad swings today, and they cost be a lot of shots, but I was very good the majority of the time.

I will share much more about my feelings from this tournament as a whole in another post tomorrow, but I will just say quickly for now that I am very happy with a lot of what happened this week. I hit plenty of very good shots, and feel confident that I will be able to eliminate some of the costly bad ones as the year moves forward.

My weekend performance dropped me down the leaderboard slightly, but I finished the tournament in a tie for 14th place. I'm not satisfied with that finish, but I do feel like it is a good starting point for what I expect will be a great year. Come back here tomorrow for more analysis of the first tournament and an exciting look ahead!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Still Playing Well Despite Disappointing Round 3 Score

I posted a 74 in the third round, but that score is not really indicative of the way I feel about my game. The score is what I deserved because of a freakishly bad day with the putter, but I still think that my game is in great form. I drove the ball beautifully all day in round three and hit a lot of quality iron and wedge shots, too, but I missed six putts from inside of five feet--including two putts that were less than three feet. While my putting was very disappointing today, I know that my putting stroke is good, and I putted very well in the first two rounds, so I do not have long-term concerns about my putting. All-in-all, I still feel like I'm playing very well and am excited about the opportunity to go out tomorrow and put it all together in the final round.

Swirling winds made scoring difficult today, and only a handful of players shot under par. I began the day tied for 8th and am currently in a large tie for 12th. The leader is -11, and I stand at -3. I definitely have the chance for a great finish in this tournament with a solid round tomorrow, and I plan to go out there and simply commit to a solid game plan on every shot. I know that I have the ability to execute well, and I hope that I do so tomorrow. I will be having fun, and I have a feeling that it's going to be an exciting day!

Come back here tomorrow for a final report from my first tournament of the year. I'm off and running, and 2011 is going to be a great year!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Steadier in Round 2

I certainly did not have the excitement of my first round today in round 2, but I also never really had any major concerns, either. I had a lot of make-able looks at birdie, and only had to work hard for par a couple of times on my way to a 3-birdie, 1-bogey round of 70 on the Hills Course.

I only birdied one of the four par fives today, but I played those holes well and had a very good putt for birdie on each of them though I only got one of the putts to fall. That was a little bit disappointing, but I'm really pleased with the way I have played the par fives so far this week.

One cool story from today is the way in which I made my bogey. It was an awful shot. I was trying to fade a four iron into a right hole location on the par-3 17th (my 8th) hole, and I double crossed it way long and left of the green. The ball nestled into the crotch of a pine tree, leaving me with no room at all to make a swing. I nudged the ball out of the tree into a green-side bunker with my second shot and faced a long bunker shot for my third. Like yesterday, I stayed surprisingly calm through the process and committed to my routine from the bunker and got the ball up-and-down for a great bogey.

I'm at -5 for the event through two rounds. I'm not sure what the lead will be at the end of today, but I know that I will be somewhere around the top 15 players and will be within striking distance heading into the final two rounds. It's going to be a fun weekend. Keep it here for the news!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Crazy Start to the Year

I am not thrilled to report that I made four bogeys and a double bogey today in my first round of the year, but I am quite excited about the fact that I also made seven birdies and an eagle. I have never believed in myself more than I did today, and I turned what was an awful start into a great 3-under-par opening round of 69.

After a par on the easy first hole on the Cupp Course, I went bogey, double-bogey, bogey on the next three holes to stand at 4 over par through four holes. I know that at this time last year, I would have been quite distraught by my start, but I honestly wasn't too bothered by it today, and I was determined to stay positive and play well. On the par-five sixth hole, I bombed a drive and hit a great hybrid from 224 yards to a green protected by a pond and made the 12-foot putt for eagle. I quickly gave one of those shots back with a disappointing bogey at the 7th hole but went on a tear starting at the par-four 9th. From the 9th hole through the 17th, I made seven birdies and two pars. During that stretch, I hit the ball fairly well and was definitely on with my wedges and putter. Unfortunately, I hit a very sloppy iron shot into a pond short of the 18th green from just 134 yards away in the middle of the fairway. Again, I just continued to believe in myself and calmly got up-and-down from 50 yards for my bogey. I made a lot of mistakes today, but my moments of good outshone the bad. I felt relaxed, confident, and happy all day, and the results followed my attitude.

I tee it up at 8:00 a.m. in tomorrow's second round, and I expect more good play without many of the mistakes of round 1. I know it will be fun again. Check back here for some good news in the evening.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shaky Practice Rounds but Feeling Good

The weather and the golf courses are both perfect for this week's Egolf Tour event at Palmetto Hall Plantation on Hilton Head Island. My game has not matched the conditions the last couple days, but when I tee it up tomorrow in my first competitive round of the year, I have a feeling that I'll be just fine! For this week's event, we will play both the Cupp Course and the Hills Course at Palmetto Hall for the first 36 holes before playing the final two rounds on the Cupp Course. Both courses are very well designed and in fantastic shape, so it should be a great week.

