Saturday, June 29, 2013

Exciting Saturday

My third round did not begin with the most encouraging scores. A nice par on the first hole gave way to a well-executed yet frustrating par on the second. Two quality shots left me 80 yards from the flag and in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 third hole. Facing an easy wedge shot, I completely bladed the ball some forty yards over the green into the water. I made a double bogey. I told myself that I was swinging well and that the poor wedge shot was an anomaly. I was right, and it showed. I stayed patient and positive and continued to hit good shots. The floodgates finally opened for me on the fifth hole. I made a putt from approximately 60 feet up a ridge on the fifth, and I proceeded to chip in twice and make a 25-foot putt over the next eight holes. I stood at one over par for the tournament when I reached the ninth tee box, and I was five under par when I walked off of the 13th green. That was an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie stretch, and it was definitely exciting. I hit two great shots on the par-4 14th, but my four-iron approach didn't quite have enough oomph to reach the elevated green and I failed to get the pitch shot up and down. That bogey dropped me back to four under par, and that is where I finished after a very solid effort over the last four holes.

My Saturday round was a great comeback from a tough start. It was encouraging to see myself let go of the large blunder on the third hole and recover so quickly. I'm now in a good position to have a great finish. I'm going to be confident and trust myself in Sunday's final round. Come back for a great report in the evening. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Very Rough in Round 2, but Still in Good Shape

My second-round performance at Victoria National was not good on any account. I did hit a lot of very high quality shots, but I was erratic and made some big mistakes. My day featured a whiff from high grass right of the par-4 6th green (led to a triple bogey), a three-putt from three and a half feet (caused a double bogey on the par-4 17th), and an awful lot of nervous jitters. The triple bogey rattled my nerves, and I was not in good place mentally the rest of the day. With that said, I hit two solid shots on the difficult par-4 18th and easily two-putted for a par to post a round-2 score of 75 (+3). I currently stand at even par for the tournament and have advanced safely to the weekend. In fact, despite my crazy day on Friday, I am just seven shots behind the leader and am in good shape to make a move over the final two rounds.

Though my performance in Friday's round and the mental anxiety I allowed to affect me definitely bother me a little, I still feel very good about the state of my game and am particularly excited about the week of work I have had to this point. I feel great about the practice I have been having, and I am going to relax and let my talent shine this weekend. Great stuff is coming--come back to read about it! Thank you for following me.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Good Start in Indiana

I played beautifully in round one of the United Leasing Championship at Victoria National Golf Club. I hit just two shots all day that I would consider to be bad, and I posted a four-birdie, one-bogey round of 69. The course is demanding but has been softened by much rain early in the week, and therefore is yielding some good scores. My opening round has me in great position, though, and I feel like I have even better rounds to come. I play at 2:22 p.m. central time in round 2, so come back late Friday evening for a mid-way report from this week's Tour event. Thank you for following me!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Great Course; Ready for a Great Week

I am in Newburgh, Indiana, for this week's Tour event. The tournament is at a course called Victoria National Golf Club, and it is absolutely astounding. In fact, the course reminds me very much of The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee--a venue on which I have some fond memories! This week's course features a nice blend of long and short holes, and I think the premium it places on accuracy really plays to my strengths. 

Speaking of my strengths, one of my greatest attributes as a professional golfer is my dedication to an intelligent and intense practice schedule. I have returned to having very productive work over the last three or four weeks, but I still haven't put together a thorough enough effort to complete all of my weekly work goals in quite a while. As I come closer and closer to realizing my ultimate outcome goals, my commitment to my process goals becomes even more important. Starting this week I am re-dedicating myself to my weekly work goals for this year, and I will prioritize my practice in such a way to ensure that I get them done every week! (With that said, I still have two weeks for the remainder of year during which I can let myself out of achieving my goals in order to spend quality time with loved ones--balance is important!)

My game is feeling good, and I'm very excited about this week's event. With a solid week of work, I feel like the major breakthrough that I have been predicting for quite a while is imminent. Keep it here for exciting reports throughout the week. Thank you very much for following me and supporting my career! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Still Going!

