Monday, December 15, 2014

Quick (but Great) Update

I had an absolutely fantastic week in Florida last week. I completed my Full Practice Schedule and Full Fitness Routine, and I also played 27 great holes on the Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass and had a great session with Mitchell in Orlando. Mitchell is as impressed with the progress in my swing as I am with the results that I see in practice and on the course. We are continuing to make subtle and gradual changes that are having a profound impact on the efficiency and consistency of my golf swing. In addition to that, I continue to be very pleased with the quality of my short game and putting practice. I said that I would be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015, and I truly believe that all the elements are coming together to make that a reality. I need to have another good week of work and workouts this week, but I will be able to relax a little bit over the Christmas week and still achieve my off-season goals!

Everything is great, and I am excited. Keep it here for updates from a great week of work and for some exciting news about the start of next year. Thank you for keeping up with me!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Great Work in Florida

I am continuing to make progress. My practice has been feeling very good, and my tournament play last week confirmed that I am moving in the right direction. I still have a lot of room to improve, though. This week, I have been utilizing the great practice facilities and reasonable weather at the TPC Sawgrass to continue working on my game. I have a few items left to check off my list, but I am well on my way to completing my Full Fitness Routine and my Full Practice Schedule. My workouts and my practice have been on point, and I am feeling great. I had a little match today on the Stadium Course, and my results continued to match what I am feeling. Playing in chilly and at times breezy conditions, I hit 14 greens in regulation and shot two under par despite making a triple bogey on one of the most benign holes on the course (12). I was victorious in the match. This week has been great, so far. I am going to have another solid day of work in Ponte Vedra on Friday and then will spend Saturday with Mitchell in Orlando. I am excited to keep getting better. Five and a half weeks ago, I set out on a mission to be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015, and I am confident that I will be.

Thank you for following me, caring about me, and believing in me! Keep it here for more good news as I continue to progress. Enjoy some pictures from Sawgrass:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Great Week!

I decided to play the eGolf Tour Championship so that I could assess the state of my game on a difficult golf course under tournament conditions. I am very pleased with the work that I have been putting in on my game, but I knew that playing a golf tournament would be very educational for me. Working on some new swing thoughts and having gone nearly three months without playing a competitive round, I was very curious to see how comfortable I would feel. The results actually surprised me a little bit. By no means was I as comfortable as I would ultimately like to be or as consistent with my ball-striking as I think I can be, but given the situation, I was very solid from beginning to end. The results speak for themselves as I posted rounds of 68, 68, 68, 71 for a 13-under-par total and a solo third place finish in a strong field of 168 players. More important than the results, however, was the experience of hitting solid golf shots under pressure and honestly believing that I was going to. This week was a strong validation of the work that I have been doing, it has me excited to keep following my plan. 

I will give you some cool bullet points from the final two rounds of the tournament. 

•The Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall has some very intimidating holes with long forced carries off the tee and greens fronted by trouble. Two holes that have always been something of a nemesis to me are holes three and seven. In the third round, I hit two perfect tee shots on these holes, and then stuck two four-iron approach shots en route to birdieing both! 

•I posted a third-round 68 (-4) despite making a double-bogey from 83 yards out in the middle of the fairway on the short par-four 11th. My tee shot found a divot in the fairway, but it really should not have been all that difficult of a shot. I chunked it badly and left myself with a 30-yard bunker shot. From there, I hit my shot over the green into a hazard and converted a great up-and-down for double after a penalty drop. That hole was my only major blunder of the tournament, and I am proud of the way that I responded to it.

•In the final round, I smoked my drive on the par-five 10th hole. I had just 216 yards to the flag for my second shot, but the 10th is a very demanding approach. A severely sloped green is fronted by a ten foot plank wall that drops down into a pond. The severity of the green is such that any approach that goes long of the green is really no better than hitting it short in the pond anyway. I typically lay up short of the water because of the demanding nature of the green, but trailing by seven shots and having a perfect yardage for my three hybrid, I decided to give it a go. I laced my approach to eight feet directly behind the front hole location and rolled in the putt for an eagle three. It was a great feeling!

• I finished the tournament sloppily. I failed to birdie the easily-reachable par-five 15th hole and then hit a poor iron shot into the 17th hole and made a bogey. I faced a long birdie putt on the final hole, and before hitting it, I noticed that I had fallen into third place by one shot. I also noticed that I had a couple shots of clearance over fourth place. I was overly aggressive with the birdie putt and wound up three putting for the only time all week on the final green. That sloppy finish is my only source of disappointment all week.

