Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Feeling Good on a Great Course

I am excited for this week's Tour event in Indiana. My ball-striking has actually been a little bit off at times early this week, but I got things clicking a little better in the Pro-Am today. The work I have done on my game allows me to self-diagnose and make some productive adjustments on the fly. I really feel comfortable on this golf course, and I think that I am going to play great this week. Remember my new standard of success? I have prepared well. I will commit to a smart plan on every shot. I will hit every shot with the belief that I can win the tournament. It's going to be a successful week. 

Oh, and have I mentioned I really like this course. Here's why:

Pure. Keep it here for reports from Victoria National. Thank you for following me!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Practice Report and Process Goals Update

This has been another great week at home. I was pretty lazy early in the week but necessarily so after a long tournament in Mexico and a nightmarishly long day of travel home on Monday. I did some fitness work on Tuesday and Wednesday and played a fun 18 holes with some friends on Wednesday, but I did not do any practicing until Thursday. I have since made up for lost time. The weather has been nice, and I have had great days of work the last three days. I feel like all areas of my game are good, but I'm excited because I feel like my ball-striking is continuing to improve and I can tell that my short game and putting both have plenty of room to get better. I am nearly done with a Full Fitness Routine and Full Practice Schedule for this week, and I am ready to have a productive Sunday afternoon and achieve both. 

In addition to a lot of good work over the past few days, I have once again been able to soak up some great time enjoying the pleasures of HOME. I have spent some quality time with my family, and we even had some friends stop by to enjoy an early dinner from the grill on Saturday. We had my parents, my sister Laura, and two of my golfing buddies who live in the Carolinas, and it made for a fun Saturday afternoon! After dinner, my sister stayed in Knoxville with Alicia and I, and we needed something fun to do together on a beautiful evening, so we all went to the driving range and hit some balls. Alicia and Laura teamed up to beat me in a chipping contest and a putting contest, but that is okay! Here are a couple of cool pics my sister took of Alicia and I at the driving range:

That was great fun! Alicia says her goal is "to be bad at golf--because right now I'm so awful I don't even register on the scale." She makes contact almost every time now, and that is great progess!

As for me, I make contact most of the time, too. I am very proud of the work that I have put in this year, and I feel like my game is showing the results of my dedication to my process. The tournament week in Mexico marked the final week of my third five-week segment of the year for my Process Goals. For the entire five weeks, I came up one six-foot putting drill and one holed bunker shot short of completing all of my Process Goals. I obviously want to complete them all and don't like coming up short, but the effort was once again there to finish everything. I feel very good about the work I did over those five weeks and am excited to keep at it. 

I am going to make a change to my Process Goals moving forward. I feel like my current practice goals require too much time and mental energy during a tournament week. I am not the least bit afraid to put in hours and hours of work; in fact, I quite enjoy it. However, when I consider that in a typical tournament week I play five official rounds (the Wednesday Pro-Am fields are selected based on the money list) plus a full practice round, that means I spend a lot of time on the golf course. That is not a bad thing at all because I believe that on-course preparation is some of the most valuable for me, but when I combine that time on the golf course with my rigorous practice schedule, it leads to very long days that can become counterproductively taxing. So, here is the challenge: how do I lighten my practice load without feeling less prepared. I think I have a good solution, and I am excited to try it out. I will continue to do all of the same drills and the same number of drills as before, but during tournament weeks, I will lower the number of reps per drill. For example, I typically have to make 24 of 24 three-foot putts to complete that drill and 18 of 24 six-foot putts to complete that drill, so during a tournament week, I will instead have to make 12 of 12 from three feet and 9 of 12 from six feet. I will still do the same prescribed numbers of each drill for the week, I will simply cut the reps when I'm at a tournament. I will apply similar cuts to other drills as well. By lessening practice in this way, I will still have daily work to do to keep me feeling sharp and fully prepared, but my drills will not be quite as taxing when I am at a tournament. When I'm home, I will continue to follow my original Practice Schedule. I am excited to try out this change and see how it affects me. My hope and expecation is that I will be as prepared as ever and will still feel mentally and physically sharp at the end of each week. 

