Monday, August 31, 2015

Checking off My Goals: A Look Back at 2015 So Far

Last night in Portland it became official: I am going back to the PGA Tour for the 2015-2016 season. The Tour held a ceremony for the 25 leading money winners following the conclusion of the final regular season event, and it was a great thrill to be among the group celebrating. I still have a lot of work to do, and there is much that I can still accomplish in the Tour Finals, but I have officially secured my PGA Tour Card for next season, and that is the realization of my number one Outcome Goal for this year.
It is very gratifying to be where I am right now. After a rough year that beat up my confidence as a rookie on the PGA Tour in 2014, I came up with an off-season plan and committed to it this past winter. I started the process of making some changes to my swing mechanics to help me become a more efficient and consistent ball-striker. I outlined a practice schedule to ensure I had focused work on my short game and putting while working to improve my swing. I stayed dedicated to a good fitness routine to keep my body in great shape. I followed my plan well, and when the Tour schedule kicked off in early February, I felt confident and ready. 

I started the year slowly with two bottom-of-the-field weekend finishes and one missed cut in the first three events. In fact, in the third event, I shot 85-77 on the weekend to literally finish at the very bottom of the field. I wasn't rattled or deterred. I knew that I was on the right track and continued to believe that I was ready to play well. I was right. The very next week, I made 30 birdies, shot 22 under par, and won the HSBC Brasil Champions event.

That event featured the biggest purse of the year during the Tour's regular season, and my win not only checked off my number two Outcome Goal for the year, but also put me on the very fast track to achieving my number one Outcome Goal of returning to the PGA Tour. 

My win in Brazil also opened my eyes to a new goal for the year: the possibility of earning "fully exempt" status on the PGA Tour by being the leading money winner on the Tour. I held the top spot for a number of weeks, but currently sit in fourth place on the list and face quite a deficit behind the leader. It will take a Herculian effort in the Finals to achieve the number one spot for the season, but I have certainly not abandoned that goal.

I now have one week off to prepare for the Tour Finals. The Finals is a four-event series in consecutive weeks in which the top 75 competitors from the Tour's regular season and numbers 126 through 200 from the PGA Tour compete for an additional 25 PGA Tour Cards for the 2015-2016 season. My Card is already secure, but the order of the Cards is very significant, and that is what is on the line for me at the Finals. Two players will emerge from the Finals with "fully exempt" status on TOUR for the 2015-2016 season. Those two players are the leading money winner cumulatively from Tour season and the leading money winner from the four Finals events. My goal is to earn one of those spots. 

It has already been a great year. I have proven to myself that dedication to my process works. I have achieved my primary Outcome Goal for the year. I am going to the PGA Tour for the 2015-2016 season. Now it's time to keep following the same process that got me here and keep believing in it. This is just the beginning. There is still a lot to accomplish. I know my formula for success, and I'm ready to keep following it.

Thank you very much for keeping up with me and cheering me along through it all. It has been a fun season so far, and I am going to keep getting better. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Bum Result, but Positive Performance in Portland

One principle of being mentally tough is knowing that my performance is going to stink occasionally. This week in Portland, my preparation was on point, my attitude was right where I want it, and I just made a few very costly mistakes with my execution. I hate that, but I have to know that it is alright and that this was still a very positive week. If I do a poor job of handling the things that I can control (preparation and process), I feel like that is a failure on my part. If I prepare well and take care of my process but end up with a bum result, I can be at peace in knowing that sometimes that is going to happen. That is where I am this week. I feel very disappointed not to be playing the weekend, but I know that I prepared well and had a good attitude on the course, so I can accept the results. 