There is much to tell, and I will tell it soon, but here's the essential information. I posted a final round 68 (-3) in the Tour's Rex Hospital Open, and that was good enough to move me up the leaderboard into a tie for 24th place. The top 25 and ties at each Tour event earn a spot in the next event, so I am moving on to the United Leasing Championship at Victoria National Golf Club in Evansville, Indiana. Come back for more details soon! Thank you for following me. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Moving Up the Board

I played well in the third round. A friend of mine is famous for saying, "you're only as good as your score, Malnati." There is definitely truth in that, but, man did I feel better than the three-under-par 68 I posted on Saturday! I am really hitting the ball nicely, and I feel like I am very close to playing a great round. As I said, I shot three under par in my third round, and that was nice, but given benign scoring conditions, it certainly wasn't a spectacular result. I played very solidly and hit a lot of greens in regulation. I made just one bogey. I simply couldn't get a birdie train started. When I would string together some nice shots consecutively, I could never capitalize with a key putt at the right time. I did hit two quality shots into the 18th hole and roll in a ten footer for a closing birdie, so I am confident that will carry over into Sunday's final round. My Saturday round moved me from a tie for 54th place at the beginning of the day into a tie for 31st place at the end of the day. I need to make another significant jump up the leaderboard on Sunday, and I feel like I am playing well enough do to just that. Come back for a quick update from the final round on Sunday afternoon and then a more thorough report early next week. Thank you for your support! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hard-earned Saturday Tee Time

My golf swing felt as good as it has in a long time during the second round at the Tour's Rex Hospital Open. That is much less than half the battle when playing tournament golf, however. An unlucky bogey on the par-5 fourth hole rattled me on Friday, and I couldn't seem to recover. I was very nervous for the remainder of my round, and it showed. My pace was awful on the greens, and I hit a few very squirrely shots with my longer clubs. I scraped and clawed and tried to stay positive and encouraged, but as I walked to the 16th hole, I was two shots outside the cut line. With my back to the wall, I committed fully to my routine, and I delivered. I hit a 7 iron close at the par-3 16th and converted a slick four foot putt for birdie. At the long par-4 17th, I hit a beautiful drive that just crept through the dogleg and into the left rough. I judged the flyer lie perfectly, however, and bounced another seven iron up to within three and a half feet of the front hole location and converted the birdie. Two solid shots led to an easy two-putt par on the closing hole, and I earned myself a Saturday morning tee time in the third round of the tournament. I am pumped about the gutsy way I finished in round two, but more importantly, I am feeling confident about my game and am ready to take care of business over the weekend. Keep it here for good news from the next two rounds. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mental Toughness in Round 1

I did not get off to a good start in the Tour's Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had a beautiful warm-up session before my 8:50 tee time for Thursday's round, but I hit a pathetic diving hook into tall rough off of the 10th (my 1st) tee, and I was a bit shaky for quite a while after that. I bogeyed my first hole and dropped another shot on my third. I calmed down a little bit, but still didn't feel overly in control through the early and middle stages of my round. I hit a few good shots here and there, but a bogey on the par-3 second hole (my 11th), left me at two over par for my round and not in very good shape. I don't know why I was so out of sorts in the beginning of my round, and I'm also not sure what changed, but I stayed patient and kept believing in myself all day, and I eventually settled down. I hit a lot of good shots over the final seven holes of the first round and played them three under to post an opening-round 70 (-1). That is certainly not a great score on a day when scoring was quite good, but I have momentum rolling into Friday, and I am feeling great! Keep it here for another report after round 2. Thank you for following me!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On to Raleigh with the Tour

Sunday did not go perfectly as planned at my first Tour event of the year, but I still played well. I was tied for 10th and just three shots behind the leader heading into the final round of the Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kansas, and I truly thought that I was playing well enough to have a special day. It never quite materialized that way. I began my round with pars on the first 13 holes before finally getting something going with consecutive birdies on holes 14 and 15. Unfortunately, I finished the event very unglamorously with a lousy bogey on the 17th hole and a par on the very reachable par-5 18th. My final-round 70 (-1) gave me a nine-under-par total for the event and left me in a tie for 15th place. That is not the finish for which I was hoping heading into the weekend, but it certainly does indicate a solid performance for the week, and, most importantly, it allows me to move on with the Tour to this week's event in Raleigh, North Carolina. (The top 25 finishers at each week's Tour event are automatically awarded a spot in the next event, regardless of status.) So my goal of playing my way onto the Tour mid-year is very much intact.

