Saturday, November 26, 2016

Poor Results to End a Disappointing 2016 of Golf

I'm sorry for the long time it's been since my last post. I want to do a better job of updating my blog more consistently. I know that some of you really enjoy following me on here, and I appreciate that very much. Now I have a bit of time away from competition, but I will use this time wisely, and I will report occasionally during the break to keep you posted.

Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of positive news to share since my last post. I started the event in Mexico with a 9 on the par-four opening hole and proceeded to play my way to an eight-over-par through five holes start. I played the next 31 holes in two-under-par and felt really good about my efforts, but never seriously threatened the cutline after my poor start. From Mexico, I traveled to Sea Island, Georgia, for the final event of Fall Series. I did a lot of things well in Georgia, but a poor performance on the greens and a triple-bogey finish to my opening round doomed my hopes of the weekend. I finished the first 36 holes at one under par, four strokes away from the five-under-par cutline.

I guess in a way it was a fitting way to close the competition schedule for me in 2016. It's not that I feel down about my game or my prospects for the future, but my results this year were just pretty lousy. After beginning the year with a great showing at the winner's only field in Maui, my expectations went through the roof, but my performance didn't follow. I struggled mightily, and though I'm very proud of the work I did throughout the year, I managed to crack the top 25 only one time after the Tournament of Champions in 2016. So, to end the year with a two more disappointing results sadly kind of fits.

That is a very negative sounding paragraph. It's important for me to note that I'm not discouraged about my game. I actually feel really good about some of the progress I made this year, even if it never really started to show in my results. I worked really hard on my golf swing, and the benefits of that are starting to show. I began to drive the ball much better late in the year. That is incredibly encouraging. My iron play was never very good in 2016, but I definitely improved the strike that I get on the ball. My accuracy and distance control were not sharp, but the solidity of contact with my irons improved a lot over the year. These things are very positive, and I feel really good about the direction my game is heading.

After showing steady improvement each year during my mini-tour days in 2010-2012, my last four years have been more volatile. I had an amazingly successful year in 2013 during which I rose from a mini-tour player with no status to winning on the Web.com Tour and earning a PGA Tour Card by the end of the year. Then in 2014, I had a bit of step backwards as I posted very poor results but gained valuable experience on the PGA Tour. In 2015, I had an incredible year that included a win on the Web.com Tour in March and then my maiden PGA Tour victory in November. My 2016 campaign was a definite letdown from the year which preceded it, but, again, I feel like I learned some valuable lessons. I am ready to keep my trend of the last four years going, and that means that 2017 will be a big year for me!

There are two main lessons from 2016 that I will carry with me going forward. The first is not to let my expectations supersede the joy I get from simply playing golf. After holding my own and playing well in Maui, I began to get frustrated much more easily when my performances didn't immediately stack up to my higher expectations. I played my way into a highly frustrated state and temporarily lost some of pure love that I have for playing. The second lesson is that sometimes a week or two off might be the best way to halt a slump. I kept trying to play through my struggles, and I probably played too much. I have no problem playing several weeks in a row when things are going well, but I learned that trying to play week after week after week (after week after week after week after week, in my case a couple times) is not a healthy way to respond to a rough stretch.

I still feel good. 2016 wasn't the year I wanted to it to be, but it wasn't a wasted year either--far from that, actually. Though my results didn't show it, I improved in a lot of ways in 2016. I'm excited to have a little bit of an off-season, and I'll use it to continue to improve and to get ready for a great year in 2017. I still believe my best golf is ahead of me, and there is a lot of it to come over the next few decades.

Thank you very much for keeping up with me and for your support. Keep it here for occasional updates and progress reports over the off-season.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Weekend Off in Vegas

Most people would love to have a weekend off of work in Las Vegas. That is what I now have, but for me, it's disappointing. I enjoy the golf course and the weather here, and after a quick rest stop at home early in the week, I felt prepared to play well heading into the tournament. A very tough start and poor iron play throughout the first 36 holes left me with scores of 74, 70 (+2) and a missed cut by five shots. My game continued to show plenty of promise, though, particularly off the tee. I'm definitely bummed about the results here, but overall, I'm still feeling encouraged by most of what I see. I may have the weekend off from competition, but I'm going to work hard to improve, and I'll be ready to put it all together and play great soon.

I really felt ready to play well as I walked to the 10th tee for my 8:05 starting time on Thursday morning. I nailed a drive down the middle to open the tournament, too. From there, things went a little haywire. I faced a simple 120 yard wedge shot after my great opening drive, but I pushed the approach shot well right of my target and watched in shock as it flew some ten yards farther than I had intended, too. I did my best from a tough spot, but made an opening bogey. I proceeded to hit similarly poor short-iron approach shots into the next two greens as well. I missed each of the first three greens well long and slightly right, and on the 12th hole (my third), my ball rolled off the back of the green and into a pond. I began the tournament four over par in my first three holes. Tough start!

From there, I stayed patient and calm. I was really pleased with my attitude and mindset throughout both rounds. I never panicked or got angry. I stayed positive and optimistic. I tried to play my way back into the golf tournament one shot at a time. The cool thing is that in some areas of the game, I played well enough to get back into it. I drove the ball beautifully both days. I was aggressive and in control off the tee. I was hitting the ball long (for me) and was only out of position off the tee a couple of times in two rounds. I also putted well enough in spurts to get back into it. I still wasn't happy with the way I putted overall, but I did make a couple of good putts in the two rounds. My short game showed good promise at times as well. I hit a lot of good chip shots and bunker shots to keep myself in it and even holed a nice chip for birdie early in my second round to give myself a little boost. From my mental game to most aspects of my physical game, there was a lot to like this week.

And then there was my iron and wedge play. There is not a whole lot I can say about that area other than I have a lot of room to improve. As well as I drove the ball, I had the opportunity to hit a lot of short irons and wedges into greens, but rather than using them as great scoring opportunities, I found myself working hard trying to save pars on many occasions. I'm not really sure why my play with the short clubs was so bad, but I will work hard this weekend to get it back in order. I am a really good short iron and wedge player, so I'm confident that I will be able to get this sorted.

After a good weekend of practice here in Vegas, I will head to another of my favorite events on Tour: The Mayakoba Classic in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. I have had success there in the past, and I really enjoy that course.

I am excited to keep working. I feel good. I'm loving my job. I feel like really good golf is just around the corner for me. Thank you for following and believing in me. Keep it here for more updates.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Frustrated but Much More Encouraged

I really enjoyed my week as the defending champion at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi. In addition to a flood of great memories, it was fun to be showered with a little extra attention from the media and others involved with the tournament. It was the first chance that I’ve had to “defend” a win on the PGA Tour, and it was definitely a cool experience and one that I would like to have many more times! In the end, I was disappointed to not put up a better result, but I’m still quite pleased with much of what happened and feel excited moving forward.

My time in Jackson was great. After a 27-hour travel day from Malaysia to start the week, I was pleased with how quickly I adjusted and began a fairly normal preparation routine for the tournament. My sleep patterns were disturbed only slightly and only for the first two nights. By the time my afternoon tee time arrived for the first round on Thursday, I felt rested and ready to go play well.

And I did, somewhat. Thursday I played one of the better ball-striking rounds of my life. I drove the ball beautifully and was very in control with my irons and wedges. I had 17 birdie putts in the first round, and with the exception of two, all were from less than 25 feet. Unfortunately, I made just three of them. The one hole on which I didn’t have a birdie putt resulted in a double-bogey, so my first round added up to a one-under-par 71, but it felt really good. My ball-striking wasn’t as sharp on Friday, but I putted the ball better and posted a two-under-par 70 to advance to the weekend. I had a great practice session on Friday afternoon and felt poised for a strong weekend performance, but that never materialized. On Saturday I was just a little bit off with my ball-striking and putting and couldn’t quite get anything going. I settled for a third-round 71. Then, on Sunday, my putting woes from Thursday returned and I let frustration affect me a little bit. I stayed really committed to giving my best effort on every shot, but despite giving myself 14 birdie putts (and 12 inside of 25 feet), I looked and felt hopeless on the greens. I made zero birdies on Sunday and posted a final-round 75.  

I ended my title defense tied for 68th place. I was actually surprised how disappointed I felt during my round on Sunday. I never gave up, but it was clear from fairly early in my final round that I didn’t have things clicking on the greens. It was really frustrating. One of my goals for this season is to make a conscious decision to love my job every day. (That usually comes quite easy!) When it became clear that my title defense at the Sanderson Farms Championship was going to finish somewhere in the bottom of the field, I let the frustration sink in and, for a time on that Sunday, overshadow the love that I have for what I get to do. Jackson feels special to me, and floundering on the weekend and finishing towards the bottom of the field just didn’t seem right.

