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!

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...