I ended up with scores of 75, 73 (+6, total) to miss the cut but eight shots, but each of my rounds featured a "what-the-heck?" hole. In Thursday's opening round, I was even par with a horribly cold putter through 11 holes before making a mess (literally) of the par-three 12th. I blocked a short iron well to the right of the water-guarded green before blasting my chip shot too far and having it roll into the pond. It stayed on the muddy edge of the water, and hilarity ensued. Click the link below if you don't believe me.
The result of that was a tough-to-swallow seven on the par three. I maintained a good attitude moving forward, but I dropped a few more shots before a great birdie-eagle finish gave me a glimmer of hope heading into the second round. Friday's round saw another solid performance crushed by a cold putter and another big number. This time the big number was even bigger, and it came on the par-four 16th hole (my seventh of the day). I was in a greenside bunker in two facing a long bunker shot to a back hole location. I needed to be a aggressive, but I caught the shot thin and it flew into the abyss behind the green. I had to drop in the same spot and hit the shot again except from a plugged lie. To my amazement, I hit nearly a carbon copy of the first shot and had to drop in the bunker once more. I popped the third one safely onto the green and two-putted to secure a nine on the hole. A seven on a par-three and a nine on a par-four will usually derail even the best of rounds, and these two certainly thwarted my efforts in Portland. 

Despite the obvious disappointment of the scores and final result, I was very pleased with my ball-striking in general over my two rounds at Pumpkin Ridge and especially with my performance over my final eleven holes after making the nine. To close out my round on Friday, I hit the final eleven greens in regulation and had a birdie putt of less than 20 feet on nine of those holes. My putter remained cold, and that is certainly a little bothersome to me, but I was very encouraged by the way I hit the ball. In fact, playing on the most demanding course we had seen in the last several weeks, I hit 29 of 36 greens in regulation. That is encouraging stuff. I definitely have some work to do to get my good vibes going again with the putter, but I know I'm never far off with that club. Overall, I feel great, and am excited to get back to work soon!

To end the regular season on the Tour with a missed cut is definitely a bummer, but I will take a great deal of positive things from this week's event. More than that, the end of the regular season is a natural stopping point from which to take a look back on the year as a whole, and I would be crazy not to feel great when doing that! I will be on a plane for a long time tomorrow, and I will write a post summarizing my feelings about the year as a whole and looking forward to the big events to come. There is still so much to accomplish, and I am feeling great. 

Thank you for following me and believeing in me! I really appreciate all the support I receive. Keep it here for a big report sometime on Monday. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Happy in Portland and Ready to Trust

I have had two great days of work here in the Greater-Portland area heading into the final Tour event of the regular season. I have been on-point with my preparation, and I am feeling energized and ready to go. It is easy to feel energized here because the weather and the golf course are both incredible, but I would be feeling good anywhere after my last two days. I am excited to keep up the good work and have a great week here.

The host venue for this event is called the Witch Hollow Course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, and it is absolutely fantastic. It is beautiful, well-conditioned, and very demanding. I am excited to play it, and I feel prepared to play it well.

My practice has felt excellent the last two days, and I have hit on a little key that has really helped. I need to make sure I follow my pre-shot mental routine all the way through to the last step, which is saying the word "Trust" as I start my swing or stroke. I noticed even in my practice drills over the last two days that I was trying to steer or guide the ball towards my target rather than trusting my process and letting the club flow. I vow this week to be process-oriented and to trust myself and my plan on every shot. I'm going to do that, and I'm going to let the club swing confidently on every shot. 

It's going to be a great week, and I am excited for it. Keep it here for updates after the rounds and thank you for following me!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Knoxville Wrap-up

I did three loads of laundry last night (Sunday) at my house in Knoxville, Tennessee. Doing laundry at the end of a tournament week is nothing unusual, but this time it was a little bit different. It felt symbollic, almost. I washed everything: light clothes, dark clothes, and every golf towel that was in my bag or car. I needed to wash away the attitude that I carried around the course with me over the weekend in my hometown event. I am disappointed with the way that I played over the final 28 holes of the Tour's Knoxville Open, but it's not the results that left me feeling like I needed to metaphorically wash the weekend. I was very poor mentally over the final two rounds, and that stinks. The good news is that I control my thoughts, so even though I can't change the past, I can learn from it, wash the negativity away in the laundry, and move forward strongly. 