Looking back on the week, I can honestly say that deep frustration I felt on Sunday is my only regret. I feel great about the way I prepared and the attitude that I carried into the week. I wish I had stayed a little more upbeat throughout the weekend, but I will learn from that. From a performance standpoint, I’m actually really encouraged by most of what happened in Mississippi. I had a few shaky stretches of ball-striking on Friday and Saturday, but for the most part, I hit the ball really well. Similarly, my short game was really good with the exception of a couple of shots. The thing that held me back was an extremely poor performance on the greens, and I know that will go down as an anomaly. I certainly wanted a better result from the week in Jackson, but after a little reflection, I definitely leave there feeling really encouraged about my game.

I snuck home for a day after Jackson and am currently heading to Las Vegas for this week’s event. I am going to keep working hard and keep loving my job. Things are really close to coming together, and I’m confident that great results are just around the corner. Thank you for supporting me, and please keep it here for an update from Vegas!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Napa -> Malaysia -> Jackson

I'm definitely a bit behind again on the updates, and so much has happened over the past two weeks. I've been on airplanes a lot in the last seven days and am now one short flight away from being in Jackson, Mississippi, for the Sanderson Farms Championship. My golf has almost been overshadowed by the adventures of the past week, but I have great things to report on both fronts.

My results certainly haven't been great on the course, but I am really pleased with much of what has happened. I opened the 2016-2017 season with a bogey-free 67 (-5) in Napa, and though I didn't sustain that pace through the tournament, I added rounds of 72, 71, 70 in tough conditions. The end result was a tie for 35th place. Obviously, that is not an exciting finish, but some exciting stuff did happen. I had to battle steady rain and gusty winds during my second round on Friday, and I hung in there well to shoot even. Then, on Saturday, I had an atrocious start. After a routine par on the first hole, I bladed a bunker shot on the second hole and made double-bogey. I then pulled my tee shot on the third hole and got a bit unlucky as it hit a tree and bounced way left to end up out of bounds by less than an inch. That led to another double-bogey. At four-over-par through three holes, I was determined to just keep playing, and I fought all the way back to one under par for my round by the end. That was cool! I will remember Napa for the great round I played on Thursday and the perseverance I showed through tough conditions. It was a very solid week to start the season.

From there, the adventures really began. Alicia and I were scheduled to make our first trip to Asia from San Francisco on Sunday night after Napa. Excited for our journey, we shuttled down to the airport from Napa and arrived at the ticket counter well in advance of our flight. When our passports swiped at check-in, we were alerted to a problem. Our passports expire in January 2017, and Malaysia requires six-month validity of passports for entry. After three hours in the airport begging for answers, reasons, and options, we realized we weren't going to fly that night. I was so discouraged. It is a good thing Alicia was with me because I likely would have just gone home if I had been by myself. She encouraged me to not give up, so we booked a hotel in downtown San Fran, arrived there after midnight, awoke before 6 a.m. to try to reschedule potential flight options, and then went and got in the walk-up line at the U.S. Passport Agency an hour before it opened. I still can't believe it, but we walked out of there three hours later with new passports and headed straight to the airport. We caught a 12:20 p.m. flight to Tokyo, and by 2:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, we were at our hotel in Malaysia.

So I definitely didn't have a normal week of preparation for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, but I was thrilled to be there and, in hindsight, am thrilled we made it work. My game and body both felt a little rusty when I teed it up in the first round on Thursday. I managed to shoot even par, which isn't a good score on the course there, but I was pleased with the way I fought. I actually formed up very nicely from a ball-striking perspective over the next three days, but my short game and particularly my putting were really bad. I posted scores of 72, 73, 71, 68 (-4, total) for the week, and finished tied for 51st. That's not a good finish, and those weren't good scores, but I feel good about the way I played. My game is in good shape, and I know that I am not going to putt as poorly as I did over the last three rounds there in Malaysia very often. It was a great experience to play in Malaysia in the first place, and I'm taking a lot of positive things away from that week.

Alicia and I have had a much smoother experience traveling back from Malaysia. We left our hotel at 4:30 a.m. Monday Malaysia time, and after 28 hours of travel, we will magically land in Jackson at 6:00 p.m. Monday Jackson, Mississippi, time. We're in Houston now with just one short flight left.

I am excited to be back in Mississippi for the Sanderson Farms Championship. I obviously have great memories from this event last year, and I feel like my game is better now than it was then. I know that it will be a challenging week in a lot of ways, but I'm going rest up from the travel, prepare well, and enjoy myself. It will be a lot of fun!

Thank you for following me and please keep it here for updates!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Prepared in Napa

I am feeling ready to go here in Napa, California. I have had two great days of preparation at the Silverado Resort golf course, and I am excited to start the tournament today. My game definitely feels good, but more importantly, I feel a real sense of calm from knowing that the work I have been doing is also very good. I'm moving in the right direction, and I'm excited to go out and give my best effort on each and every shot I face this week. And, I'm going to have a lot of fun doing it!

Keep it here for updates from the tournament, and thank you for following me!

Monday, October 10, 2016

2016-2017 Season is Here

Six weeks is pretty short as off-seasons go, but I have packed a lot of great stuff into the 43 days since I last teed it up in a PGA Tour event. I have definitely been chomping at the bit to get back to competition. It is now officially a tournament week again, and I am excited and feeling great.

I packed my off-season with lots of work on all areas of my game. I really dedicated myself to owning (as opposed to tinkering with) my swing mechanics. I had two wonderful two-day sessions with Mitchell over the course of the break, and he helped guide me and ensure that I am working to own the right things in my swing. I am very encouraged by how good and comfortable my swing is feeling. I also have been extremely dedicated to my wedge play, short game, and putting during the break. These areas are definitely strengths for me, but my statistics and results from the 2015-2016 season show that each of these areas can be much better and much more consistent. I feel great about the work that I have done to make my strengths stronger, and I'm excited to let them shine. Lastly, I have also spent a lot of time thinking about and working on my mental game. I know that my physical performance will be awry at times, but I don't want to let the way I am thinking contribute to or exasperate any physical shortcomings. I feel very confident and at peace with the work that I have done in all areas of my game, and I am excited to go compete and have fun letting that work show.

I always love my job. Even in the midst of horrible slump when I am feeling upset and frustrated, I still think I have more fun than most of my peers. This off-season, though, I really reconnected with my genuine love for what I do. I had so much fun. I balanced days of "grinding" on the practice facilities with days of playing fun matches with my buddies. I found great pleasure in both endeavors. I am determined to carry that genuine joy and enthusiasm into the tournament season with me.

I am currently at the Denver airport en route to Napa, California, for the Safeway Open. I couldn't be more excited to get back to tournament golf. Thank you very much for following and supporting me, and please keep it here for updates and insights from the tournaments.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Off-Season Update

I love to compete and play tournament golf. In that sense, having six weeks off this time of year feels a bit odd. I also love to prepare for competition, and for that reason, I have really enjoyed having this break. In addition, I love to spend time in my beautiful East Tennessee home and be with my family, and I have been able to do both of those. In every way, I have soaked up the goodness that comes with a break from the competitive travel schedule. 

I have definitely used this time to work on my golf game. I have made a couple of slight tweaks to my mechanics to continue the progress I have been making with my full-swing. It is nice to have time away from competition to really ingrain swing adjustments. As I learned this year, it is hard to compete without feeling full ownership of my swing. I have put in a lot of swings on the range and a lot of rehearsals during this break, and I have made tremendous progress. I have also been extremely focused on my wedge play, short game, and putting. These are my biggest strengths, and I'm determined to make them even stronger while I work to improve my long game. After spending the first three weeks of my "off-season" exclusively on the practice facilities, I have transitioned back onto the golf course over the last two weeks and have been balancing a "practice mindset" with a "scoring mindset." I am really pleased with how everything is feeling. I have definitely improved all areas of my game over the last five weeks, and I'm excited to keep moving in the right direction.

Being home has also given me a chance to spend a little time in the Great Smokey Mountains. A couple of weekends ago, my sister Laura, Alicia, and I went on a beautiful hike to the top of Mount LeConte. It was a blissful day!

Then, this past weekend, we had extended family and friends in town to witness Laura's wedding! I don't have any pictures of the ceremony itself, but it was amazingly beautiful. I couldn't be any happier for her and my new brother, Clarke!

It has been a really special off-season for sure. I'm excited to have one more week to put in great work on my game and soak up everything that comes with being HOME. I'll use this time to make some goals and a bit of a plan heading into the 2016-2017 season, which, I am excited to say, begins next week!

Thank you for following, and keep it here to enjoy the great ride with me!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The 2015-2016 Season in Review

I have had a chance to look back over my 2015-2016 season as a whole and discuss it with my team. Two things that jump out right away are that I won a tournament and I qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Those are two great accomplishments, and I am happy and proud of both of them. Those accomplishments show that I have really raised the ceiling on my golf ability. When I deliver my good stuff, I am a better player than I have ever been. Another thing that jumps out when reviewing my year is that I didn't deliver my good stuff nearly often enough. After compiling three top-ten finishes in a four-tournament stretch from late in the year 2015 through the opening event of 2016, I rarely contended again. It made for a very frustrating and disappointing 2016 part of the 2015-2016 season. I know that the really good golf was still inside of me during that time, but it got locked in there for much of this year. I've now had some really good time to reflect on the season, and I have some reasons that I believe that happened. I'm still incredibly proud and happy about my accomplishments this season, but I'm ready to take some steps to make sure that the good golf that is inside of me is able to come out more often in tournaments.

