Saturday, July 26, 2014

Heartbreak but So Much Positive in Canada

I'll start with the bad news, and this one really stings. I made a double bogey on my 36th hole of the Canadian Open to move from safely inside the cutline to missing the weekend by one shot. I cannot relay with words how absolutely awful that feels, but I promise the news is not all bad from Canada. 

So, here's the story. I was erratic in Thursday's opening round. Despite feeling prepared heading into the tournament, my iron play was quite poor in round one, and I didn't scramble as well as I needed to in order to post a good score. I did start to find that loving feeling on the greens and rolled in a few big putts, including a 40+ footer on my final hole for a closing birdie to post an opening-round, three-over-par 73. That closing putt was big, and I entered round two feeling like I was ready to play well. I came out Friday morning and despite a shaky iron shot into the first, had a solid start with five consecutive pars. I really found some nice form over the next 12 holes. On holes six through 17, I missed just one green in regulation and had a lot of great looks at birdies. I converted four of those birdies, and stood at four under par for my round heading to the 18th tee. In that twelve-hole stretch, I played well enough to win a PGA Tour event, and that is really cool! 

Of course, the final hole of my second round turned a bit nightmare-ish, and that is a story unto itself, so here goes. I was committed to my plan off the tee, but facing water up the left side of the hole, I missed right of the fairway and ended up in a fairway bunker. I was so certain that I could play a fade with a four iron and loft the ball easily out of the bunker, but my ball smacked the face of the bunker on the way out and settled in the fairway just forty yards in front of me. I definitely felt a little nervous at that point, and on the ensuing shot, my nerves showed. I tugged an eight iron well left of my target and missed the green long and left to a back left hole location. I faced a daunting up-and-down, but I attacked it fearlessly. I slid under the ball just a bit too much with my flop shot, however, and it didn't make it to the green. So I faced another quick pitch shot for my bogey, and I nearly holed it. That fifth shot went in the left center of the hole and rimmed out on the right side. From there I tapped in for a six and posted a second-round, two-under-par 68. 

That debacle on my 36th hole definitely has me feeling bummed out, but it's very important that I learn from it and remember the hugely positive day that preceded it. The first lesson I will take from that experience is to trust my strengths more. I have a great short game, so I didn't need to try to get my second shot from the fairway bunker all the way to the green. I could have chosen a more lofted club and played the ball some twenty yards short of the green and trusted my short game to help me save par. Secondly, I will use this experience as more "toughness training" so that I will be better in big situations moving forward. My iron play had been beautiful since the first hole on Friday, and I definitely let the situation on the 18th hole adversely affect my process over my third shot. My routine is great and my thought process is great; I just need to trust them in all situations. Most importantly, I want to make sure that my mistakes on the 18th hole don't overshadow the great golf that I played on Friday. I played bogey-free, four-under-par golf on a tough course in windy conditions for 17 holes, and, as I said earlier, for a 12-hole stretch, I truly played well enough to win a PGA Tour event. I will learn from the nightmare on my 36th hole, and Friday at the Canadian Open will be remembered as a great day.

So, despite my tournament being cut a couple days short, I am having a great week up here in Montreal. I have been very efficient with my practice, and I felt well-prepared heading into the event. I am really pumped with how much better my game is feeling right now than it did just a few short weeks ago. Returning to my roots of a very disciplined work routine has me feeling like I get better every single day, and it was really great to see some signs of great improvement on the course this week. I have just a few more practice goals to meet over the weekend, and I am motivated and excited to get them done. There is definitely some lingering heartbreak over having this weekend off, but I am following my plan very well, and I feel like I am on the right path to be very successful! 

Thank you for caring about me enough to read this entire post and for continuing to believe in me. There is great stuff coming! Keep it here for a report from a good weekend of practice and a preview of next week in Reno-Tahoe, Nevada.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

That Lovin' Feeling

My long-time coach as I've grown up in golf, the great Bobby Bray, always calls it "that lovin' feeling" when I get my swing grooving and am hitting the ball really well. I don't know that I've quite found that just yet, but I can honestly say that I've got that lovin' feeling back with my practice routine and my approach to my golf game. For the second consecutive week, I completed all of my Map Goals, and I'm flying to Canada already knowing I'm going to do it again this week. Focused and disciplined preparation is my formula for success. As I have done my work over the past couple of weeks, I can feel my belief returning. My game is definitely improving a lot right now, but that belief is even more important. I truly believe that my preparation routine will help me be one of the best players in the world. I've got that lovin' feeling back with my work, and I think I'm pretty close to getting it back with my game as well! 