I played the Cupp Course in a practice round on Monday. The Cupp course is very demanding both off the tee and into the greens. There are a number of hazard-lined and tree-lined fairways, and the greens are well-protected by hazards and difficult run-off areas. In addition to requiring precision, the course also has some long holes that require power in order to attack. To top off the difficult layout, the greens are quite fast and very undulating. The Cupp Course is an excellent track that really makes you think and execute well from start to finish in order to be successful. With that said, it is score-able. I know that if I make committed, confident, intelligent decisions and execute well, the course sets up beautifully for me. I'm very excited to get my tournament year started on such a great course.

I played the Hills Course in a practice round today. While it has a different feel to it than the Cupp Course, the same characteristics seem to hold true. Driving accuracy will be an important key to success as will the ability to hit iron shots onto the proper section of greens which are again very undulating. The Hills course is a great test of golf, but like the Cupp course, good planning and decent execution should give me a lot of birdie opportunities.

I start the event in Wednesday's first round on the number 1 tee of the Cupp Course at 12:10. My second round will begin Thursday morning at 8:00 on the 10th tee of the Hills course.

My practice the last two days has been a little erratic, but I have never really felt that I was losing control of my game or my emotions. I'm still feeling confident, and I believe that I am ready to play well! I will have a good morning of relaxed preparation tomorrow before my lunch-time tee time, and I plan to have a smile on my face all day. I'm sure that I will face a few first-tournament jitters, but I know that I have prepared well and am ready to be successful. It's going to be a fun year, and it all starts tomorrow! Check back here for a round 1 update in the evening. Also, follow the results here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Brief Week-end Update

I just concluded my last full week of practice before I kick of my 2011 tournament season this week with an Egolf Tour event on Hilton Head Island. As you can see in my last couple of posts, I have much to be excited about, and my practice of late certainly adds to that. Though I had an inexplicable poor day of practice on Saturday, my game has looked and felt sharp in all areas for the most part. I do feel like I am playing the best golf of my life right now, and I'm very confident heading into my first tournament.

One bit of disappointing news to report from this week is that I failed to complete my fifth putting drill. I had a great week of practice and really nailed all of my goals except my final putting drill. My workouts this week were very thorough, so I continue to feel great physically. My practice with my wedges was excellent, and I easily checked off my proximity drills this week. I even putted the ball well all week, completing four of the five required putting drills by Friday, but I just couldn't seem to make 24 three footers in a row on Saturday or Sunday despite multiple attempts at the drill both days. I don't feel like anything is wrong with my putting, though, and my stroke feels great, so I'm confident that I will putt well this coming week, and knock off a sixth putting drill to pay my debt from this past week. Completing my process goals is really keeping me focused during my practice and is helping to sharpen my game more and more each week.

I'm off for Hilton Head bright and early Monday morning. It will be a great week. I know that I will be a little nervy being back in tournament play for the first time in nearly three months, but I also know that I have the physical skills and the mental game to excel. I'm very excited to play tournament golf again, and I think I will have a genuine smile on my face all week! Keep it right here for a practice round report before the event gets started on Wednesday.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Exciting Few Days

The last three days have been some of the most exciting in my professional golf career. Despite spending about 15 hours in my car during that span, I feel like I was able to take a big step towards the successfully year I have ahead of me.

On Monday morning I had a great practice session out on the Mountain View Course at Callaway Gardens. My real point of emphasis that day was to spend some time around the greens hitting a variety of shots, and I can feel my short game reaching a new level. That afternoon, I got in my car and drove to Edisto Island, SC, to spend the night with my vacationing parents. I had a relaxing evening with them and then a great beach-front run Tuesday morning before driving down the coast three hours to Sea Island Golf Club for my Titleist club-fitting session.

I had never been "fit" for golf clubs before Tuesday, and though I was excited, I was a little bit skeptical about the whole process. For a guy who likes to keep golf as simple as possible, the idea of thinking about shaft torque, ball spin rate, and fractions of degrees of change here and there all seemed a little technical. I was dead wrong. The club-fitter with whom I was working (Craig Allen) was brilliant, and he helped me understand what we were doing every step of the way. It was all very intuitive, too, which was a pleasant surprise. I could not believe some of the things I learned and experienced. My current driver is not a terrible fit for me, but after trying many different head and shaft combinations, we found a new driver that allows me to launch the ball faster off the clubface with less spin which will result in greater accuracy and distance. Through a lot more experimenting we also found a three wood with which I was comfortable; I haven't been comfortable over a three wood in years, so that was very exciting. We also found a shaft to put in my hybrid club that allows me to use that club more effectively off of the tee while not sacrificing its versatility as a weapon for attacking long-range approach shots. The most eye-opening part of the whole fitting, however, came with my irons. I've been using the same irons for quite some time now, and I never imagined that they would be very far from what is ideal for me. Again, I was wrong. My irons were a full degree too flat which forces me to square the clubface with my hands at impact, and the shafts in my irons were too weak. After experimenting with a lot of different head and shaft combinations, Craig and I nailed down the perfect iron for me. Even someone with no golf knowledge could easily see the improved ball-flight that these new irons produced compared with my current set. It is incredible to me the difference that being fit for these golf clubs is going to make in my game. I thought that getting fit might put complicated thoughts into my head about my equipment, but in reality it has done just the opposite. I know that my new clubs are going to help me be more consistent and that my equipment absolutely will not hold me back.