I am ready to do just that, but first, just to give it some closure, let me talk about what went wrong over the past two days. I entered the week with a pretty good attitude. I knew the course suited me well and that I was coming off a great week of practice. I also knew that it was going to be a busy week for me with a lot of great but potentially distracting hometown obligations, so I had a nice mix of confidence and caution in my mind heading into the tournament. After the first 44 holes, however, the caution was gone. I was playing great. Despite a very cold putter, I birdied 12 of the first 44 holes and made just a single bogey. In the beginning stages of Saturday's round, I was hitting the ball so well that I felt certain I would get the putter going, and I just felt like the tournament was mine to win. I got ahead of myself for sure, and my putting never did come alive. I missed consecutive six-foot putts for birdies on the 12th and 13th holes on Saturday, and I began to get impatient and furious. On the following hole, I rammed a 15-foot birdie putt four feet past the hole and missed the ensuing bid for par. I carried that rage to the next hole, and though I tried to have a good plan for my approach shot, I didn't commit well enough to my smart strategy, and I over-curved my iron shot towards the left hole location and watched as my ball one-hopped into the pond left of the green. I really let my thoughts get away from me in that stretch. I was determined to have a better attitude for Sunday's final round, but I still wanted it too badly on the course. I was results-oriented early, and I found myself getting angry with every shot that didn't go perfectly and especially with every putt that missed. I was impatient, frustrated, and angry for the majority of my time over the final 28 holes of the tournament, and that stems from being results-oriended. I didn't feel like myself. I wasn't having fun. And that is why those three loads of laundry were symbollic for me. I washed away that impatient, results-oriented, no-fun way of thinking. 

I know how to think well on the golf course. For me, thinking well starts with feeling prepared. The reason that I commit to my Process Goals each week is to know that I am prepared when I hit the course in competition. From there, the key element to my on-course mental strategy is being firmly rooted in the present. Anger and frustration are focused on the past, and a results-oriented mindset is worried about the future. When I let my mind live in the past or the future, it negatively affects my ability to do my job in the present. My job is to deliver focus on each and every shot. I need to take in all the information pertaining to each shot, formulate a smart plan, visualize the shot, feel the shot, and then trust that process as I start my swing. This may sound tedious, but it is actually very freeing, and golf is the most fun when I play in that state of mind. If I can truly go through that process and arrive at a genuine sense of trust before I start my swing or stroke, then I don't need to worry about the results. Anyone who has ever played golf knows that the results will not be good every time, but if I commit to that process and believe in it, I give myself the greatest possibility to be successful over every shot. That is thinking well on the golf course. 

One last thought on this subject: the results do matter; of course they do! My livelihood depends on the results. But I don't have full control over the results. I only control my process. If I give each shot a very present-minded focus and go through my process well, I know that I will be successful in the end. I also know that I will be at peace and have a lot of fun, too! So, yes, of course the results matter, but I know that the way to achieve the results I want is to focus on, be committed to, and believe in my process. 

By the way, here are the results from the weekend that felt like a personal catastrophe while it was happening. I posted rounds of 67, 66, 71, 72 (-8, total) and finished tied for 34th. Disappointing? Yes. Troubling? Absolutely not. 

I also rallied late in the week after a slow start to complete a Light Fitness Routine and Light Practice Schedule. That keeps me on track to complete all of my Process Goals for this segment, but I need to have two good weeks of work over the next 14 days. I'm ready for it!

Alicia and I travel today for Portland, Oregon, and the final Tour event of the regular season. I've heard the golf course this week (Pumpkin Ridge) is a solid and demanding track. I'm going to have a great six days there, and I'm going to blog about it throughout the week this time. It's amazing how writing stuff on here helps me internalize my thoughts, so expect more updates moving forward. 

Keep it here to share this journey with me. Thank you very much for following me and for your support. I am excited and know that great things are coming!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Springfield Wrap-up

Everything except for the final result was exactly what I wanted from my week at the Tour's event in Springfield. I had a focused week of work and completed a Full Fitness Routine and a Full Practice Schedule. I regained my process-oriented perspective, and I felt successful regardless of my scores on the course. And, as a bonus, my performance on the course was definitely a step in the right direction as well. I  started to feel that I was in control of the ball off the tee again, and I gave myself a tremendous amount of birdie opportunities throughout the tournament. At the end of the day on Sunday, some poor back-nine putting and one horrific iron shot on the penultimate hole marred the final results just a little bit, but they do nothing to change my feelings about the week in Springfield. I am feeling great and am excited to keep up the good work moving forward. 

Alicia and I are currently traveling home, but this time we're traveling home for a tournament. The Tour is in Knoxville this week, and we are excited for our home game! It will be nice to be surrounded by the comfort and support of my home community, but I will definitely have to work hard to stay focused on taking care of business. I'm ready and excited to do that. 

