Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Great Look Back; Time to Move Forward

I have had a break from everything--even blogging, apparently--over the past six days. Since finishing the PGA Tour's Fall Series last week at Sea Island in Georgia, I have not done any serious golf-related activities. I know that time off is valuable, and I certainly won't go all-out over the next couple of weeks, but I am ready to get back to work. It was an amazing Fall Series for me and one definitely worthy of celebrating, but I still have much to accomplish and am ready to keep improving. 

I'll start with a quick recap of the last event. I played nicely at Sea Island, but unfortunately, my off-season started one day early. I made the cut, but hovered near the bottom of the leaderboard on Saturday and ended up getting MDF'd. "MDF" is short for made cut, did not finish. The MDF policy is enacted in events where more than 78 players make the cut. It exists to limit the field to a more managable size so that the everyone can finish within the television window. It didn't feel good to be sent home before the final round, but that end result was not indicative of the way I felt about my game. Playing in windy conditions, I had some of best ball-striking stats ever. I feel like I turned a corner with my driving of the golf ball, and my iron and wedge play were good as well. I hit a very high percentage of fairways and greens, and really had plenty of chances to get something good going, but I was just a little bit off on the putting surfaces. I never did a good job with my pace on the greens, and that made a big difference. I suffered a couple of very uncharacteristic three-putts during the week and never got into a good groove at all. I posted scores of 69, 71, 70 (-2, total) and missed the chance to play on Sunday by a single shot. It was disappointing to go home a day early, but it was nice just to make the cut feeling as "off" as I did on the greens. I'm not the least bit worried because I know that I will usually putt well, and if I continue to the hit the ball the way I did at Sea Island, I will be in contention a lot. Though the end result will show a tie for 75th place for me in the Fall's final event, I feel great about my game and the opportunities that exist heading into the 2016 portion of the schedule. 

Those opportunities changed just a little bit three weeks ago. Remember this:
That win changed a lot of things for me. Now, instead of wondering which events I will get into, I need to be pondering some different things, such as, which events will I choose to skip. To answer one of the most common questions I have recieved, my win did NOT earn an invitation to the 2016 Masters. What it did do, however, is put me into the fully exempt winner's category on the PGA Tour for the rest of this season and the next two full seasons as well. That means that I will get into all of the "regular" events and a lot of the special tournaments as well. To put it another way, when I was a rookie on Tour, I played every single event that I got into, and that totalled 18 tournaments. This season, I will have the opportunity to play in neary 40 events. That is really cool, and I love to play, so I may get fairly close to that number, but I obviously need to be smart about it. 

I am still really motivated, however. The fact that I have not yet secured an invitation to the 2016 Masters has me very hungry to win again soon. Plus, I really like this feeling:
The post-victory glow looks pretty good, too:
That first win was definitley unforgettable, but I am hungry to have that winning feeling again. I would like to make it a habit, actually!

The way to do that is with consistent, intelligent, focused preparation. That is why I am excited to get back to work. Rest is preparation, too, and I know that, so I am excited to combine all the hard-work elements of preparartion that I enjoy with some quality down time over the next five weeks. I will hit the ground running and ready to compete in 2016. That reminds me of one other opportunity that my win secured for me. I will be starting the 2016 tournament schedule at the Tournament of Champions in Maui the first week of January. That kind of makes me wonder what the post-victory glow would look like in Hawaii. I'm motivated to find out!

It has been a great journey to the milestone achievement that happened this Fall, but I'm still going to sign off with my traditional promise: great things are coming! I will post periodically on here during the off-season, so keep it here to see how I am getting better! Thank you for following and believing in me!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Good Week in Mexico; Still Getting Better

I posted two very solid rounds to finish the tournament in Mexico. After being outside the cut line with four holes to go on Friday, I finished that round with a couple birdies and then posted matching rounds of four under par (67) on Saturday and Sunday. Coming off the excitement of the previous week in Mississippi, I definitely felt a little bit strange early during the tournament in Mexico, but I was pleased with the way I stayed composed and played well over the weekend. My good play was rewarded with a sneaky, back-door top-ten finish. I finished in a seven-way tie for tenth place. It was a great week, and I'm very excited to keep it going.

The thing that excites me the most is that I am still improving. I was once again erratic off the tee at times in Mexico, but I hit some great tee shots on challenging driving holes down the stretch. My putter was not particularly "hot" during this tournament, but with the exception of a couple surprising misses early in the week, I was very solid from inside of eight feet, which is important. My iron play continued to be fairly solid, and my wedges and short game were a bright spot this week in Mexico. I am obviously playing well right now, and I feel like things will continue to get better as well. 

I was very interested to see what my mindset would be like on the course the week after a breakthrough victory on the PGA Tour. I knew that motivation to play well would be there because it always is for me, but I wasn't sure what I would feel like. I was predictably a little calmer than usual as the tournament began, but I actually got just as intense as ever as early struggles on Friday had me on the wrong side of the cut line. I got a little more anxious than I would like to be in the middle of the round on Friday, but I composed myself well enough to get the job done. Over the weekend, I was actually proud of the intensity I had. I may have gotten a little too into it in the middle of the round on Sunday, but I was definitely competing hard, and I stayed composed (that's my new word) and delivered a good performance down the stretch. One thing that I could tell for certain is that I am hungry to win again. That is a good feeling, and I'm confident that I will have a lot of chances to do just that.