This week's event is at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) at Wakefield Plantation. I had a great day of practice on the course today (Tuesday), and I feel like I can have another very successful week here. As usual, the tournament begins Thursday, and I will be ready to keep the good times rolling.

Keep it here for news during this exciting time. I will try to give nightly updates during the tournament. Thank you so much for following me and for supporting my career!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Final-Round Ready

I couldn't get anything going in Saturday's third round, but I still played very solidly. I made two birdies and one bogey for a one-under-par round of 70. That dropped me down the leaderboard a few positions, but I am still just three shots back of the leader heading into the final round. Most importantly, my game is feeling very solid. I will definitely be a little anxious in the final round, but I feel like my game and my mindset are ready for the challenge. Keep it here for a full report from the action. Thank you for following me!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mid-way Through Event in Wichita

I followed up my opening-round 68 with a second-round 67 to stand at -7 at the half-way point of the Tour's Air Capital Classic. Tight fairways, penalizing rough, and the occasional gusty Midwest winds have all contributed to tough scoring, and my effort has me in a large tie for 4th heading to the weekend. I have really played nicely, and I have a couple of cool stories from the opening two rounds that I want to share.

I was definitely nervous on the first tee on Thursday, but I was actually much more composed and in control than I had thought I might be in my first event of the year. I hit a very nice tee shot down the middle of the first fairway and thought that I was off and rolling. I faced a shot of 180 yards uphill and into a breeze to a back right hole location for my second shot into the opening hole. With plenty of room short and left of the flag, I decided that I would play a high cut that started at the left side of the green and hopefully would drift towards the hole. I felt comfortable with the plan and committed to the shot, but I executed the most atrocious five iron imaginable. I barely made contact on the bottom of the club and I sent a low, weak shot bouncing way short and right of the target. The ball nestled into the back of a short right bunker. I had lots of sand to cover and very little green with which to work. I was very impressed with my lack of panic in response to how poor that shot was. I calmly proceeded with my routine, and after one of the best bunker shots of my life, I walked off of the opening hole with a par.

Here's a story that is a little happier from beginning to end. The 17th hole at this event is cool because of the setting. It is the hole pictured in my post from a couple of days ago. A double decker grandstand surrounds the green, and the fans are loud and harsh. They boo poor efforts, beg for golf balls from the competitors, and cheer like mad for good results. The hole is a tough par three. With the tees up on day one, I faced a shot of 186 yards to a flag tucked over a bunker on a small shelf on the right side of the green. The wind was whipping into my face, but that was actually helpful because I knew that it would allow me to land a shot softly enough to keep it near the challenging hole location. I hit a four iron way up into the air to let the wind kill it, and it landed perfectly some four feet left of the hole and sat right there. I converted the putt for birdie, and the crowd went crazy. It was really cool.

Those two tales are neat anecdotes from the first 36 holes, but the real story is the quality of my game and, most importantly, my composure. I have hit some loose shots and had challenging stretches in each of the first two rounds, but I have managed to keep my mind in great position through it all. My scores are following. If I can continue to control my thoughts over the weekend, I know that I am playing well enough to do something special. I am definitely pumped up for this opportunity, but I will keep myself composed and present on the golf course. Most importantly, I will TRUST myself on every shot.

Thank you for following me. Come back here for full reports after the next two rounds.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nice Start

I will share some stories from my opening round after Friday's round, but for now I just want to give a quick update to say that I got off to a solid start this week. I felt very comfortable in the early part of my round and was one under par through eight holes. After bogeying the ninth hole, I felt a little bit uncomfortable for the next few holes but held it together decently well. I regained my comfort level and birdied four of the last five holes to post an opening-round 68 (-3). My game is good, and I feel great! I am excited for great things in round two and the rest of the week. Come back for a more thorough report on Friday evening. Thank you for following me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Where I Belong and Working Hard to Stay Here

I feel like I am right where I belong this week at the Tour event. My game is in great shape, and I have worked hard to increase my competence on the course. I feel like I still have a lot of improving to do, but I truly do feel that I belong competing against the best players in the game of golf. 

