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.

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