Alicia and I are currently en route to Sea Island, GA, for the RSM Classic. This is the final event of the PGA Tour's Fall Series, so we are excited to put in one last solid week of work before we get a short break from competition over the holiday season. 

My focus is definitely on this week's event and being sharp for it, but I still want to do a post on here with some pictures and more information about my win two weeks ago. Keep an eye out for that in the next couple days!

Thank you very much for following me and for your support!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Feeling Good in Mexico

In many ways, this week has felt strange. Riding a high of excitement following last week's win, I arrived in Mexico late in the day on Tuesday. The late arrival and the exhaustion of trying to celebrate and decompress from last week left me in a great state of mind but not in a normal state of preparedness for this week's event. By noon on Wednesday, though, I told myself I wanted to get back to work and focus on doing my job. I played this course two years ago, so my lack of a practice round was certainly not detrimental. My intention was to be as prepared and hungry to play well this week as I had been in my first three tournaments of this young PGA Tour season. After a good tune up on Wednesday afternoon and another good practice session Thursday morning, I felt that I was in the moment and ready to go by my 12:10 tee time in the opening round. 

Of course, there was one big reminder that things are different in my life this week than they were at the start of the previous tournament. Rather than my typical tee time at the far back end of the wave with my fellow 2015 Tour graduates, I was in the front half of the wave playing with Matt Kuchar and Russel Knox. That is nice, but what was even nicer is the fact that I felt very much like I belonged there. It was definitely different, but the new tee time category felt good, and I am already used to it. 

I began the tournament with a par and a bogey on the first two holes, but I followed that with an incredibly solid fifteen holes in which I made five birdies and no bogies. I three-putted the 18th green on Thursday to end my opening round on a sour note, but the three-under-par 68 was a nice start to the tournament. I was less solid on Friday. I sprinkled in a really poor shot every few holes on Friday and my putter wasn't there to bail me out. I was two over par for my round and outside the cut-line with four holes to go, but I rallied with some good shots late. I birdied holes six and nine (my 15th and 18th on Friday) to post an even-par second round and advance to the weekend. I never got anything going on Saturday, but I played solidly and posted a five-birdie, one-bogey round of 67. I'm currently seven under par for the event and sitting in the middle of the field with a chance to make a very positive move on Sunday. 

I am definitely still beaming about my maiden victory on the PGA Tour last week in Mississippi, but I also know that win is just the beginning for me. I'm proud of the way I've been able to focus and do my job so far this week in Mexico. It'll take a Herculean effort to reach the top of the leaderboard this week, but I am excited to continue playing solidly. 

Thank you for following me and for your support. Please come back for a final-round report late Sunday or Monday.    

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Something Big

I end most of my blog posts with the promise that big things are coming. This one will be no different--I still believe that big things are coming. But this past week in Jackson, Mississippi, I had an experience that I would certainly have to describe as something BIG. On a rain-soaked week that forced a marathon Monday finish to complete 72 holes, my game rounded into form. My iron play, wedge game, and putting were solid from start to finish; I started to drive the ball better as the week went on; and I stayed as composed mentally as I can ever remember throughout the week. Spread out over five days, I posted scores of 69, 66, 68, 67 for an 18-under-par total, and I claimed a one-shot victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship for my first win on the PGA Tour. I think it's safe to say that something big happened. 

It took until Sunday morning to complete my second round, but I felt great about my position at the half way point. I was six shots behind the leader, but I was feeling great about my game. I opened my third round on Sunday afternoon with a solid nine holes of 8 pars and a birdie before play was halted by darkness. When round three resumed on Monday morning, I birdied three of my first five holes, and I started to think that it could be a special day. I did a really nice job of staying in the present, though, and I closed my third round solidly enough with four consecutive pars. 

There wasn't enough time between the end of round three and the start of round four to really think about where I was in the field, but I knew that I was within one or two shots of the lead. I was definitely excited and a little bit anxious, too. I walked to the first tee to begin my final round with a simple plan in mind. I wanted to stay composed and give myself a birdie putt on every hole. I darn near did that, too. 

I hit the first four greens and rolled in birdie putts of about 15 feet on holes three and four. A poor second shot on the par-five fifth hole had me out of position, and though I hit the green with my third, I was a long way from the hole. After a decent lag putt, I hit my only poor short putt of the week and missed a three footer for my par. I was definitely surprised and a little bit rattled. I feel like I stayed in control of my emotions well, but unfortunately I missed the fairway on the par-four sixth and then missed the green way to the left. I was in trouble, but I hit a phenomenal third shot to give myself a long par putt. I missed the par, but the tap-in bogey was pretty good from where I had hit my second shot. After the back-to-back bogies, I did what I had done all week. I composed myself, hit a great shot on the par-three seventh, and rolled in a straight uphill 30-foot putt for birdie. Making that putt was a big turning point for me. From there, I played mostly great golf the rest of the way. I made birdies at 9, 11, and 12, and I knew I must be near the lead. I made a mess of the par-five 14th hole, but managed to get my third on the green and convert a long two-putt for par. I didn't know exactly where I stood, but I knew that I had a chance to do something really good with solid play down the stretch. 