Now, with all that said, I still do believe that good swing will produce a good shot with any club; I just now know that proper clubs can make it easier to achieve good results. My new clubs have been ordered, but I will not be getting them until mid-week next week--after the start of my first tournament. That means I'll be playing my first event of the year with the same set of clubs that I used to win the Tennessee Amateur in 2009 and two State Opens last year. Poor me, right? I know that my new clubs will make golf easier for me, but I also know that I can win with my current set, and that is exactly what I plan to do next week on Hilton Head.

In fact, after driving back to Callaway Gardens on Tuesday night, I got up yesterday morning and had one of my very best practice days of the year on Wednesday. I did a couple of my putting drills and spent a solid hour working on my wedge play before doing some chipping practice, and then I went out on the course with my friend Taylor Hall for a match in the afternoon. We both played very well, but I avenged my one-shot defeat from Sunday with a one shot victory of my own! We played the shorter course at Callaway Gardens but both played very well. I shot 66 and held off his back nine charge.

My game feels great! I am absolutely thrilled about the club-fitting and my new clubs that are on the way, but I feel ready to go win with the clubs that I already have. It should be a fun weekend of preparations here at Callaway Gardens before I leave for Hilton Head and my first tournament of the year Monday morning! Keep it right here for more updates!

By the way, if you read this whole post, thank you so much for being a true supporter of my career. I feel like I got a little long-winded in my excitement!

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Quick Update + Some Exciting News

On Super Bowl Sunday, I successfully finished my first official week of working towards my goals. I nailed my circle drill of 6-foot putts in the morning yesterday, and then in the last hour before dark, I checked off my last weekly process goal by completing a proximity drill with each of the three wedges I have in my bag right now. (I even missed the first 5 minutes of the game in order to finish!) I'll describe more about how I set up a proximity drill in a later post, but a the name tells it all; I have to hit my wedges close to a target to complete the drill. It really feels good to have completed all of my goals despite some challenging weather last week, and I can tell that the goals I have set for my practice are definitely setting me up to be successful this year.

With that said, my match with Taylor yesterday clearly reminded me that I still have work to do. Despite having great practices all week last week, I was still a little bit inconsistent out on the course. I hit a lot of unsolid drives and never looked overly sharp for more than a couple shots at a time. I did see a lot of good things from my game, however. My misses all looked pretty good and I was able to capitalize on some of the good shots I did hit with good putting. In the end, I shot a one-under-par 71, and Taylor beat me by one. I was two down at the turn but made a pair of early birdies on the back nine to make it interesting. In the end Taylor made a great birdie on 17, and I couldn't muster an answer as I finished with six straight pars. It was great to have that competition, and I'm happy that I was able to shoot under par on what was a bit of an off day. I know that another week of great practice will have me ready to go LOW!

Now on to the exciting news... I had a lot of conversations this winter with my contact person at Titleist/Footjoy, and after being on only Ball/Shoe/Glove support with them last year, I learned in late January that I have been approved for Full Product Line support this year. Because of this opportunity, I am going to do something I've never done. Tomorrow I will go to Sea Island Golf Club in Southeast Georgia to see a club-fitting specialist and get outfitted with a new line of Titleist sticks that are fit perfectly for me. I have never been fitted for clubs before, and I really think that this could make a huge difference for me!

So I have a lot about which to be excited. My game is coming along nicely, my practice is going great, and I will be getting set up with all the latest and greatest technology from Titleist custom fit just for me. It's going to be a great year! Keep it here for news about practice this week and the club-fitting session.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Having a Great Week

22 days ago I packed my golf stuff and some clothes and left Tennessee for what I thought was going to be a one-week stay at Callaway Gardens. I have been down here ever since and have been able to work on my golf game everyday. This past week has been the toughest of my short stay in terms of weather, but given the blizzard that hammered half of this country and the "cyclone" that hit Australia, I don't think I can complain too much about some cold, rainy days. This past week hasn't been ideal, but I'm still in paradise down here at Callaway Gardens. I've got a golf course that hosted the PGA Tour for over a decade, a second golf course that is also very good, top-notch practice facilities, and two families that have adopted me as their own while I am here. Life is good!