It has been a while since I have completed all of my work goals, but I had a great week of practice last week and am on my way to completing all of my work goals this week. Hard and smart work has helped me get to where I am, and I know that it will continue to propel me to my goals.

I am ready for great things this week. I am going to have a great week of work, have a lot of fun, and play really well! Keep it here for updates throughout the week. Thank you for following me!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hard Work is Tour Time!

I put in a great week of work last week, and it showed in this week's Monday Qualifier for the Tour event in Wichita, Kansas. I was playing at a course called Auburn Hills, and I knew that given some fairly benign conditions for this part of the country, the qualifying score would be decently low. I remained positive through a slow start that saw me par the first six holes despite hitting a lot of good shots. I birdied holes 7, 8, and 9 to turn at three under par for the day. Then, just as I was feeling some great momentum, I made my lone blunder of the day. I made a horrific swing on the tenth tee and hit my tee shot into a pond that I didn't even know existed well to the left of the fairway. That shot led to a bogey on the long par 5. I was definitely feeling pressure throughout the back nine after that mistake, but I stayed composed and played the final 8 holes in two under par to post a round of 68 (-4). Though I had my doubts that it would be good enough at the time, I made a clutch birdie at the watery par-5 18th hole to finish my round. I had to wait around for nearly six hours after I finished my round, and when a player in the final group of the day posted another 68, it forced all of us at that score into a six-way playoff for the final five qualifying positions. A six for five playoff is great odds, but it certainly is nerve-wracking. I hit two quality approach shots into the two play-off holes and a pair of easy two-putt pars was enough to get me into the tournament. So I qualified for this week's Tour event in Wichita, and I credit a great week of hard work last week with having my game ready to hold up to the pressures of a Monday Qualifier. I'm going to have another great week of work this week in Wichita, and I'm confident that good results will follow.

Thank you for keeping up with me. Keep it here for exciting reports throughout the week!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Good Stuff This Week

This has been an incredibly productive week for me. A thirty-six hole day on Monday, two days of travel, and some summer thunder storms have caused a little bit of a time cramp in terms of getting all of my work goals done, but with an efficient day of practice on Sunday, I can still do it. I have completed all of my fitness goals this week, and it that feels great. I didn’t let myself get “out of shape” or anything like that over the past three weeks, but I certainly feel much better when I keep to my full fitness routine. In addition to my fitness work, I had some great practice sessions and two very good friendly matches while back home in East Tennessee for a few days. I am now in Wichita, Kansas, where I will play the Monday Qualifier for next week’s Tour event. On Sunday I’ll have a great day of practice to wrap up a solid week, and I’ll be ready to qualify on Monday!
Here’s a cool story from this past week. I was playing a match at Holston Hills on Wednesday against a fellow named Eric Axley. Axley is a good guy with whom to play because he won on the PGA Tour five years ago, and he is getting his game back to that level, so he really pushes me. I really don’t like to lose to him, so our matches are usually pretty competitive. He got me on Wednesday at Holston Hills, but I was disappointed with the way things ended. I got off to a slow start and he hopped out to an early lead over me. I started playing solidly in the middle of the round and was creeping back into the match, but thunderstorms stopped our play for the day after the twelfth hole. After waiting on the stubborn storm for more than an hour, I conceded the front nine loss and we called it a day. The next day, we played again at a course called Fox Den. This time I got out to the fast start, but he matched me in the early going and opened a commanding lead with very solid play. When I bogeyed the 15th hole, I fell three shots back with three holes to play. But, after being bogey-free and five under par through 15 holes, Axley made a pivotal mistake on the 16th hole. Facing a 210 yard shot to a front pin over water on the par-3, Axley tried to be too aggressive and missed short in the water. With the door open, I charged through. I made par on the 16th and birdied the long par-4 17th to pull even with him. On the long par-5 18th, Axley and I both laid up near the 100 yard marker and faced similar wedge shots into the final green. He played first and hit a decent wedge shot about 12 feet behind the hole. I followed by two-hopping my wedge from 96 yards right in the hole for an eagle. It was a cool finish! I ended up shooting 67 (-5) to his 69. Though I wish I hadn’t needed his mistake on the 16th hole to get him, I’m pumped that I was able to play well enough down the stretch to make him pay for it.
My game is in good shape. I am excited to finish my work week with a thorough day on Sunday and then get after the Qualifier on Monday. I know that I am ready to compete at the Tour level, and I'm confident that my breakthrough to that Tour is coming soon.
Thank you for following me and for your support! Come back for a report from Sunday’s practice effort and from the Qualifier on Monday evening.