As I said earlier, I am on my way to Montreal, Canada, for the RBC Canadian Open. I am excited to see a brand new place (to me!) in the world and to continue following my process. I know I'm going to have a great week in Canada. Keep it here for updates and a picture or two. Thank you for supporting me!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ready To Be the Best


have spent the last two days at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game (ASG), and though I only touched my clubs for a quick 18 holes Tuesday morning, I feel like this excursion has been great for my golf game. Through my relationship with MLB.com, Alicia and I were given the royal (Royals!?) treatment during the ASG festivities, and it's strange how much my experience impacted me and has me motivated moving forward. In addition to feeling very refreshed after having an absolute blast for 48 hours in Minneapolis, I am inspired to go be an "All-Star" in my arena. 

The team from MLB.com made me feel like a stud during my time with them at the ASG. I did play well in our golf outing on Tuesday morning, but even before that, the vibe I got from them was: "you made it to the PGA Tour, and we think you're awesome!" Obviously a lot of you have offered that same message to me all year, but after some fairly humbling results thus far in my rookie campaign, it was very cool to feel it from a sponsor. 

Their belief in me got me thinking about the way I believe in myself. I am always striving and working to be MY best, but the thought never really occurs to me to be THE best. That is crazy because I have skill sets to be one of the best players in the world. I will never hit long, towering iron shots or dominate courses with power, but I can certainly be the most accurate player and the one with the best wedge play, putting, and mental game in the sport. I have a long way to go because I am not near it right now, but when I get close to achieving MY best, I believe that I will be one of THE best. 

The good news is I already have a plan in place to reach my best golf. Last week I recommitted to my process of focusing on steady improvement each week. This process includes a disciplined approach to my preparation (weekly "Map Goals") and a long-term vision of success. My becoming one of the best players in the world is not predicated on my tournament results next week but rather is dependent on my continual progress over the coming months and years. If I do my work habitually and improve consistently, I will be one of the best players in the world in my career. 

I love my job. I can't wait to go to work. I am going to be THE best. I am going to be an "All-Star"!

Thank you very much for believing in me and keeping up with me. Progress is coming. Great things are coming. Keep it here to enjoy the ride with me!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Trending in a Good Direction

My tournament results this week at the John Deere Classic were definitely not those for which I am looking, but I had a great week. After my opening-round 78, I was definitely behind the eight-ball heading into Friday's round. I essentially sealed my fate with an enraging bogey, double-bogey start to my second round, but I remembered my commitment to my process and focused on improving the rest of the day on Friday. After my horrific start, I played the next 12 holes in six under par. I did lose focus on the final green and committed a lousy three-putt bogey, but I posted a second-round 69, and proved to myself that I am ready to play well. It was nice to make some birdies during a tournament round, and I know I can build on that. 

More importantly, this was a big week for me because I got back to preparing for and thinking about tournament golf MY way. I had the most thorough week of practice that I have had in a long time. Despite a clumsy mid-week fall that scratched up my right hand pretty badly (I played with it bandaged) and cost me a half a day of work on Wednesday, I completed absolutely all of my Map Goals. They are so valuable to me. I really feel like I'm back on a positive track that will allow me to regain my pattern of steady improvement. I am going to continue to be focused, disciplined, and efficient with my work routine, and I am confident that I will be prepared for the opportunities that are ahead of me.

By the way, my hand is completely fine. I fell while out for a jog Wednesday morning because I clumsily kicked a raised piece of the sidewalk I was on and tumbled forward. I'm more athletic than this makes me sound, I promise! I am perfectly fine, though, and actually finished up my practice for the week with no bandages on Sunday and felt good. 

All is good, and I am very excited to keep doing my thing. I have a week off to prepare for my next tournament--the RBC Canadian Open--and I can't wait to get to work! I do get to have a little fun first, though. MLB.com as having Alicia and I up to Minneapolis for the Major Leage Baseball All-Star game festivities Monday and Tuesday. We are so excited to go enjoy this great opportunity and cheer on the Royals who made the team!

Keep it here for a cool picture or three from the All-Star Game and some great practice reports next week. Thank you for following and believing in me!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Terrible First Round But Still Moving in the Right Direction

The title of this post says all you need to know about my round on Thursday. After a very solid start over the first five holes, things turned ugly quickly, and I couldn't right the ship. I wasn't completely discouraged by the way I hit the ball, but I hit a handful of terrible shots, had a cold putter, and struggled mightily with my short game. I ended up posting a seven-over-par round of 78 in near-perfect scoring conditions at the TPC Deere Run. 