I am excited to keep improving. I am obviously quite pleased with the start that I have had to the year, but there is still much to accomplish. I can't wait to keep getting after it! Alicia and I are off to Evansville, Indiana, this week for the Tour event at a great course called Victoria National. It's going to be a very good one. Thank you for keeping up with me and for your support. Keep it here for more reports moving forward. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lots of Positives from a Tough Weekend in Mexico

As the 36-hole leader, I could taste another win this week on the Tour. I was a little bit erratic over the weekend, however, and I ended up in a tie for eighth place in Mexico. Given some of the adversity I caused myself on Saturday and Sunday, I am pleased with the way I stayed tough and finished strongly. It stinks not to get the win, but a top-ten finish is never a bad thing, and I definitely have plenty of positives on which I will build from this week.

I also have a lot of motivation to keep working on my game. I made a few nervy swings over the weekend and hit a couple of costly shots. Never was that more the case than on the island-green, par-five eighth hole on Sunday. An aggressive drive up the watery right side of the fairway left me with just a six iron to the island green. Unfortunately, I never settled my mind over the shot, and I made my worst swing in recent memory. I semi-shanked the shot well right of the green and into the lake. This was by far the worst shot I hit all weekend, but there were others that reminded me that I still have work to do on my game. I know that getting better is a process, and I also know that I am on the right track, but this weekend has me hungry for more improvement. 

That shot on eight rattled me a little bit, and I did something on that green that I have never done before. I gave myself a decent chance to save par, but my par putt stopped on the right lip of the cup--less than an inch from the hole. My head was spinning as I walked up to tap it in for bogey, and I swung my putter over the top of the ball. I was attempting to tap my ball in the hole, so that whiff counted as a stroke and I made double bogey. I honestly don't even know what happened except to say that I completely lost focus in that moment. What a valuable (and costly!) lesson! But, I will indeed learn from that and absolutely never make that mistake again. 

Now, to the positive stuff. I played some great golf this week, and I overcame some great adversity. Even though the weekend was disappointing for me, I still accomplished something great. Playing in tough and windy conditions, I played my final 12 holes in two under par on Sautrday after bogieing five of the first six holes. Then in even windier conditions on Sunday, after having a shank and a whiff on the same hole, I played the final ten holes bogey-free and three under par to climb back into the top ten. That took some mental fortitude, and it required a golf game that was pretty sharp, too. I am disappointed not to have played better overall on the weekend, but I have plenty of reasons to still be encouraged. 

I'm excited to be heading home and to have a week to work on things. I'll be back with a Process Goals update and a practice report by midweek. Thank you for following me, and please keep up the support. I really appreciate it! 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tough Day on Saturday But I'm Still in It

I was tied for the lead and in the final pairing as Saturday began. I bogied five of the first six holes to quickly change the "tied for the lead" part. I was in a bit of shock, to be honest. I practiced beautifully before lunch and then had a great warm-up session prior to my 1:00 tee time, but things were just a little bit off from the start. I thought I hit a great wedge into the par-five opening hole, but I over-played the wind, and my ball sailed just over the green. A mediocre chip and a poor putt led to a bogey. Over the next five holes, I hit a few more poor putts, got a few strange bounces, and took a long ride on the struggle bus. I was definitely rattled, but after a solid par on the long par-three seventh hole, I rallied my powers of positive thinking. I knew I was playing well, and I needed to get my mojo going in the right direction. I hit two great shots to reach the island green of the par-five eighth hole and two-putted for a much-needed birdie. I went on to play the final 12 holes of my round in two under par to post a third-round 75 (+3). That is not a very good score, but I am pleased with the way I gutted out my round. 

I will now begin Sunday's round in a tie for sixth place--but just five shots behind the leader. I definitely want to win this event, but I need to approach tomorrow with the mindset that I want to play as well as possible and then let the results fall where they may. If I try to press and make it happen, bad things can happen on this golf course. I will be patient and follow my plan tomorrow, and I am confident that I will have a great day. 