First of all, I need to remember why I play golf. After my win and stretch of good golf early in the season, I let my expectations go high in the sky. I was thinking about Fed-Ex Cup rankings, World Rankings, and qualifying for big tournaments. Those things are all great, but none of them are why I play golf. I play golf because I love it. I love to work at it. I love to compete. I love the challenge of fighting through a rough stretch and constantly improving. I love to play. That's why I play golf. I want all those other things to happen--to climb the rankings and play the big tournaments--but mostly, I want to lay my head on the pillow at night and say I loved my job and I did my best. When I approach each day with that in mind, my best golf will be unlocked.

I also need to continue to nurture my strengths. I'm a great putter, and my putting is something that sets me apart from my competition. Though I had an okay season statistically with my putter, I know that I developed a bit of a flaw in my putting stroke that affected my consistency. I believe that I can putt much better than I did this season, and if I take the time to do a quick mechanical check of my putting stroke at the beginning of the day, I can know that my stroke is in great shape and can trust my genius on the greens.

I definitely didn't have the type of year I wanted to have from a ball-striking perspective. It is strange because I feel like I am a better swinger of the club now than I have ever been and I hit the ball more solidly this year than I ever have before, but I never consistently hit good shots over the 2016 portion of the season. I know that I am better now mechanically than I was a year ago, but I simply played too much of this season in what I would call "golf swing" mode. In the past I had always been good about practicing my mechanics on the range and then simply trusting my feel on the course. This year I felt that I was so close to having my mechanics where I wanted them that I couldn't quite leave those thoughts on the range. I ended making swings on the course that weren't fully trusting what I was trying to do, and that led to a lot of inconsistency. It's important for me to note that I don't regret anything about the work I did this year. My swing is better now than it has ever been. I learned this year that it is very important for me to separate mechanical work from the art of playing the game on the course. I tried to mix the two a little too much this year. I'm going to keep getting better mechanically, but I'm also going to "own" whatever swing I have that day when it's time to tee it up in competition. This will help unlock the good skills that I have worked hard to develop.

I'm not going to go into huge detail about my statistics, but I have made an effort to understand stats better in the first few weeks of the off-season. I now understand the "Strokes Gained" stats that the Tour publishes. They are a quantifiable measure of a player's performance relevant to the field average at each event. Strokes Gained stats paint a more accurate picture of a player's performance than traditional measures such as fairways hit, greens in regulation, or number of putts. With the help of my caddie and Mark Broadie--the creator of the Strokes Gained statistics--I have studied my stats. I wasn't surprised to see that my ball-striking numbers left a lot to be desired--I lost more than a half a shot per round off the tee and more than another half a shot per round approaching the green--but I was quite surprised to see that inconsistencies in my short game led to a negative overall number in Strokes Gained: Around the Green, too. My putting stats were positive, but I don't feel like I putted well this year, so I'm excited to see them be even better in the coming years. If I can progressively work my Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green number back towards neutral (I was -1.143 strokes per round in that category in 2015-2016) and keep improving my putting, I'm confident that I can contend consistently on the PGA Tour.

I feel so encouraged when I look back over my second season on Tour! I did have some really good accomplishments, but I also have tremendous room for improvement. I can improve my mental game, my putting, the consistency of my short game, and my ball-striking. I have a great plan to attack these needed improvements, and I'm excited about it. As I prepare to move forward with my career, I'm truly going work in such a way that I can always say I loved my job and I did my best. I know that will be enough.

Thank you for following and please keep it here for another off-season update in which I'll discuss some of the work that I am doing to prepare for the 2016-2017 season.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to the Blog

To the many of you that follow my blog and keep up with me through this medium, I say thank you! I'm sorry that it has been nearly two months since my last post. During what was a long and at times frustrating 2016 schedule, blogging seemed burdensome at times and a bit of a distraction as I tried to get back in touch with the things that allow me to be my best. But now, after finishing the 2015-2016 season on an upswing and having already had two weeks away from travel and tournament golf, I am feeling great and am excited to share my off-season thoughts and plans. I'm going to get back into a good habit of using my blog because just as much as it is a fun way for several of you to keep up with me, it is also a great tool to keep me grounded, focused, and accountable. So, thank you for caring and for following me, and keep it here for some off-season updates in the coming days and weeks.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Major Disappointment

Time to take some inventory. I played my first Major Championship this week. That is a good thing. I had to do something special to earn the right to be in the PGA Championship. I can't forget that I won on the PGA Tour last Fall. That was less than a year ago. And it was very good.

I missed the cut this week in my first Major. I posted consecutive rounds of 73 for a six-over-par total and finished four shots outside the cut. This marks my tenth consecutive missed cut and 17th in my last 18 events. That is bad. I presently feel far-removed from the celebration of the win that qualified me for my first major. I feel beaten up, and it feels very bad.

If I were to trust everything that I feel, I would be in trouble right now. I feel beaten up. I feel bruised and battered. I feel like I'm failing. These are the things that I presently feel. Here are some things that I know, even if I can't feel them right now. I know that I am a PGA Tour winner. I know that I am continuing to work on the right things in my golf game. I know that my process leads to steady improvement, and that my best golf is still ahead of me. I know that I will continue to get better. I know that I will come out of this slump. I know that I have a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. Most importantly, I know that results on the golf course don't define me as a success or failure. I may not be able to feel all of these things right now, but I know they are true.

I'm definitely bummed, but I've got too much good stuff going on to sulk. First of all, I have an amazing wife, family, and team of supporters who love me and are there for me exactly the same whether I've just won a tournament or just missed my 17th cut in 18 weeks. Secondly, even though the results don't show it, I really am working on the right things and improving my golf game. I can't exactly explain what's going on with my tournament play. My practice feels better and better each week, and I feel like all areas of my game are ready to excel. I'm hitting the ball more solidly than ever on the range, and I'm really starting to control it well, too. My putting was definitely off at the beginning of this slump, but my stroke feels good again, and I'm starting the roll the ball really well. My short game and wedge play are both solid. I just need to relax and let it happen. Subconsciously, I know I'm putting added pressure on myself to end this slump and get back in the hunt on the weekend, and I find myself playing with a lot of tension. It's easier said than done, but I've got to be tough enough to let go of worrying about results and go play with freedom. I'll be honest: I'm not sure how to do that right now, but I'm going to figure it out. I've got too much talent, and my game is rounding into form too well to allow myself to continue to play with tension.

I usually have a specific action plan for how I'm going to make things happen. Right now, I really don't. I'm going to keep working hard on my golf game so that it is even more ready to perform in tournament conditions, and I'm going to make the conscious decision to let go of results and play with freedom. When I truly play with freedom and let the good golf that is in me come out, I'll qualify for a lot more majors.

The tone of this post has been largely negative, and it is coming from a place of great frustration, but I don't want to forget the place it started. I just played in my first Major Championship. That is really cool. And there will be many more; I am confident of that.

I know a lot of you out there are rooting for me and believing in me. I really appreciate it, and I believe in me, too. I'm off to Hartford, CT, now for the Traveler's Championship next week. It is one of my favorite events on Tour, and I'm going to prepare well and play with great freedom. Keep it here for updates!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Disappointing Result but So Much Good in Canada

Dang it! I'm up in Canada this week for the RBC Canadian Open, and unfortunately my tournament has been cut short by a missed cut. This has been one of the most fun tournaments ever for me because dry conditions here in the Toronto area caused the golf course to play fast, firm, and difficult. Every shot presented a challenge and required lots of thinking. It was so much fun and I felt like I played really well, but in the end I just made too many mistakes and left too many opportunities out there. The final results look like I was never close at all as I posted rounds of 73, 79 (+8 total) to miss the cut by six shots, but that is deceiving because I played the final four holes in five over par as I tried a little too hard to make something good happen. I'm saddened and frustrated by another missed cut, but I really do feel like I'm playing good golf again. 

I prepared well for this week's event, and I was ready to handle the tough conditions. I went out confidently on Thursday, and I really played well. I didn't convert on a few good birdie opportunities early in my round, but I was hitting a lot of quality shots and feeling very good. I hit a poor shot into the par-four eighth hole, and many factors came together to turn it into a particularly poor result. I pulled a seven iron out of the rough and under typical conditions, it would have settled just left of the green and left a reasonable up-and-down for par. Instead of that, it hit a burned-out patch of rough left of the green, bounded as if it hit concrete, and ended up forty yards long and left of the green across the club's driveway. It was a poor shot, and I paid for it with a double bogey. Still, I continued to play confidently, and I got things going on the back nine. After making the turn at three over par, I had a chance to get it back to even on the par-five 18th, but had to settle for a par after a poor second shot left of the green. I left my first round pleased with how I was playing and knowing that I was ready to shoot a good score. 