I have been adamant for the past several months that I am chasing the Outcome Goal of being number one on the Tour money list at the end of the season. That hill to reach that goal had gotten steeper over the past few weeks as top players have won the last three events. I currently sit in fourth place on the list and have quite a large deficit. The good news is that I am feeling great and have six events, including four with the biggest purses of the year, remaining to reach my goal. I know that it will take quite an effort, but I believe that I will achieve my goal. I also know that the formula for achieving the outcome that I want is to stay committed to my process, and I'm going to do that.

I'm excited to get home and get to work at the Tour event in my town. The last time I teed it up in Knoxville, the results were pretty cool! 

Thank you for following and believing in me. Keep it here for updates throughout the week!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Springfield Rounds 1, 2, & 3

This week has already been a huge success for me. That is true despite the fact that a disappointing third round has left me in 12th place and a distant nine shots behind the leader heading into the final round. I set out early this week to follow my process and have a great week of work, and I have done just that. I am one short workout and five minutes of short game practice away from completing my Full Fitness Routine and Full Practice Schedule this week, and I will get those done today. I had an awful lot of non-golf-related thoughts swirling around my mind as the week started, but a great pep-talk from my sweet wife on Tuesday afternoon helped me get my head on straight, and I have been focused on doing my job since then. That is why is has been a successful week. I overcame a tough week mentally last week and a bad start to this week to put forth some of my most focused and productive work. That feels really good, and it does wonders for my golf game physically and mentally. 

In addition to clearing that mental hurdle, I have really played some great golf as well. I opened the tournament with one of the most bizarre rounds I have ever played. I hit a few very poor shots, but with the exception of those, I was extremely sharp. I carded 11 birdies in the opening round to offset my three bogies for an eight-under-par 64. Then, on Friday, I was much more solid, but couldn't quite get the putter hot. Through 16 holes on Friday, I had made 14 pars and two birdies. I finished with two birdies in a row for a 68. Saturday was a little bit frustrating because I continued to feel like I was playing solidly, but I simply couldn't get anything going. It seemed that I had birdie putts in the 10-20 foot range on every hole, but I made none of them. I also made a pair of unforced errors in the middle of my round and dropped a couple shots. At the end, I birdied the final hole to post a third-round 70, so I left the golf course on a positive note. In general, I feel like I am playing very well, and I am excited moving forward. 

So, I head into Sunday feeling like this has been already been a successful week. That is a very good thing, but I also know that I can still accomplish something great in the tournament. I feel good about the way I am playing, and I'm excited to go out with a great attitude and execute well today. 

Keep it here for a final-round report sometime during the day on Monday. Thank you for following me!

Here's a picture of the par-five finishing hole for this week's event. We could have some fireworks here!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Prepared in Springfield

I am ready to play great in Springfield. I've had two fantastic days of preparation, I really like the course, and I feel like my game is starting to click again. There are a couple of sad things going on in my life and especially the lives of those around me, and those things are definitely a little bit distracting, but the best thing that I can do is be focused and take care of business when I'm at the golf course. I've been doing that for the past two days in Springfield and am ready to keep it up through the tournament. I am going to have a great attitude, enjoy playing golf, and believe in myself over every shot this week. I'm excited for a good one. Keep it here for updates during the tournament, and thank you for following me. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Learning from Frustration in KC

It is a brand new week, so I will be brief with my commentary on last week's Tour event in Kansas City. The title of this post really says it all. I played poorly and felt out of whack both physically and mentally during the tournament. In very good scoring conditions on a golf course that didn't present too much of a challenge, I posted rounds of 68, 68, 70, 73 to finish in 71st place at five under par. The one very positive thing that I will take from my performance is the scrappiness I showed over the first two days. Despite hitting some horrific golf shots, I played hard, continued to believe, and made enough birdies to earn a spot in the weekend. After that, though, my performance and attitude both stunk over the final two rounds, and I definitely left the tournament feeling pretty crummy. It was not a good week of golf, but I am ready to learn from it and move forward. 