Over the final four holes, I hit every fairway and every green. I converted an up-and-down for birdie after hitting a great drive on the short par-four 15th and then converted solid two-putt pars on the final three holes. I didn't know where I stood until I approached the final green. I saw that I had a one shot lead, but knew that several players behind me could potentially still catch me. In any event, I knew that I had a straight-forward 50-foot putt, and I needed to hit a good one. I went through my routine, but felt funny standing over the ball. I backed off, thought about how great my life is, and walked into the putt again. I felt the pace and made a great stroke. The ball was on a good line, but pulled up about two-and-a-half feet short. I was definitely nervous over the last putt, but I was confident, too, and I rolled it right in the middle of the cup. What a great feeling that was! 

I watched on tv as the last three groups played the final holes, and no one caught me. I won the tournament. Something big happened. 

I'm still a little bit in awe. I knew that I was good enough to do it, but to be a PGA Tour winner feels a little surreal right now. There are obviously quite a few perks that come with this win, and I'll talk about those in another post soon, but I wanted to tell the exciting story of the big week!

Now, as promised, I still believe big(ger) things are in store. This is a milestone, and it's fantastic, but it is the beginning. Winning is fun, and I'd like to make a habit of it. I have a plan in place to do just that, and after another 22 hours or resting and enjoying this win, I'm going to get back to work in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, at the Mayakoba Classic. 

The outpouring of support that Alicia and I have received is incredible. Thank you so much for caring about us and following this journey! Keep it here for more updates and some cool pictures from the win, too!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Royals, THE Plan, Unfinished Business

It has been a long time since I have posted here on my blog, and I am very excited about many things that have happened since my last update. I could write a small novel, but I am going to try to be quick and efficient as I touch on topics ranging from my goals for the year to my beloved Royals capturing the greatest prize in baseball. I am feeling rested, ready, inspired, and most of all happy as I prepare to kick off the first of three consecutive tournaments to end my 2015 competitive calendar. 

I'm going to start with my Royals. Just more than one year ago, I used the motivational phrase "unfinished business" to describe both the Royals and my golf career. I had achieved the childhood dream of reaching the PGA Tour, but did not play well enough in my rookie campaign to keep my Card and establish myself at that level. Likewise, the Royals had played well enough to reach the 2014 World Series, but heartbreakingly fell short by one run in game seven. I said that we both had unfinished business because the Royals needed to get back to the World Series and win it, and I needed to get back to the PGA Tour and establish myself there. This fall, through a display of grit, teamwork, defense, and simply doing the "little things" right, the Royals' players took care of their unfinished business. They claimed the 2015 World Series, and it was an absolute joy to watch! I have achieved the first step in my unfinished business by earning my way back to the PGA Tour, and I'm ready to display the same grit and determination that the Royals did and resolve my unfinished business. 

I have a good plan to do just that. In the past, my Goal Page has always started with some big Outcome Goals that I am seeking to achieve. This year, I'm not even thinking about outcome. We all know (and me most of all!) that I'm trying to establish myself on the PGA Tour and earn my right to compete at this level year after year. Instead of pinpointing outcomes that will help me achieve this, I'm going to focus on a plan that will guide me along the way. The plan that I have come up with starts with Preparation (Process) Goals. I have a practice schedule and a fitness routine that I will commit to over the course of the 50-week PGA Tour season. The next concept in my plan is working towards key Performance Goals on the course. If I can focus my preparation to excel in a few key statistical areas, great results will follow. The final area of focus in my plan is my Personal Goals. These are commitments that I make in my life regardless of whether things are going well or poorly on the golf course. I know that being a good human being is more important to me than being a great golfer, but I also know that the two can and will work together. I'm excited about my plan. It is a good one, and following it will lead to the results that I want. Here is what my new Plan Board looks like:
I know that this board probably leaves some questions, but slowly, over the next several weeks, I will explain things in more detail. 

Using this plan as my guide, I had a great week off and have had two very productive days of preparation for this week's PGA Tour event in Jackson, Mississippi. During the first two events of this young PGA Tour season, I was over-anxious and tense. I didn't do a great job of following my Personal Goals, and that affected my ability to deliver on the course. I know that bad golf is going to happen from time to time. It happens to everyone in the entire world, but I don't want to let it happen to me because I'm not composed on the course. My game is starting to click, and I'm ready to play. I'm going to be happy and composed on the course, and if things go my way, I'm ready to have a great week. 

I feel great! I'm still on cloud nine about my Royals resolving their unfinished business, and I'm ready to follow my plan and resolve mine as well! Thank you for supporting and believing in me. Keep it here for more insights and updates from Jackson, MS.

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...