On Friday I began on the back nine, and again, I just had trouble getting anything going. In conditions that were windier and even firmer than the first day, I hit a lot of greens in regulation, but couldn't capitalize with any early birdies. I made my worst swing of the tournament on the 14th tee where I pull-hooked my drive into water left of the fairway, but I battled hard from there to save a bogey. I failed to birdie the reachable par-five 16th and 18th holes, but did make a nice birdie on the 17th, so I made the turn at even par and felt ready to play great on the front nine. I parred the first hole and then stepped to the tee of the par-five second hole. The wind was hard into me and off my right on the dogleg-right hole, so my plan was to hit a low, running fade that shaped with the fairway. I felt like I made a good swing but looked up in amazement to see my ball curving slightly to the left. It landed in the fairway, but bounced and ran some 80 yards through the left rough into the thick tree line left of the fairway. I still don't know why that ball was curving left. I was so committed to hitting a low fade into the wind, and I felt like I executed it well, but nonetheless, it ended up in trouble left, and despite my best intentions from there, I made a double bogey. I still knew I was playing well, and I stayed positive and committed to my plan. I gave myself great birdie putts on each of the next three holes but couldn't convert any of them. I arrived to the tee of the par-four sixth hole knowing I needed to keep giving myself birdie opportunities, and I was determined to do just that. On the sixth, there is a pond through the fairway, but the fairway doesn't run out until 345 yards off the tee down the middle. As a testament to how firm things are, I decided to hit three wood because driver could have reached the water. I smoked a three wood down the left center of the fairway, picked up my tee, and walked over to my bag. I wasn't even watching my shot, and I heard Hunter Mahan, my playing partner, telling my ball to slow down. I didn't know what he was talking about, but he was right. My three wood went some 350 yards through the fairway and into the pond. That was unfathomable to me. I'm still proud of that tee shot. I stayed positive and tried to have a great plan for my next shot, but after dropping, I mishit my wedge a tiny bit and ended up making another double bogey. I never quit trying, and in fact I hit a few really good shots over my final three holes, but I played much too aggressively for the tough conditions and made another sloppy double bogey on the eighth and finished with a bogey.

I believe the 79 I posted was my highest score on on the PGA Tour, but that certainly doesn't define the way I feel about my performance. When I made the turn on Friday, I honestly thought I was going to have a chance to win the tournament by Sunday. I was driving the ball well and swinging confidently, and I felt some swagger coming back with my putter. It is hard to believe that nine holes later I was saddled with a missed cut and the highest score of my PGA Tour career. I'm not going to remember it that way, though. Even in those closing nine holes that went so awry, I still executed most of my shots exactly as I wanted to. I know it is cliche to say this, but I am so close to getting the results turned around. I'm sad to have this weekend off, but I'm excited by what is happening in my game. Good things are coming, and I believe they are coming soon. 

I get to play in my first major championship next week, and I honestly feel like I'm ready for it. It's just another tournament, and my game is ready for that. I'm excited!

Thank you for following me and for all the support. I know it hasn't been the most fun over the past six months, but I'm feeling encouraged and confident. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Disappointing Result but Encouraged

I still didn't have my best stuff in Alabama at the Barbosol Championship this week. I posted matching rounds of 72 on Thursday and Friday, and my two-over-par total missed the cut by four shots. That stinks, and I hate it. I am definitely ready to get myself back in contention consistently, and though my results weren't close to what I wanted in Alabama, I feel like it was a step in the right direction in several ways. I'm disappointed but also encouraged, and I'm excited to keep moving forward. 

I felt great about my game heading into the tournament. I had prepared well and played really nicely in my practice rounds. I put the club on the ball beautifully for both rounds in the tournament, but I was definitely a little bit off with my direction. I never drove the ball wildly, but I missed several fairways by a little bit, and the bermuda rough was penalizing. Similarly, I hit my irons very solidly, but missed my lines on several occasions and left myself with some difficult up and downs. I was very encouraged by the strike that I was getting on all of my shots, but I need to tighten up my accuracy. 

My short game was pretty good. I was pleased with the way I pitched and chipped the ball. My putting, however, was still just not good enough. When I hit good iron shots to give myself birdie putts in the 10-20 foot range, I could never take advantage of any of them, so it was tough to ever get anything going. I feel good about my putting practice, and I was fairly solid from short range, so I am still encouraged, but I have to be better on the greens.

The most encouraging thing from the week was my attitude. The last several months have been rough on me, and I've been struggling lately with my confidence and my natural happy-go-lucky demeanor on the course. This week I had fun and felt confident nearly from start to finish. I definitely had my back against the wall a little bit on Friday, but I still believed good things were going to happen, and I was enjoying the challenge. Even though the results didn't show it, I feel like my performance in Alabama was a big step in the right direction. 

I actually had things moving in the right direction on Friday. A disappointing three-putt from long range on the tough par-four third hole was my only blemish in the first part of my round, and I made back-to-back birdies on holes nine and ten to get myself under par for the tournament. I hit a slightly uncommitted drive on the par-four 11th and faced a flier lie (so I thought) out of the right rough to a challenging pin on the left side of the green. There is a hazard short, left, and long on the 11th, and I wasn't trying to do too much. I had 146 yards to cover a front bunker that protected the middle of the green, and I thought I had a big flier lie in the right rough. From a similar looking lie on the ninth hole on Thursday, I hit a nine iron that carried 164 yards. Still, with the hazard short, I didn't want to risk hitting a pitching wedge, so I hit a controlled nine-iron. The ball came off the club a little left of where I was aiming but flew right at the flag, and I thought I might have hit it close. Unfortunately, the ball didn't jump out of the lie like I thought it might, and it hit the bank in front of the green and came back into the hazard. I found it in the reeds on the bank of the hazard and it looked quite playable. Unfortunately I swung under the ball and it didn't move. Actually, it did. It fell down into the divot my swing made. From there, I decided to pick up my ball and go back to the fairway to drop. I was rattled, but I kept my composure really well and nearly holed my wedge from the fairway and salvaged a double-bogey. It was hard to imagine that I would make a great up-and-down for a six when my second shot was flying directly at the flag, but I never would have had any of these problems had I only committed to my tee shot a bit more and kept it in the fairway. Still, I definitely had things going in the right direction for a time on Friday, and I made a strong effort to finish strong despite the setback on number 11. 

I still don't like missing cuts, but I'm not discouraged by my results in Alabama. I'm doing lots of things well, and I know that I can sharpen all areas of my game. I'm heading to Toronto next week for the Canadian Open, and I'm excited to keep working and keep playing. 

Thank you for following and keep it here for more updates.

Monday, July 11, 2016

My Next Shot

I have taken a break from a lot of things. I haven't blogged in three weeks. I haven't played a tournament the last two weeks--my first such break since December. Prior to the past two weeks, I had even taken an unintentional break from simply enjoying the fact that I get to live my dream every day. I am definitely ready to get back to doing these things. I'd like to blog more, and I will. I am embarking on a stretch of golf where I might play tournaments the next nine weeks in a row if I want to, and I'm excited about that. Most importantly, I'm ready to get back to realizing and appreciating that I get to live my dream every day. How cool is that! I never want to take a break from that again. 

The past two weeks have been so good for me. When I finished my last tournament two and a half weeks ago, I was feeling frustrated and down on myself. After some very intentional conversations and some great self-reflection, I'm now feel empowered to get back to work and have a lot of fun doing it. 

There are two over-arching ideas that I had allowed to rob some of the joy that I have always found in golf. The first is simply a lack of mental toughness. What I'm trying to do is hard. I compete at the highest level of golf with the best players in the world. It is going to be hard. And I don't want it any other way. I earned the right to play at the the highest level, and I don't want to be anywhere else, so I need relish the challenge that comes along with it. The second is comparing myself to other golfers. I was feeling inferior because I couldn't match areas of other players' games. I know that when I play my game well, I can succeed at the highest level. I want to strive for constant improvement, but I want to be the best version of myself and not try to be anybody else. 

So as I head back out for another stretch of doing what I love, I am going to commit to being tough and being myself. Doing these two things does not guarantee that I will have success every week, but it does give me the best chance to get my best performance out each and every week. 

There it is. That is my reflection on the the past several months. I have learned what I needed to learn, and now it is time to apply the lessons and focus on what I can control: my next shot. I am ready to go do that. And it's going to be fun!

Thank you for believing in me and following my career! Please keep it here for more updates. 

By the way, I am playing this week at the PGA Tour's Barbosol Championship in Auburn, Alabama.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New Week

I won't try to make up for a long time without a good blog post. I just want to say that after a week off last week and a meaningful start to this week, I am feeling really good in Bethesda, Maryland, for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club. I wasn't nearly as productive as I wanted to be towards my golf game last week at home, but I do feel rested and refreshed, and I also have a renewed sense of perspective after playing an outing for the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland on Monday. Life is good. My golf game is, too. I'm ready to have some fun and play well. Keep it here for reports from near our nation's capital. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Home

Golf has been such a struggle for me lately. Here are some objective facts. I have played the last six weeks on the PGA Tour and have missed every cut. My game at times has shown very positive signs, but I haven't been able to put it together well enough to post consecutive rounds under par in a long time. I also failed last week to qualify for the US Open. It has been a rough stretch.