Come back for a good report in the evening! Thank you for your support!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Playing Well

My game continues to feel great in Mexico. I don't have any cool stories to tell from round two, but I'm pleased with how I played. I hit two squirrelly drives today and one poor iron shot and was otherwise very solid. I took advantage of calm conditions early in the round and shot -4 on the front nine, and I birdied the final hole of a difficult second nine to post a four-under-par 68. All aspects of my game are showing great signs, and I am ready for more of the same on the weekend. Keep it here for more good reports after the weekend rounds. Thank you for following with me!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Great Start in Mexico

My new commitment paid dividends on Thursday in the opening round of the Mexico Championship. I was playing beautifully and had made three birdies and one bogey when I stepped up to play the reachable par-five 18th for my ninth hole of the day. I drove the ball in the water, and then, despite being committed to a fairly smart plan, I hit my next shot in the water, too. After another penalty drop, I misjudged my fifth shot and went well long of the green past a hole that was cut just three steps from the back edge. Rather than panicking or thinking about the cut, I stayed in the present, believed in my game, and flopped my sixth shot into the hole for an improbable bogey. From there, I went on to play some great golf on the front nine. I birdied six holes on my back nine and posted an opening-round 65 (-7). It was a great round and a powerful example to me of what intentional positive thinking can do. 

In addition to the solid round, I had a great afternoon of practice and am feeling very good about things. Thank you for following, and come back for a round-two report Friday evening!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Vamos en Mexico

Well, everything except the wi-fi is great here in Leon, Mexico! The golf course is very very good, and my preparation has been great. I have the first tee time of the day on Thursday morning, and I am ready to go. I am going to commit to a smart plan on every shot and hit every shot with the belief that I can win the tournament. Come back for more quick reports after each round. Thank you for following me!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Paradigm Shift

It's time for some honesty. I have been particularly honest with myself and my family over the last three weeks, and I have gotten down to some deep-rooted stuff that's happening inside my head. In short, I'm obsessed with making the cut in my golf tournaments, and that is affecting me in a negative way on the course on Thursdays and Fridays. It is not easy for me to admit that, but it is important, and I am ready to start moving in a better direction. 

First, let me back up and explain how I've gotten here. My rookie year on the PGA Tour was hard on me. I missed a lot of cuts. In fact, between 16 PGA Tour events and six Tour events in 2014, I made it to only five weekends. During the season last year, I never recognized myself being obsessed with making or missing the cut, but looking back on it, I can see that as 2014 rolled along, the cut became my subconscious standard of success or failure. Then, as I geared my off-season plan towards a great 2015 season, I subconciously told myself that I wanted to make a lot more cuts this year. Obviously, as you can see from the goals that I published for this year, making cuts is not my actual standard of success, but for some reason, that has subconsiously remained an important measuring stick for me. I have always known that I dislike missing cuts and have always felt some anxiety related to that when I'm near the line on Fridays, but it hasn't been until the past six months that I have truly been obsessed with making cuts. This is where the honesty comes in. Here's how bad it has gotten: I tee off on Thursdays to begin tournaments with an idea of what a "safe" score is for the first 36 holes. I don't do that on purpose, but it happens in my head. At the first sign of adversity during the first two rounds, my mind immediately wonders to the cut regardless of how well I am playing. And here is the real kicker. In an honest talk with Alicia and my sister, Laura, I said this (and actually meant it): the disappointment I feel from missing a cut is stronger than the joy I feel from winning a tournament. Wow. I am obsessed with making the cut. 

Now, the good news. These are thoughts. I control my thoughts. The subconscious ones are a little harder to control, but now that I have acknowledged them, they are no longer subconscious. I have spent a lot of time meditating on this train of thought during this two-week break, and I am ready to change. 

To begin, let me make a couple statements. First of all, I am not Tiger Woods circa 2000. I am probably not going to make all of my cuts. And that is okay. Secondly, my goals, which very thoroughly lay out the things I plan to accomplish each year, mention nothing about making cuts. Clearly, making or missing the cut each week is not my standard of success, so I am ready to re-wire my thinking accordingly. 