I'm not really sure why my game was off in Kansas City. I have been struggling a little bit with my accuracy lately, and that plagued me last week. I'm okay chalking that up to the cyclical nature of golf. However, my poor mindset on the course is much more bothersome to me. I was very impatient, results-oriented, frustrated, and downright unhappy much of the time on the course this past week. I know that I control my thoughts, and that means that I chose to feel that way. The good news about this powerful kick in the butt is that I can also choose better thoughts and feelings. I need to choose good thoughts, and I'm ready.

So what happened in Kansas City; how does a guy who claims his mental game to be his greatest asset as a golfer end up feeling the way I did on the course? By letting distractions linger and getting out of routine. I don't need to go into detail, but I did not follow a good practice regimen last week, and rather than feeling prepared and confident on the course, I found myself distracted and worried. That's a tough way to play, and it certainly isn't healthy for me. 

How can I be better? By simply taking care of my business and following my Process Goals. I will always have weeks and periods during which I have off-course stuff that is distracting, but I need to have the discipline to focus on my job when I'm at the golf course and get my work done. If I feel prepared heading into a competition, I find that I am much more at peace with the results either way. If I'm not prepared, I internally associate much more of my self-worth with the outcome, and that is just not a healthy state-of-being. Regardless of what is going on, away from the course, I need to be focused on doing my job well when I am there, and that helps me to be at peace in all areas of my life. 

I already have the formula for proper preparation in place in my Process Goals.  Though I didn't complete either of my practice schedules this past week in Kansas City, I put in a good effort over the weekend to finish a light fitness routine. The week in KC was the first week of my seventh five-week segment of the year. I can still get all of my Process Goals done for this segment, but I need to have some great weeks of work moving forward. I truly enjoy working at my craft, and I believe that my process works, so I am excited to get after it. 

Alicia and I arrived in Springfield, MO, on Monday evening, and I am ready to get to work. I have great memories from playing here in 2013, and I'm excited for more good stuff. If I take care of my business when I'm at the golf course and prepare well, I know that I'll get my attitude and my game heading back in the right direction. I'm going to do just that. 

Thank you for following and believing in me! More great stuff is coming! By the way, I'll do a better job of updating my blog during tournaments. That is another thing that helps me stay focused on the good thoughts, so I will make the time to do it. Keep it here for updates from Springfield. 

By the way, here is something cool from the week in KC. I got to throw out the first pitch at my beloved Royals' game last Friday. I zipped it over the cather's head and into the backstop, but it was my first wild pitch of the year, so the skipper was okay with it!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Utah Championship and a Great Hike

I was incredibly surprised and disappointed by my performance in the Utah Championship. I was coming off a great week of practice at home and had two solid days of preparation in Utah leading into the tournament. I was feeling ready when I teed it up on Thursday morning. Things didn't go according to my plan. I was erratic off of the tee, and despite a great comeback to post a two-under-par 70 in the first round, my sloppy play cost me in the afternoon on Friday, and I struggled to a 77. Those scores gave me the weekend off, and that is no fun in my line of work.

I really felt prepared to have a great tournament in Utah, so this result is particularly disappointing. The problem can easily be traced to my play on the par fives. The course had four par-fives, and depending on the wind direction, at least two of them were easily reachable for me. Without doing anything special, I would have expected to play the par fives in at least two under par per round. Instead, I played them three over par combined during my two rounds of the tournament. The problem, as it was on many of the other holes as well, was largely caused by my inability to get my tee shots in the fairway. Accuracy off the tee has to be one of my strengths, and I KNOW that it is, but I didn't have it this week in Utah. For me to be successful, I have to drive the ball well, and I simply didn't do that this week. 

The bum results in Utah don't mean that my process is failing; they just mean that I had an off week. My practice has been fantastic lately, and I still feel excellent about my game. I know that my plan works, and I also know that poor weeks are going to happen. The goal is to get so good that I can still compete even when my game is a little bit off, and I'm going to get there. I was definitely disappointed to miss the cut in Utah, but I still believe in myself and my process and am excited to get back to work!

After the tough day on the course on Friday, I needed some Mountain Therapy on Saturday. Utah delivered. Check out some of the stunning pictures from my hike: 

That was just what I needed! Now I'm ready to get back to work and chase down my goals. I'm flying to Kansas City as I write this and am excited to start preparing for next week's event--the Digital Ally Open. 

Keep it here for another report soon. Thank you for following me, and keep believing; you know I will! 

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...