You know me well enough to know that I will not be thinking negatively about this for long. I will be honest enough to say that my last two weeks in particular have had me really down. I feel like I am putting in the correct effort to get better results, but things have not quite turned around for me yet. It's frustrating, but, here comes the good news. I am home this week. I have some time to rest and live on my own schedule for a week. I have time to think, process, plan, and practice exactly as I want. Here comes the even better news. I'm still excited. I still love the mystery and the challenge of this silly game that I am lucky enough to play for a living. I definitely have some stored up frustration and disappointment inside right now, but the strongest emotion I feel is eagerness to stay after it. I love golf, and especially love the feeling of conquering it for small stretches of time, so I'm excited to keep working.

I have a little bit of analyzing planned for early in this week during which I will look into what's been causing my poor results and come up with a plan to attack it. Don't worry; I will also enjoy some lazy, quiet, restful time as well. Keep it here for an update by mid-week at the latest.

Thank you for following and caring about me. I can tell that a lot of people are rooting for me and that means a lot. Really good golf is in my very near future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Feeling Positive at Colonial

I played my final ten holes last week in three under par. That did nothing to affect my fate at the Byron Nelson Championship; my first 26 holes had me well out of any thoughts of making it to the weekend. Still, after struggling mightily in tournament play lately, I was determined to get some positive results, and I did that. Those last ten holes actually allowed me to post a one-under-par round of 69 on Friday at the Nelson, and though that is certainly not a great accomplishment, it felt really good. I have felt that my game is better than the scores lately, and I saw a glimpse of that on Friday in Dallas. I am excited to build on those late holes from last week.

The Tour has moved just down the road to Fort Worth this week and the famed Colonial Country Club. I am inspired. This is one of the classic courses on Tour. Tree-lined fairways, great bunkering, and bermuda grass rough demand placement over power. The course presents a strong and fair test, and I am ready to tackle it.

There's no two ways around the fact that my results have been disappointing lately, but I'm doing all the right things. I sat down over the weekend to honestly analyze what has been causing the disparity between how I feel about my game and the scores I have been shooting. I think it boils down to a couple of main things. I have been putting very poorly and have been hitting a few shots that are just atrocious. I'm following a disciplined practice routine with my putter, and I'm confident that my brilliance on the greens will shine as bright as ever in the near future. As for the occasional yucky shots, I am working to tidy those. I am hitting the ball more solidly than ever right now, and this week I have really focused on reigning in my misses. I have been intentional with my practice, and, as I said earlier, I know I am doing the right things. I will keep doing them, and the results will come.

I am excited to play this week. Challenges will exist. The course presents some tough holes. The weather promises to bring tough conditions and potentially distracting delays. The negative thoughts that accompany a slump will be present. I am ready for all of those challenges. I am also ready for the challenge of making good decisions and executing a good game plan coming down the stretch with a chance to win a tournament. There is a lot of work between now and making that situation a reality, but I am ready for that, and it could happen this week. I am excited to go play.

I have put in the work and will continue to do so. Now it's time to go live my motto: Don't worry, have fun, play with Freedom. I'm going to get after it!

Thank you for following me and for your support. Keep it here for reports from Colonial.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Rut

Prior to stepping away from golf with his back surgeries last Fall, I can remember Tiger Woods telling the media time and time again after disappointing rounds that he was "close to playing well." I would think to myself, "no, Tiger, you're not." He seemed all over the place and lost--quite the opposite of "close." I'm starting to have some sympathy for him now because I feel very close to playing well, but my recent results do not exactly hint that great play is hiding just around the corner. On a rain-softened golf course here at the Byron Nelson that was yielding great scores on Thursday, I posted a birdie-free, seven-over-par round of 77. That sounds closer to playing in the second flight of a club tournament than it does to contending on the PGA Tour. Still, I truly do believe that I am close to playing well.

That belief is not blind optimism. There are positive signs despite my egregious scores lately. I am driving the ball well. In fact, I hit 11 fairways just today in the first round of this tournament. My  iron play is there in practice, and I hit some good ones in the tournament, too, but even with my good ones, I haven't been able to dial it in close to the hole. I definitely feel like my full swing is better now than it has ever been, but clearly I need to get things synced a little bit better. The weakest part of my game lately has been my putting. It has actually been downright awful in my last three tournament rounds. I know that to be successful on Tour, I have to be an above-average putter. The good news is that I am; I just haven't been lately. Much like with my iron play, however, my putting is feeling good in practice, and I know that performance fluctuates, so I am confident that I will get it going in a good direction here soon. Again, I feel like I am close.

I'm just in a rut right now. My game is still in there; it's just hiding at the moment. In fact, once I get it going, I believe I'm poised to play the best golf of my life. My process is all about steady improvement over time, and my plan works. I'm not changing. I'll keep getting better, and I will get out of this rut.

I'm going to have some fun on Friday in the second round of this tournament. I have no expectations to make the cut--a feat which will likely require a score of 60 or better--but I do think that I can climb out of my rut with a solid round. My scores lately don't indicate it, but I'm telling you, I'm close!

Thank you for keeping up with me and for your support. Great stuff is coming!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Quick Step Back

I am frustrated with my poor results lately. There is no doubt about that. I work really hard on my game, and it feels bad to play poorly for an extended period. In the last 11 weeks, I have played nine PGA Tour events and made just one cut. That is not good.

I want to take a look at this from a different perspective, though. Three years ago in May, I was a mini-tour player with a big plan to Monday-Qualify my way onto the Web.com Tour. Two years ago in May, I was a completely overwhelmed and over-matched PGA Tour rookie. Last year in May, I was on the Web.com Tour playing well and earning my way back to the PGA Tour. This year in May, I am a PGA Tour winner who presently happens to be in a bit of a slump. Now that seems like a healthier way to look at things than that first paragraph.

I struggle to think this way when I'm mired in stretch of disappointing play, but when I take a step back and see a broader perspective, I know that I am doing great. My "big-picture" trend of improvement and accomplishment is incredible; and I have the work-ethic and attitude to ensure that it continues.

Since my last post, I have played two events. I prepared really well for both and felt good heading into them, but the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass ended for me after 36 holes. The results disappoint me, but my game is showing some encouraging signs each week. At a long and wet Quail Hollow course, I struggled off the tee and left myself too much work to do around the greens. At The Players Championship, I felt that my full swing was as proficient as it has ever been, but I struggled around and especially on the greens. My practice has been feeling good in all of these areas, though, so I know that I will get things clicking soon.

I am currently soaking up a few quick days at home. I will fly Wednesday morning to Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship this week. I truly am excited to have the opportunity to keep playing. Great things are in store, and I am pumped for a busy summer.

One last note: I haven't blogged much lately. I guess I haven't really felt like it. I want, and even need, to do more of it. Sharing my thoughts on here is cathartic for me. It helps me process things more healthily. I say this simply to hold myself accountable for using this valuable tool more.

Thank you very much for following and caring about my career. I really appreciate the support. Keep it here for reports(!) from Dallas.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Fun Update

The word "Fun" is going to be a big part of this post. It is in the middle of the motto by which I have been trying to live my life (Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom), and remembering to do it is a key to success for me. Many people believe that they will have fun only when they succeed, and I have certainly fallen into this trap, too. The truth is that enjoying the journey is essential for me to achieve the results I want. I have always loved to play and practice, but sometimes I let thoughts of results and stress and pressure rob some of the joy from my profession. I don't want to let that happen anymore. I'll always work hard because that is a part of who I am, but I am going to make sure I have fun while I'm doing it!

I've actually been doing a nice job of this lately. Two weeks ago on Hilton Head Island, I had an absolute blast playing at Harbour Town. It quickly became one of my favorite venues on Tour. I did a lot of things well and was really close to having a good tournament, but I faltered just a bit down the stretch on Friday and missed the cut by one shot on a very bunched leaderboard. Though I was having a very fun week, I definitely let some anxiety get to me during that Friday round. That is where I've got to get better--remembering to fully enjoy myself even in the heat of the competition. I am getting better at that, and Alicia and I stayed on Hilton Head Island with our friends and had a lot of fun that weekend despite not getting to play. 

From a fun week in Hilton Head, Alicia and I traveled to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open, and we definitely had a fun week there. We started by participating in a fundraising "Game Show Night." Alicia and I were contestants in the Not-so-Newlywed Game, and we were the talk of the evening with our mind-meld answers. We were easily the Newlywed game champs, but I'm pretty sure that was a fun night for everyone. After the game show night, I went to work more or less as usual to prepare for the tournament. The one thing that really makes the Texas Open fun for me is the fact that the host hotel is at the golf course, and it has a huge waterpark! Everyday I couldn't wait to get done with my work and go ride the waterslides. I even spent about an hour riding them Friday morning before my afternoon tee time for the second round. I was like a kid in a candy store, and I was having fun. One of the slides was fantastically horrifying. To ride it, you stood almost perfectly upright on a plexiglass floor that dropped away to release you down the slide. It was terrifying but so much fun!
It is silly to say, but I think the waterslides reminded me to have fun on the course, too. I found myself facing difficult shots and thinking that golf, like a waterslide, is great fun for me so I should just enjoy it! 