I am very disappointed with that result, but true to my new commitment, I still feel very good about the week of work that I am having. I am continuing to have the best practice that I have had in quite some time, and I know that is the path out of my current slump. Even after my disappointing round today, I had a great practice session this afternoon, and I truly believe that I will be back on my game very soon.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I am definitely ready to start a new trend in my tournament play! I am going to trust my hard work, have fun, and play well in round two. Come back for a good report in the evening. Thank you for keeping up with me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Following My Plan at The John Deere Classic

I'm feeling great heading into the first day of this week's PGA Tour event--The John Deere Classic in Silvis, IL. I've had some of my best practice in a long time over the past few days, and I have managed to sneak in a couple of very fun events as well. On Monday, I participated in media day for the Knoxville News Sentinel Open before traveling to Illinois. Though I won't be playing in this year's Knoxville Open, it was great to reminisce about that special week. Then on Tuesday evening after a great day of work, I got to play around in some of John Deere's big equipment. In an event called "The Big Dig", players and family were invited to John Deere's test site to operate any and all of the company's machinery. It was really cool! To see pictures from either of these events, check out Alicia's blog at AliciaMalnati.wordpress.com. 

As for my golf, I am very excited. I feel more like myself than I have in quite some time. I have been focused, disciplined, and efficient with my work this week, and I feel like I am getting better. I am going to commit to my process on the course and let the results take care of themselves. I get started at 9 AM on the first tee on Thursday morning, and I am ready to go!

Thank you for following, and keep it here for post-round reports throughout the week.

Monday, July 7, 2014

My New Deal

had a refreshing idea after my disappointing performance at The Greenbrier Classic. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, I will be okay even if I don't achieve my season-long goal of finishing in the top 125 on the Fed-Ex Cup Points List. You see, for my entire golf career, every tournament I have played and every practice session I have had has always been about improving and preparing for bigger things. Winning and "moving up" have always been important, but the thought each week was to get better and prepare myself for the big opportunities that I knew were ahead of me. This year, however, I have seemingly approached every week as a do-or-die opportunity to earn coveted Fed-Ex Cup Points. I have had no patience with myself through poor play and have had no sense that simply improving is an accomplishment. I am trying so hard to achieve my outcome goals that I have lost touch with the process that has always allowed me to be successful. My refreshing thought this past weekend at The Greenbrier has turned into a new plan for the rest of the year, and I can't wait to get after it!

I am going to treat the rest of the PGA Tour season as preparation for whatever lies ahead. My current standing on the Fed-Ex Points List assures me a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals--the four-event playoff series at the conclusion of the Web.com Tour's season which awards PGA Tour Cards for the 2014-2015 season--so as a great worst-case scenario, I will have a chance to regain my PGA Tour card in that manner. With the remaining weeks of my rookie season on the PGA Tour, I am going to have the thought to get better each week and prepare for whatever great opportunities lie ahead. 

So what specifically am I going to do differently? I am going to prioritize my Map Goals and commit to following them. I have a confession to make. I have become so consumed by results that I can't remember the last time I thoroughly completed my Map Goals. My Map Goals are the engine that has driven my steady improvement throughout my professional career. When following them, I have focused, efficient, tournament-like practice as well as quality workouts to keep my physical fitness in competitive shape. My Map Goals allow me to have successful weeks even when my on-course results aren't what I want. In short, following my Map Goals leads to steady improvement, which in turn helps me feel prepared for anything that lies ahead. 

I am going to really commit to staying disciplined and focused on my Map Goals each week. My wife and my sister are my Map Goal accountability partners and are going to check on me at the end of each week. I don't want to let those two down! (By the way, if you are new to my blog, my Map Goals can be found under the "Goals" tab at the top of the page, and you can read a full description of why I call them "Map Goals" in a post published in May.)

I am a process guy. I believe that the results are a product of having a good plan and executing it. For some reason, I have let the bright lights (figuratively) of the PGA Tour get me away from my plan. I am going to get back to my process, make steady improvement my target, and let the results take care of themselves. 

I still believe that my outcome goals are important and attainable, but outcomes cannot be my focus. I'm heading to the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, and I'm going to take care of my process and get better this week.

Thank you for hanging with me through that long post, and thank you for believing in me. Keep it here for good reports throughout the week. As always, great things are coming!