In fact, even this week has been great. I have used the less-than-desirable weather to toughen myself. I had a great practice session on a cold and windy Wednesday and was literally the only person to set foot on the golf course on either Thursday or Friday. Thursday was too cold to stand still on the practice facilities, so I just walked 16 holes playing two balls on the shorter Lake View Course. I was really impressed with my tee shots that day, and I did a lot of very nice work around the greens. I would have played all 18, but I was spending so much extra time around the greens working on my short game that it got dark on me. By all means Friday should have been a day off from golf. It never got out of the mid-30's and a steady rain fell the entire day. I thought that it would be good for me to put on my rain suit and try to do a little practicing, but it only took 45 freezing cold, soaking wet minutes for me to realize I could afford an afternoon off! I know I have a great job because I get bummed when I get days off!

Despite a challenging week, my game is feeling very very good. The weather improved tremendously today, and I had a great day of practice. I spent more than six hours at the golf course today without playing a single hole. That is rare for me, but I maximized my practice today on a comparatively warm and sunny afternoon. I started on the putting green and struggled my way through my nine-hole lag drill in which I must complete nine consecutive putts from 30-60+ feet without a three-putt. It took me a little while, but towards the end I hit some great lag putts and finished the drill by holing a clutch six footer. I then mixed hitting some balls on the range with a couple hours of very intense distance-control practice with my wedges. The practice I had with my wedges today was spectacular. I then did my three-foot putt circle drill and spent some quality time chipping before finishing the day hitting some more balls until dark. It was a very productive day of practice, and I really feel good about the status of my game.

I've got a match scheduled for tomorrow with Taylor Hall, a fellow mini-tour professional who, like me, has the game to play at higher levels. It will be great to put my practice to the test with some competition out on the course.

I have just a little bit of work to do tomorrow to reach all of my process goals for the week, too. I need to perform one more putting drill and to complete a proximity drill with each of my wedges. After the wedge practice I did today, I'm confident that I can knock out those drills in no time. My workout routine has been solid for some time now, and will enjoy a day off from that tomorrow after a great week of weight-training and running that was capped off with a very demanding hill-sprint workout this morning.

My game feels great and I do, too! I have some exciting news that I will share with you soon, so keep it here for that as well as to hear another update about my practice from Callaway Gardens!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Charging Ahead

Having my goals written down and published here on the blog has really put a new fire into my practice. Even though the weather has been chilly and windy here in Pine Mountain, GA, the past couple of days, I have been having some very focused and productive practice sessions. Per my "process goals," I have spent some quality time working on my putting and my wedge play, but I have continued to to a lot of practicing on the course as well. I feel that my practice has all blended together quite nicely, and I can sense my game rounding into better and better form as the days pass.

I'll share two stories from my practices the past couple days. #1: On Tuesday I was having a bit of an off day from a ball-striking perspective. I was on the course by myself playing two balls, and on the long par-3 14th at Callaway Gardens Mountain View Course, my two tee shots were both horrendous. I thin blocked a five-iron short and right of the green before chunk-hooking a four-iron well short and left of the green. Given the contour on the green, both shots left me facing arduous up-and-downs. I remembered my last goal about "always smiling" and proceeded to hit two phenomenal pitch shots within tap-in distance. A few holes later on the par-3 17th, I faced similarly long tee shots because the wind was coming into my face. Hitting the same two clubs and facing a much more difficult shot, I hit a pure soft four iron and a piercing bullet of a five iron that both settled some 15 feet below the hole. I failed to convert either birdie putt, but it was really cool to see the direct effects of maintaining a positive attitude after the poor iron shots on the previous par 3.

#2: On Tuesday I spent the better part of an hour and a half trying to complete my circle drill of 6-foot putts. To complete the drill, I must make 18 out of 24 six-foot putts moving around a hole on the practice green. With the combination of cold hands, blustery winds, and a lousy stroke here and there, I never did complete the drill on Tuesday. After a nice warm-up session on the driving range today, I went to the putting green to try again. I got my spot all set up on the green and started with two misses. A few makes and a couple misses later I found myself at 5 for 9. From that point, I made 14 six-footers in-a-row and finished the drill with 19 out of 24. It was really cool! These kinds of completion drills are great for me because I really do feel pressure, and I have to rely on the strength of my routine to get me through the drill.

Everything feels great. My game continues to improve and I'm having a lot of fun working on it. I really like the progress I've already made and can't wait to see what comes next. Check back right here for more practice reports and some exciting news in the next couple days!

Visible Progress

I’ve been making a lot of invisible progress lately. By that, I mean that my scores have been consistently rather stinky, but beneath that,...