Not surprisingly, I played some great golf in San Antonio. I fired an opening-round, bogey-free 67 that featured a hole-out from 92 yards for a two on a par four. I overcame two bogeys in my first three holes on Friday to post a 71 and stand tied for 6th heading into the weekend. I maintained a great attitude throughout a troublesome 76 in the third round. (And I rode the waterslides on repeat afterwards with Alicia and my friends!) Then I calmly put together a bogey-free 67 including a chip-in birdie on my final hole to climb back up into a tie for 13th place on Sunday. I played beautifully for most of the tournament. It was fun!

There's no doubt that good golf is more fun than bad golf. Similarly, it's more fun to have good results than to have weekends off. These things are obvious, but I am convinced that the more I commit to having fun and enjoying the process, the more I will get to experience the good golf and the great results. Bad golf and tough stretches are going to happen, but if I can remember to keep having fun even through the challenges, I know that the sky is the limit for the success I can achieve. 

So I say to myself once again, "Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom." After all, my life is essentially one big waterslide!

Thank you for keeping up with me and for your great support! I am enjoying a week off this week, but I'll be back in action for several tournaments in a row starting next week in Charlotte. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Ready at Harbour Town

My caddie, Shane Joel, left an awesome note in my car this morning after we finished up a good practice session. It simply said, "Let's make this your 2nd win on the PGA Tour. You Belong!!!" Much like all of the great people I have around me helping me, Shane is not one to focus on outcomes, but he knows that if we follow our plan well, we can do something special any week. I have had a great few days of preparation here on Hilton Head Island, and that note was a nice reminder of what I have already accomplished and what I can accomplish when I let my good stuff come out. 

So now it's time to follow the plan well and let the good stuff come out. My plan this week has two components. I'm going to give focused attention to every single shot, and I am going to commit to living my motto: don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom. If I do these two things, I will do my best, and that could be good enough to win on any given week anywhere in the world. I am going to follow the plan well. 

I am super-excited to play and am enjoying Harbour Town so much. This is truly a unique stop on the PGA Tour. The course is a fantastic test that demands precision with tight driving areas and firm, tiny greens. Throw in winds that are forecasted to gust quite a bit, and it is a recipe for a very challenging tournament. Demanding elements around this course will definitely require precise ball-striking, but I think even the sharpest of players will find some trouble, so I think recovery skills and putting will be at a premium. I really enjoy playing this style of golf course. It is going to be a fun week.

Thank you very much for keeping up with me. Keep it here for an update or two from the tournament. I get started at 7:50 on Thursday morning. I'm going to go have fun, follow my plan, and do my best. Let's see if I can't fulfill Shane's request!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Update from Home

I don't ever want to have Masters Week off again. However, I must admit, I am enjoying this time at home right now. I have allowed myself a couple lazy mornings and done some relaxing, which is nice, but I've also been working on my game and my mindset during this "vacation." It is great to be home, and I will soak up two more full days here, but I am already excited to get back on the road and compete again.

Despite the struggle that the past two and a half month have been for me in tournaments, I really am feeling good about my golf game. My golf swing has developed so much, and it is feeling great. I'm proud of the work that I have done over the past 18 months and especially proud of the improvements I have made just within the past two months. I feel like my swing and my ball-striking are more consistent right now than they have ever been. My practice at home this week has continued to confirm those positive feelings. In addition, my wedge play, short game, and putting are all showing signs of being at the level where I expect them. My practice has been feeling really good, and physically, I feel ready to deliver great performance in all areas of my game. 

I've definitely had shortcomings in all areas of my game over the past two-plus months, but I think a poor mindset has been an umbrella over all of it. Since my win in the fall and my encouraging start to 2016 at the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, I've raised my own expectations and put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself. After a couple of poor performances, rather than just reminding myself that golf is hard and bad results are going to happen sometimes, I responded by putting even more pressure on myself to "validate" my good play early in the season. Those feelings of pressure reached the pinnacle during my back-nine collapse last week in Houston in which I fell from being in contention to missing the cut over the last nine holes on Friday. This week at home, Alicia and I have been working together to re-set my mindset to a more healthy place. We've had some great talks and she's led me through a couple of exercises to help me view the past couple months in a more realistic way. Some highlights from our talks have been remembering that my win on the PGA Tour was the product of the same hard work that I am still doing; it wasn't lightning in a bottle. She also helped me remember that a slump is just part of the territory over the course of a long golf career. There is no meaning to a rough stretch of results. I've always tried to hold a "long-term view" of success, and she helped me remember that a slump doesn't do anything to affect long-term success. We also re-watched the documentary from the 2015 World Series in which our beloved Kansas City Royals won despite trailing at some point in all five games of the series. The Royals overcame 30 years of "slump", the agony of losing game seven of the World Series in 2014, doubts and naysayers from all over the baseball world, and a deficit in every single game of the 2015 Series to emerge as the Champions. Perhaps the only people who believed in the Royals were the Royals themselves, but that was enough. I know that I am fortunate to have a lot of people who believe in me, and I am truly going to believe in me, too! The basic summary point from all of our talks about mindset comes back to a simple reminder that my life is amazing, I am doing all the right things, and when I tee it up in a tournament, I can whole-heartedly tell myself: "Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom." 

I am going to live by that motto. I'm so thankful for the great life that I have, and I love what I do every day. Even during the times when it is hard, I love that I get to go to the golf course for my job. And I'm good at my job, too, so I'm going to keep doing things right, and I'm going to enjoy the process.

Thank you very much for following me and caring about my career. Please keep it here for more updates from Hilton Head Island next week at the RBC Heritage. I'm going to go soak up a couple more days at home right now. After all, this could be the last time for the next few decades that I have off the first week in April...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What Follows an Epic Collapse?

Golf is a humbling game. I thought I had it this week in Houston. I prepared beautifully, and for the first 27 holes of the tournament, I looked and felt great. I was having fun and executing well. In brutal weather conditions on Friday, I played the front nine in two under par to reach five under for the tournament. I felt great and was so pleased to see my game reflecting the positive signs I have been experiencing in practice. Then, with one bad swing, it all changed. I drove it into a hazard on the tenth hole, made a bogey, and despite telling myself all the right things, I became anxious and defensive. I failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the holes that followed my bogey, and then I collapsed over the last four holes. I finished bogey, bogey, bogey, double-bogey to not only fall out of contention but also miss the cut by two shots. It was a humbling finish, to say the least.

Bad golf is one thing. I really don't like it, but I know that it is going to happen sometimes. This was something different in Houston, however. It's not like I forgot how to play good golf on the walk from the ninth green to the tenth tee on Friday. Rather, I let a fairly minor mistake set off a fearful reaction inside of me and lock up my good stuff. It doesn't feel good to admit that because I know that my mental game is under my control. I also know that it is one of my greatest strengths, but I haven't been using it well lately. It always stings to miss a cut, but I missed this one because of a lack of mental toughness, and that really bothers me.

I have to move forward and be better. I think a good place to start is reiterating how well I played in Houston. I had three full days of great practice at home before traveling to Texas, and then had two solid days of preparation once there. I teed it up in the tournament and performed as well as I have since the first event of the year. Given the tough conditions on Friday morning, I really believe that I played as well as I've ever played on the opening nine holes of my second round. There are some tough shots on that course, and I stepped up and executed fearlessly and well. It was really good stuff. Though my putter still didn't get hot, all areas of my game were solid, and things were clicking. That is encouraging. I will remember that.

I will also remember the collapse. I need to learn from it. I definitely battle with the same cut anxiety that I have discussed before, and in Houston, I lost that battle. On the front nine on Friday I was on offense. After my bogey on number ten, I was playing defense. I was saying the right things to myself consciously, but my inner thoughts were rushed and panicked. It is frustrating to have to learn the same lesson more than once, but I think this week's reminder will be a powerful one for me. When my thoughts turn to the cut-line, I need to stay on offense, quiet my mind, remember to enjoy myself, and play to win. My collapse in the Houston Open was mental. That hurts me. But I will be better because of it.

In recent posts, I've given myself a little motto by which I'd like to live on the golf course. "Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom." Somehow, I forgot all about this when I needed it most. Following this motto wouldn't have changed the bad swing I made on hole ten on Friday in Houston, but it certainly would have changed what followed. Moving forward, I'm going to write down this motto, meditate on it, share it with Shane, and tell him to punch me if he sees me not living by it on the course! I work too hard to let tension and fear lock up my skills. This is my positive self-talk on the course: "Don't worry, have fun, play with Freedom."

I'm definitely frustrated by my recent stretch of poor play and especially so with my epic mental collapse on Friday in Houston. Do you know what follows an epic collapse, though? An epic climb to a brand new height! My skills are greater than they've ever been before. I'm going to play with Freedom and let them out.

