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!

Visible Progress

I’ve been making a lot of invisible progress lately. By that, I mean that my scores have been consistently rather stinky, but beneath that,...