I already have a good start to an on-course mental strategy to combat these poor thought patterns. I have been trying to truly understand and commit to the one-shot-at-a-time motto all year, and, in my conscious mind, have done a pretty good job of that. Continuing to emphasize that is definitely important moving forward. Additionally, I am going to begin each tournament week with a new and very specific standard of success. My new standard of success is a three part question. Did I prepare well for the tournament? Did I commit to a smart plan on every shot? Did I approach every shot with the belief that I could win the tournament? Obviously, I am not going to win every week, but I want to be able to answer each of these three questions with a resounding "yes". If I can do that, it will be a successful week. 

That is my tournament mindset. I am ready to get after it. 

This is a very positive blog post already, but let me add some even better news to it. The hard work that I have put in over the past five months has allowed me to have an incredible start to this year despite poor thoughts in my subconscious mind. When I'm home in Knoxville, my good friend Jake Reeves helps me with my golf game a lot, and he likes to tell me I'm tough. I never really know what that means, but I think it means that I am gritty. I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve my goals. Even though my head has not been in the best spot heading into tournaments for the first couple months of this year, I have competed hard and achieved a lot. It takes some toughness to change thought patterns and think more positively, but I'm going to do it. 

I have had a great week of work here at HOME. I need to have a nice practice session this afternoon to  polish off a Full Practice Schedule this week, and I will get that done. I am ready to play again. I will travel early Monday morning for the Tour's event in Mexico, and I'm ready to compete for another win. 

Thank you for following me and believing in me! More great stuff is coming, so please keep it here to enjoy the ride with me!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

HOME!! Practice Report

I love competing, and, since Alicia is working from the road and traveling with me (and caddying!), I really enjoy the travel aspect of my job, too. With that said, there is something very nice about walking through my own front door after being gone for 32 days! After finishing the Tour event in Louisiana on March 29, Alicia and I drove to Houston and played the Monday Qualifier for the PGA Tour's Houston Open. I played well, but my three-under-par 69 was not very close to qualifying. So on Tuesday, we flew back to Jacksonville, Florida, where my car was. We had a fun evening with friends in Jacksonville before driving to Orlando on Wednesday morning so I could spend the day with Mitchell. After a productive session with Mitchell, only 645 miles separated us from HOME! We split the drive up into two days because we didn't leave Orlando until nearly 6:00 PM, but by early afternoon on Thursday, we walked in our front door, and it was a great feeling!

I love being home. There is something naturally comforting and restful about being surrounding by family, friends, and even just space and "things" that are my own. Of course, home also comes with quite a few errands and chores that I don't have to worry about on the road, but I'll gladly take that trade-off. I've been home now for a little less than a week, and I feel fully rested. 

It's not that I'm good at resting; it's just that my work routine is less exhausting at home because everything is comfortable. I've actually been getting after it pretty hard. I had two Light Weeks of Practice and Fitness work in Chile and Louisiana, so I needed to have some good work last week. The travel load in the first half of last week made it hard to complete all of my Process Goals, but I was determined. I did complete a Full Fitness Routine. That took a lot of will-power and discipline, so it felt good. I put in a very solid practice effort, too, but I came up short in a long battle with my final putting drill of the week. I'm going to do my six-footers one time extra this week to make up for that--even though technically I wouldn't say my practice drills are supposed to work retroactively like that. The point is, however, that I am putting in the work that I need to do to continue getting better. I love working on my game, and when I'm home, I have great facilities to work on my game and my fitness. That is what makes being home so great: I can work really hard, but still feel rested and recharged when it's time to hit the road again. 

I need to mention one thing here just to give it some public validation: my process works for me! I really struggled last year on the PGA Tour, but if I look back on the year, I didn't follow my process at all. I still felt like I was working hard, but I wasn't working smart. I wasn't following a system. I abondoned my Process Goals early in the year last year. During the off-season I made some commitments. I committed to new instruction on my swing mechanics with Mitchell Spearman, and I committed to a firm, goal-oriented preparation routine. l have carried over both commitments into the 2015 season. The results speak for themselves. With that said, I know that I still have a long way to go and much to accomplish. I have proven nothing yet except for the fact that my process works for me. So I am going to stay committed to it!

I have another train of thought on which I have been meditating during this small break from competition. I need to spill my thoughts about it on here, but I will save that for a post this weekend. 

For now, I will just say, thank you for continuing to believe in me. There is more great stuff to come. Keep it here to enjoy the journey 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...