Thank you for following and believing in me. These last couple months have beaten me up, but I believe in me, too! Great things are coming. Keep it here to enjoy the journey with me.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Positive Signs but Poor Golf in Puerto Rico

I traveled to Puerto Rico with a simple goal. I wanted to compete in accordance with my new motto: "Don't worry, have fun, play with Freedom." I'm actually quite happy to report that I did that. I felt the normal first tee jitters and certainly felt appropriate disappointment about the poor shots, but I never once felt tension or negative anxiety during the tournament. That was great! My performance stunk, but I achieved a big part of what I wanted to do, and that has me excited moving forward.

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not happy with my performance. I posted scores of 73, 75 for a four-over-par total and missed the cut by five shots. That's lousy, but I know that my game will come around. I was very poor on the greens this week, and I hit too many really bad shots. I need to putt well to be successful, and I also need to keep my poor shots a bit more reasonable. I actually hit a lot of good shots during my two rounds in Puerto Rico, but a few of my misses were real head-scratchers. Still, I know that I will clean that up, and I know I will get my putter back in business, too. Though I didn't have my good stuff this week, I saw glimpses of it, and I know that the mindset I had in Puerto Rico will help me get the good stuff out soon and often. 

I was feeling pretty down after my disappointing performance at Bay Hill, but I actually feel really good now. I know that I'm doing things right. I know that my game will come around. And I know that I have a long, successful career ahead of me on the PGA Tour. I'm going to continue to follow my motto, and good results will come!

Now I get to sneak in a few days at home, but I don't have to wait long to get back in action. I'll play the Shell Houston Open next week, and I'm excited to have a fun tournament. 

Thank you for your continued support. Keep it here for more reports!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dear Peter:

Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom!

Sincerely,

Peter

:)

It's go time in Puerto Rico. I've actually focused more on rest than on practice over the past five days, and though I don't like to do that often, I think it has been good for me. I am very excited to play this week. I remember the course pretty well from two years ago when I played here, and I'm ready to get out there and play my game.

Keep it here for an update or two from the tournament. Thank you for following and supporting me!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gotta Let the Good Stuff Out

In some ways, I'm better at golf than I have ever been in my life. I'm swinging the club the best that I ever have, and in practice, that has resulted in the solid and consistent ball-striking for which I strive. In tournaments, however, my play has ranged from inconsistent to downright poor over the past several weeks. I am definitely frustrated with my results lately, but I still feel really good about the long-term prognosis of my work.

My last post was called "Sometimes I Stink." I have played two tournaments since then that verify that statement. I posted rounds of 75, 72 two weeks ago at the Valspar Championship in Tampa. I had entered the tournament feeling good about my game, and I showed some really positive signs with good play off the tee, but my iron play, wedges, and putting were all very sub-standard, and I missed the cut by two shots. From Tampa, I moved just up I-4 to Orlando for my first Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. After my preparations for Mr. Palmer's event, I felt so ready to play well. I had practiced well. My full swing was clicking, my short game was feeling sharp, and I was ready to get hot with my putter. My good feelings never came to fruition in the tournament. I played with tension, posted frustrating rounds of 73, 76, and missed the cut by five shots. Sometimes I stink, indeed.

Over the past couple days, I've spent some time asking the question "why?" Not "why do I stink sometimes?" I know the answer to that. I stink sometimes because golf is a human performance, and bad shots, poor rounds, and tough stretches are a part of the territory. The question I have been asking is "why do I feel prepared to play well, but struggle in the tournaments?" I've discussed this with Alicia and some other members of our team, and I think we're on to something.

First of all, I am allowing myself to feel tension on the course. I know that I'm in a little bit of a slump, and I don't like it, so I'm trying too hard to make good things happen. I'm assigning more meaning than there really is to every shot I hit right now. I know better than to do this, but I've got to be intentional about letting go of the results and enjoying my process. Secondly, for the first time ever in my life, I am concerned about playing the game "properly" when I'm on the course. My entire golfing life, I have just been scrappy and done whatever I can to get the ball in the hole quickly, but right now I'm trying to make sure I swing correctly and hit the correct shot in all situations, even if that takes me out of my comfort zone. I never used to do that. There are no judges in golf, and an unconventional three beats a beautiful four every time. Finally, I am trying hard not to make mistakes on the course. When I won the Web.com Tour event in Brazil, I played hyper-aggressively off the tee. I actually made eight bogeys that week, but I also made 30 birdies and won the tournament by four shots. I feel as though I'm playing cautiously in tournaments right now when my best style of play is getting after it and trying to make a lot of birdies. 

Another way that I can sum up all three of these areas I have just discussed is simply to say to myself, "don't worry, have fun, and play with Freedom." I think that will be a nice little catch phrase for me over the next several weeks. Don't worry; have fun; play with Freedom. I like it!

My game really is good. All areas of my game have looked sloppy at times during my stretch of poor play, but I have had some fantastic practice over the past several weeks, and I feel ready to play well.

I made a last-minute decision to play the PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico this week, so after soaking up a couple days at home, I will travel there Wednesday morning. I'm excited to keep playing, and I'm looking forward to a fun tournament in Puerto Rico. What am I going to do? I'll prepare well like always, then on Thursday I'll tell myself, "Don't worry, have fun, play with Freedom!"

Thank you for following and cheering for me. I really appreciate the support! Also, I know I haven't done a good job of keeping my blog updated lately, but I'm going to do better moving forward, so keep it here for more frequent reports!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sometimes I Stink

I am striving to be more consistent. What I'm really striving for, though, is to make my average days better. The truth of the matter is that I am going to stink sometimes. Golf is a performance sport, and no one can perform well all the time. Tiger Woods had us fooled for a lot of years when it seemed that he never played poorly. In truth, he simply had such a high personal standard for average that even when he played poorly, he was still good enough to produce results that seemed good to everyone else. Even Tiger stunk to his own standard, but his stinky play was good enough to look successful to the rest of us. When I say I am striving to be more consistent, what I am really looking for is to improve my personal standard of what average is. 

For the past several weeks, I have been trending towards stinky, and this past week in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, at the Honda Classic, I arrived at stink. With the exception of my scrambling around the greens, my game was pretty lousy. I was wayward off the tee, struggled badly with my approach shots, and looked a little bit lost at times on the greens. It was definitely a tough course, and my short game kept me in the tournament on Thursday as I posted an opening-round 73, but I was in trouble early and often on Friday as I posted a 77 to miss the cut by seven shots. The week before in Los Angeles, I wouldn't say that I stunk, but I was definitely playing on the bottom side of my average, and I ended up bogeying my 36th hole to miss the cut by one shot. In all reality, I've lived somewhere between low-average and stinky since the second tournament of this calendar year. 

The problem, however, isn't that I have been stinking. That is going to happen. The problem is that my personal standard of average isn't good enough yet. You see, if I play average golf, I am going to be surfing near the cut-line. I have proven that when I'm playing in the high end of my good range, I can win, but the great players are able to compete and give themselves chances to win tournaments even when playing just to their average. I need to improve my standard of average so that when I play averagely, I am competing for a good finish on Sundays. In doing so, I will also improve my great play and my stinky play. I don't think golf will ever again see a player like Tiger Woods in his prime. Tiger could win a tournament playing at level less than his personal average. I will never achieve that, but I do believe that I can get to a point where I play to my average for the first three rounds and have a chance to win if I play well on Sunday. That is what I'm working towards. 

I say all of that to make the point that no matter how good I get, I am always going to have individual shots, rounds, tournaments, and even stretches of time when I stink. So this little rough patch that I'm in right now is no big deal. I will come out of it and play well, and I will continue to work to improve my standard of average.

I am actually working really hard to improve right now. I feel like I came out of the brief little off-season (December) swinging really well after focusing on my swing mechanics a lot during that month. Then, during the course of playing tournaments seven of the first eight weeks of the year, I neglected my swing mechanics, and things got a little bit sloppy. I have put in a lot of work to improve my swing over the past 16 months, but I still have more modifications to make and a long way to go to feel like I own my swing. I am really excited to keep putting in the work to get better, though. I love to practice, and right now, I feel like so many great things are in store, so I'm motivated to put in the effort that will allow those great things to come to fruition. Right now that means focusing on my swing mechanics more than I might like to. I enjoy to play purely by feel, but for the time being, I'm going to consciously think about my swing mechanics because I know that will make me a better player in the long run. 

I was hoping to qualify for the field for this week's World Golf Championship in Miami, but my stinky play of late didn't get that done. So instead, I'm somewhere even cooler: HOME! I'm excited to have a week off to work and recharge at home. I'll be ready to go play well when I hit the road again for the Valspar Championship outside of Tampa, Florida, and then Mr. Arnold Palmer's Invitational at Bay Hill.

