Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Hard-Work Phase of the Off-Season

In my last post, I said that the term "off-season" can be a little misleading when used to describe my time away from competition. I don't like to take much time off, but this month I have actually done a really nice job of adding rest and time away from the golf course into my routine. Alicia and I have relished some lazy mornings from time to time here in December, and we enjoyed severel great days of Christmas-ing with both of our families. So I guess I have had something of an off-season, and I have really appreciated it!

With that said, I've also been getting after my golf game pretty hard, too. I took the week of Thanksgiving completely off from golf and the gym but have been back at both with quite a bit of energy since then. 

If you follow my blog regularly, you may remember me writing at the beginning of this PGA Tour season about replacing my Goal Board and the idea of big Outcome Goals with a more process-oriented Plan Board. Here it is:
That Plan Board is guiding my work. My Performance Goals and Personal Goals don't need a lot of explanation. My performance goals are simply statistical benchmarks for which I will strive thoughout the season. I did well in many of those areas in my five events of the Fall Series, but I can definitely continue to improve in all of them. As it says on my Plan Board, I want to continuously "work towards" my Performance Goals. My Personal Goals are simply statements about the character with which I want to live my life on and off of the golf course. I feel like if I am working towards my Performance Goals and living out my Personal Goals, it puts me in a great position to be successful. 

The part of this board that might require some explanation--and the part that is specifically applicable to the conversation of hard work--is my Process Goals. My Process Goals define my preparation. So what do "Practice 20, 20, 10" and "Fitness 25, 20, 5" mean? Simple. I have created for myself a Full Week Practice Schedule, Light Week Practice Schedule, Full Week Fitness Routine, and Light Week Fitness Routine. These schedules and routines simply lay out the practice drills and workouts that I will do during a full or light week of work. So, back to the 20, 20, 10 and 25, 20, 5. The 2015-2016 PGA Tour season--from the Fry's.com Open back in October through the Tour Championship in late September--covers exactly 50 calendar weeks. During those 50 weeks, I will complete 20 weeks of Full Practice Schedue, 20 weeks of Light Practice Schedule, and 10 weeks off from practice. Similarly, I will complete 25 weeks of Full Fitness Routine, 20 weeks of Light Fitness Routine, and 5 weeks off from fitness activities. Having my Process Goals structured this way holds me accountable to following a strong plan but allows me to have flexibility and rest when I need it, too. My Process Goals are really the basis for my success in golf. My improvement starts with following my process, and steady improvement is the reason that I have and will continue to achieve the things I want.  

As for what is contained in my Practice Schedules and Fitness Routines, I will just say that both are made up of a challenging but realistic set of expectations that work all areas of my golf game and my body. Following the Practice Schedules I have set up makes my practice fun because I am always trying to achieve goals and complete a task. It makes my practice very focused and intentional.  Similarly, following my Fitness Routines gives me extra motivation to get my work done in the gym and be prepared physically to be the best that I can be on the course. 

In the four weeks since Thanksgiving, I have completed my Full Fitness Routine all four weeks and have completed two weeks of Light Practice and one week of Full Practice. That is some pretty good work for the "off-season," and I am feeling great.

In addition to that work towards my Process Goals, I have also put in some really good work on my golf swing. I feel like my mechanics are continuing to develop and my swing is becoming more repeatable, more efficient, and more effective. It is cool for me to see how much working towards my Process Goals helps to integrate new swing feelings into my game quickly. Because I am always doing drills that require me to achieve some result, I am forced to balance "swing practice" with actually hitting shots to specific targets. Practicing in this way has allowed me to work on my golf swing without losing the target-orientation that has always allowed me to play well. The bottom line is that as my swing improves, I am improving my golf game right along with it. Though it sounds counterintuitive, those two do not always happen together. In this way, working on my Process Goals is helping me with the work that I am doing on my swing, too. 

I couldn't be happier with the way that I am following my Plan Board this off-season. That is the hard-work phase. Now, for just a minute, I get to have a little extra fun and enter the dream-big phase of the off-season. But, before I do, I want to make one thing clear: My Plan Board has replaced my Goal Board. I'm not into Outcome Goals. I want to play well; I want to win tournaments; I want to have a long and successful career at the highest level of golf. Those things are obvious. I don't need to write them down. Instead, I need to follow a great plan so that I can make them all happen. I have the great plan in place, and I'm going to follow it. The dream-big phase isn't about writing down specific outcome goals. It's more fun than that. It is day-dreaming about possibilities that are very realistic for me if I stay committed to my plan. 