Monday, June 3, 2013

No U.S. Open This Year, but Feeling Great

I just didn't quite put it all together at Woodmont Country Club in Monday's Sectional Qualifier for the U.S. Open. I played fantastic golf and feel absolutely great about my game, but a couple of mistakes and an icy cold putter over the second 18 holes caused me to come up a little bit short. I posted rounds of 70 (-2), 69 (E) on the North and South, respectively. My two-under-par total of 139 left me three shots out of a playoff for the final qualifying position.

I was feeling very calm and was playing nicely to start the day when I got a bad break on my fourth hole. I pulled my drive on the short par-4 fourth hole, and it went into a fairway bunker. I should have had a routine little wedge out of the fairway bunker to the green, but my ball plugged so deeply in a soft area of the bunker that I could hardly move it with my next swing. I didn't move it, actually, and I ended up hitting a great wedge a few shots later to salvage a double-bogey on the hole. I played beautifully the rest of the first round. My only blunder was a missed putt from three and a half feet that caused a bogey on the par-4 14th hole. With the exception of the tough luck in the fairway bunker and the short miss on the back nine, I really played a great round of golf on the demanding North Course.

My round on the South Course was one of the better ball-striking rounds I can remember. I drove the ball beautifully, hit a lot of quality iron shots, and was fairy good with my wedges. Unfortunately, my putter turned icy cold. I had numerous birdie putts in the eight to 15 foot range, and I never made one of them in the second round. I was comfortable over my putter, and I'm coming off a great week of putting practice, so I'm certainly not discouraged. It was just bad timing for a poor putting round.

Qualifiers are hard. They are a test that is graded on a "Pass/Fail" scale. On paper, I failed this week. It sure didn't feel like failing. I am so pumped with how my game felt during the qualifier. I played with two PGA Tour winners, and I know that I can do what they have done. I'm excited to keep improving, and I'm more convinced than ever that big things are in my future!

I'm off for the rest of this week but will be traveling to Wichita, Kansas, over the weekend to prepare for the Monday Qualifier for next week's Tour event there. Keep it here for a couple of practice reports during the week. I'm going to do some great work. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Ready for U.S. Open Qualifier

I have had a very productive stretch of days leading into tomorrow's (June 3) Sectional Qualifier for the U.S. Open. I have been on site each of the past four days at Woodmont Country Club, and I feel well-prepared for the Qualifier. Woodmont is a fantastic 36-hole facility in Rockville, Maryland, and the qualifier will consist of one round each on the North and South courses. People here refer to the South Course as "the short course" and the North as the "Tournament course", but both are extremely demanding tests of golf. I have played here at Woodmont the past two years, and I very much enjoy the challenging nature of this venue. The odds seem daunting as more than 120 players will be vying for 8 spots in the this year's U.S. Open, but I know that if I play well, I can easily be one of the 8.

After a more-than two week departure from my typical schedule, I got back into a solid practice routine the second half of this past week. I did not complete all of fitness goals nor did I accumulate enough hours to meet my short game practice goal, but I did all of my putting work and finished all of my ball-striking sessions as well. I feel energized and ready to get back to full weeks of practice.

For now though, I am just feeling ready to qualify for the U.S. Open. I tee off at 7:22 tomorrow morning on the North Course for my opening round of the 36-hole day. I am going to be intelligently aggressive, commit to a good plan on every shot, stay positive, and play well! Come back for some good news late tomorrow evening! Thank you for keeping up with me!

New Blog Site

Hi everyone! Thank you for continuing to try to keep up with me. As you might have noticed, I've not been updating this blog at all late...