Thank you so much for following and supporting me. I know it's more fun to watch the good results than the stinky ones, but keep believing in me. I'm going to be moving forward. Great things are coming. Keep it here to share the journey with me!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Beautiful Week at Pebble Beach


I love Pebble Beach. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. My golf game was off this week, but I still had a great time. I leave Pebble Beach knowing that I have a little bit of work to do to get my swing clicking, but I also leave with a great sense of peace because the true AWE-someness of Pebble Beach reminds me that even in the struggles, I have the greatest job in the world.

I definitely have work to do. My iron play and wedge game were atrocious at times this week on the Monterey Peninsula, and my putting was quite poor, too. There are some encouraging things that I will take with me, though. I don't yet feel perfectly in control off the tee, but my driving stats were by far the best they have been all season. That is a good sign. More improtantly, I played well in the third round with my back against the wall. The cut occurs after the third round of this tournament, and having opened with 73, 73 (+2, total) at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, respectively, I was significantly on the outside of cut-line. In cool and breezy conditions, I played a nice round of 68 (-3) at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Saturday and earned myself a final-round tee time. Even in that good third round, I was still sloppy with my wedges and short irons on multiple occasions and struggled with my putter. But I kept hanging in there, and I did enough stuff right to make the cut. My sloppy play, particularly on the greens, cut up with me on Sunday as I ended the tournament with a three-over-par 75 at Pebble Beach. Even with that disappointing finish, I am excited about the fact that I could grind out a made cut with far less than my best stuff this week.
I know that I'm way better now than I was two years ago as a rookie on Tour, and I'm excited to keep improving and become more consistent.

From here, Alicia and I will travel down to Los Angeles for my first LA Open at the famed Riviera Country Club. After a week of rushed and often-frustrated practice at Pebble, I am ready to put in a focused, efficient, and productive week of work in Southern California. I know "that lovin' feeling" can re-appear quickly in golf, and I'm excited to go find it in LA. 

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to my amateur partner from this week at Pebble Beach. Don Colleran, a very legitimate 14 handicap, made the cut right on the number. He was as excited as me to be playing on Sunday, and he took advantage of the opportunity. He made three "natural" birdies for net eagles, and he played his final 10 holes in even par on his own ball, straight up. With his handicap, he posted a final-round 61 and vaulted up into solo third place in the pro-am competition! Way to go, Don!

I love Pebble Beach, and I'm sad to leave, but I'm also excited to go have another great week of doing my dream job. Bring it on, Riviera! 

Thank you for following me and for your support. Keep it here; great things are coming!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Deceptively Good in Phoenix

On paper--or on the PGA Tour website, more accurately--nothing about my week in Phoenix would appear overly positive. I missed the cut. I hit less than half of my fairways and less than half of my greens in regulation. With rounds of 71 and 72 (+1), I posted an over-par total for the first time all season. I still hate to miss a cut, but other than about 20 minutes of sulking on Friday evening, I have nothing but positive feelings about my week and my performance in Phoenix.

I really feel great about a lot that I did during the Phoenix Open. I had a great week of practice, and even though my stats certainly don't show it, I actually hit a lot of really shots in the tournament. I was swinging fearlessly (for the most part), and though I definitely wasn't sharp, I was in control with the exception of a couple wild misses on Thursday. My scrambling was a bright spot as I converted 16 of 18 up and down opportunities from within 50 yards of the hole. While it is poor to miss so many greens, short game numbers like that indicate that I was not missing by much and that I was missing in reasonable spots. I'm also particularly proud of the fact that I was five for five in scrambling from the sand. Shane and I have been working hard on my bunker play lately, and it is fun to see that work paying dividends. My short game was definitely strong in Phoenix, and I feel like my long game is close to being there, too.

I know that I need to have birdie putts to be successful. In total for 36 holes, I had just 16 birdie putts in Phoenix, and several of those were not reasonable looks. I know that is a problem, and I definitely need to continue to improve and strive for more consistency with my ball-striking. I am on the right path, though. My golf swing feels better and better to me all the time, so I know that if I continue to trust the work that I am doing, it's going to start clicking again.

One of the most positive things about the week in Phoenix was my attitude. Despite never really getting anything positive going from a scoring perspective, I stayed calm and played with a lot of freedom during my short stay in the tournament. I definitely got a little overwhelmed by the big crowd on number 16 my first time there, but I even took that in stride. I did start to press just a little bit down the stretch on Friday, but given that I was hovering right near the cut-line the entire tournament, I actually thought about it very little. I was happy with my mindset, and I am excited to continue playing with that type of process-oriented thinking.

Speaking of the cut-line... It didn't actually become official that I had missed the cut until early Saturday morning. I ended up finishing tied for 71st for the second tournament in a row. That is a big bummer because the top 70 and ties make the cut on the PGA Tour. I played in the early wave on Friday, and it seemed for most of the afternoon that my score would earn me a Saturday tee time. It wasn't to be, however, and that is okay. I actually made a gutsy par on my 36th hole to give myself a chance to make the cut. After an errant drive left me with a tough second shot from the fairway bunker, I hit my approach into a left green-side bunker some 90 feet from the right hole location. To make matters worse, I had to stand outside the bunker and reach way down below my feet to hit the shot. I hit a great bunker shot to leave myself about seven feet to save par and I rolled that putt right in the middle. It ended up not being quite enough to earn a weekend tee time, but it sure felt good to save that par at the time!

So, I definitely know that I need to hit the ball a little bit better, but I also know that I'm not far off. Alicia and I have already made the journey to Pebble Beach, and we are so excited to get another week started. My game is close to coming together. Great things are just around the corner. Thank you for following and believing in me. Please keep it here for an update from Pebble Beach!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good Three Weeks To Start 2016

Alicia and I are home for a week off right now. I'm hungry to play, so it was a hard decision to skip an event, but I must admit that it is nice to enjoy HOME. We returned to East Tennessee from a three-tournament stretch that included one good result and two disappointing outcomes, but I am feeling great about our start to the 2016 portion of the season. We will use this time at home to rest, build on the positive things from the first three events, and prepare for another fun stretch of tournamnents that will begin next week. 

The Sony Open in Hawaii did not exactly go according to plan. Coming off a great week with a good result at the Tournament of Champions, I entered the week of the Sony with high expectations. I actually had a very nice week of practice and work, but I was never sharp on the course. I drove the ball erratically and struggled with my putter. Still, despite feeling like I was struggling, I posted scores of 69, 67 on the first two days and went to the weekend in position to make a positive move. I struggled mightily early in my round on Saturday, and though I came back to play my final nine holes in two under par, I posted a third-round 72 (+2). I was tied for 79th place after Saturday's round, and because so many people had made the cut, I was not allowed to play on Sunday. The Tour calls that an "MDF," which stands for "Made Cut, Did Not Finish." I still get credit for a made cut, but it was disappointing to play poorly on Saturday and not have the opportunity to compete in the final round. Even though it didn't always show during the tournament, I still had a nice week at the Sony Open and feel like I continued to improve. 

From Hawaii we traveled to La Quinta, California, for the Career Builder Challenge. The Career Builder is the old Bop Hope Classic, and it is still a pro-am format where the first three days of competition take place over three different courses. I never felt like a played badly there in the California desert, but I made three costly mistakes and never got hot with the putter. I posted rounds of 68, 70, 70 for an eight-under-par total, but I finished the first three days tied for 71st. In other words, I missed the cut. I was extremely disappointed on Saturday afternoon because I felt like I was close to playing very good golf, and I really hated to not have a chance to go compete on Sunday. It's no fun to miss a cut, and I'm pretty sure I will always hate it, but nothing about my performance in the desert has me worried. I actually saw some bright moments with my driver during the event, and I know that I can clean up the costly errors I made. I wasn't far from playing well, and I'll get it clicking. 

When I look back on the first three tournaments of the calendar year, I am really encouraged. From an outcome standpoint, I played ten rounds and accumulated a total of 27 under par. That's not great given the golf courses that I played, but 2.7-under-par per round is certainly not a bad statistic to build on moving forward. More importantly, when I look back over my practice log from the last three weeks, I see that I am doing good work, and I know that my game will keep progressing. Two specific things on which I am working very hard are my driving accuracy and my bunker play, and I'm happy to report that I saw some great signs in both of those areas during the last tournament. (Shout out to caddie Shane for the help in the bunkers!) I am proud of the way that I work and prepare, and I am confident that I will continue to achieve great things because of that. My first three tournament weeks of 2016 were a great start in that regard. 

I'm excited to keep getting better. Having this week off will help me do that. I'm going to play a lot this year, and that is a privilege to which I am very much looking forward, but I know it is something I need to approach with a bit of caution. Shane had to talk me out of signing up for this week's event because I badly wanted to play. If I had, I would be starting the year with at least eight consecutive weeks of tournament play. I know I could handle that, but weeks off are valuable, and I have earned the right to pick my schedule. I am going to make this week valuable by charging up and being ready when Alicia and I travel to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday. 

Thank you for following me and believing in me. We are just getting started! Keep it here to enjoy the journey!

In case you missed it: Alicia and I hosted Inside the PGA Tour in Knoxville, and they did a nice job telling a little bit of our story. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2Nr2LgxKnE&feature=youtu.be

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...