Here are the things I day-dream about: 

Qualifying for and contending in major championships.
Climbing towards the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Winning the Fed-Ex Cup.
Playing on Ryder and Presidents Cup teams. 

See? Wasn't that fun? Now, here's the coolest part: I can make all of those things happen. 

That is the end of the dream-big phase of the off-season. It's time to get back to following my plan. That is the thing that is written down. That is the formula for success. That is the thing that I can control. It will bring me the results that I want. And, most importantly, following my plan is pretty darn fun, too!

Thank you very much for following me and for your support. The off-season is nearly over, and I'll be back in action next week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Keep it here for more frequent reports as I get back into the tournament schedule. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Celebratory Phase of the Off-Season

As it applies to me, the term "off-season" might be a little misleading. I genuinely love to work at my profession. I made it a full seven days without practicing the week of Thanksgiving, but that felt like a very long time to me. I know the importance of rest, and I am certainly taking things fairly easy this month, but I love the process of getting better too much to spend much time away from golf. The off-season does offer an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the great things that happened over the past year, and we have certainly enjoyed doing some of that, but it is also the time to set the stage for an even better season moving forward. We have already celebrated, and I will continue enjoy some rest, but my focus is very clearly set on being prepared to reach new heights in 2016.

It is important to look back on 2015 and really celebrate all that I accomplished. After getting banged up from a confidence standpoint during my rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2014, I knew that I either needed to get better or find a different profession. I decided to do the former. I dedicated myself to a thorough plan that addressed all areas of my game during the long off-season preceding the start of the 2015 Web.com Tour schedule. I began the season with my sights set on returning to the PGA Tour, and I remember feeling confident. I won the fourth event of the Web.com Tour season, collected several other top-ten finishes, and finished the season number four on the money list. After the final event on the Web.com Tour, I had just one week off before the start of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season. My second year on the PGA Tour started with a missed cut, but despite that, I knew that I was ready to compete at the highest level this time around. Three weeks later I won the Sanderson Farms Championship for my first PGA Tour win, and I collected another top-ten the next week in Mexico. Clearly, from simply looking at the results, there is a lot to celebrate this off-season. The thing that I will remember the most, and of which I am most proud, however, is the fact that I bounced back from a low point at the end of the year in 2014 to achieve what I did in 2015. I know that with the right plan and a smart work-ethic, I can achieve great things in golf. That knowledge is worth celebrating. 

Alicia and I have done a couple of things to celebrate the great year that we have had. First, we took a trip with our agents to New York City to see the MLB.com offices and to visit with another possible partner in KIND Snacks. I had never been to NYC before, so the trip was a thrill for me just to see that crazy place, but to get to spend time with our friends from MLB was special. They were super excited for the success that we have had, and also, just like me, ready and expectant for more of it. Getting to see the corporate offices of KIND Snacks was really cool also. I have greatly admired that company since finding out about them earlier this year, and my admiration grows the more I learn. No relationship with them is official, but whether I represent them in any way or not, I will enjoy their products and share their passion for trying to make the world a KINDer place. 
The other thing that we did to celebrate our year was host a dinner to say "thank you" to all of our friends who have supported us and made it possible for us to live the lives that we do. It was a great night, and it was amazing to see all of the people who showed up to share their love for us. I'm so thankful to Alicia for planning the party and making it happen. 

It is important to celebrate, and we did so with those two incredibly fun and fulfilling events this off-season, but now my focus is on making sure we have the need for another celebration dinner next December. I have been working on my golf game since the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I am excited to say that I still feel like I am getting better. I have a three-day trip down to Florida scheduled for later this week so that I can get in some intense work, and I will continue to put in solid half-days of work here in Tennessee throughout this month. In my next post, I will describe what my practice and fitness goals are for this 2015-2016 PGA Tour season, but for now, just know that my off-season work is being guided by a focused plan. I am preparing to be better in 2016 than I was in 2015. That should make for a couple of fun celebrations next December. 

Thank you for following me and for your continued support. Keep it here for the next installment of my off-season series which will focus on my practice and fitness goals. 

Close Calls and More Progress

I'm playing good golf, and it's really fun! I haven't been able to put enough consistently good play together yet to have a good...