•On two fairly demanding golf courses, my ball-striking stats were very impressive. In order, beginning with round one, I hit 12, 13, 14, and 14 greens in regulation. As good as my short game and putting are going to be, I will be very VERY successful if I can continue to improve on these numbers. 

•My best-man from my wedding and closest friend, Ryan Nelson, dominated the golf tournament, and I got to play alongside him in the final round. That was really special. 

Needless to say, it was a fantastic week, and I am quite happy that I decided to play. I never lost sight of my off-season mission to be playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015, either. I completed my Light Practice Schedule and Light Fitness Routine, and I am doing a great job of following my off-season plan. I am more confident than ever that I will be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to next year! 

Thank you for following and believing in me. Great stuff is happening, and even better stuff lies ahead. It's a fun journey, and I'm loving the ride! Keep it here for more updates. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

It's Feeling Good

I entered this week's eGolf Tour event so that I could assess my off-season work under some tournament conditions. I can tell that the new feelings on which I am working in my swing are far from ingrained, but things are feeling very good! I'm glad that I have a little more time to really work on my full-swing before the New Year gets here, but I'm definitely on pace to be playing the best golf of my life by then.

In the second round on Thursday, I overcame some shaky ball-striking early with some good recovery shots and a hot putter. Then, as I settled down and began to strike the ball nicely, my putter cooled. Still, I posted my second consecutive five-birdie, one-bogey round of 68 to reach eight under par for the tournament heading into the weekend. I am thrilled to be in a position to pursue the leaders, but more than that, I am excited to keep improving.

Though I was a little bit disappointed with some of the putts that I hit in Thursday's round, I am still very pleased with the state of my short game and putting. I have worked hard on these two areas of my game thus far this off-season, and that work is showing. I will continue to focus on sharpening these as I move forward.

For now, I am focused on completing a good week of work and continuing to play well in this tournament. I tee off at 10:10 Friday morning in the third round. I am currently five shots behind the leader and in a tie for third place. I am really looking forward to the competition the next two days. Thank you for following, and please keep it here for reports from the last two rounds.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tournament Week--Good Start

I haven't experienced a tournament week in quite a while. I am on Hilton Head Island playing the eGolf Professional Tour's season-ending event at a great venue called Palmetto Hall Plantation. I opened the tournament on Wednesday with a round of 68 (-4) on the Hills Course at Palmetto Hall. I played great and was in control all day as I posted a five-birdie, one-bogey performance in my first competitive round in more than 2 months. I definitely do not feel perfectly comfortable yet with the work that I am doing on my golf swing, and I certainly know that I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but I was very pleased with the state of my game. I am happy to have shot a good score, but more than that, I am very excited to see the fruits of my practice. All areas of my game were bright at times in round one, and my short game and putting were consistently good throughout the round. It was a great way to break back in to competition. 

Now, with that said, I want to keep it up. I'm having a good week of work, and I plan to continue with my off-season quest towards playing the best golf of my life by January 1, 2015. Along the way, I might as well get myself into contention to win this golf tournament, too, I'd say!
I'll play round two tomorrow on the Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall, and I'm excited to get back out there for more tournament action. 

Thank you for following, and please keep it here for more updates from the tournament.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thankful ...Even for the Rough Patches

I have so much for which to be Thankful. I really do consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world. I have an amazing wife, an unbelievably fun and supportive family, and great friends. The best thing about all these people is they love me regardless of what happens on the golf course. I am so thankful for all of them. 

From a golf standpoint, I similarly have so much for which to be thankful. I have incredible people around me that want to help me get better. I have golf courses that give me access to their facilities with no questions asked. For my beautiful, original home course where I learned to play (Dandridge Golf Course) and my home course in Knoxville (Holston Hills) and all the other places that allow me to call them "home", I am so thankful to have such great office spaces. 

In general, I am thankful to have a job that I genuinely love. I enjoy every aspect of my career, and I am grateful that I get to work at a game for my livelihood. 

And I feel that way even when it's not easy! I had a tough week of practice this week. Because of the Thanksgiving Holiday, my goal for this week was to complete my Light Practice Schedule. After three weeks of knocking out my Full Practice Schedule, I thought this week would be relatively easy. I had to work! My putting drills did not come easily. I ended up finishing the last of my putting drills in tough blustery conditions on Sunday afternoon. This week I completed my Full Fitness Routine and my Light Practice Schedule. It is so rewarding to stick with a goal through some rough patches and get it done! 

That statement applies to my long term goals as well. My ultimate goal in golf is to compete at the highest level, win, and be consistently one of the best players in the world. This year could certainly be viewed as a rough stretch towards that goal, but I view it as necessary step in my growth. I am going to stick with my plan, and when I reach my ultimate goal in golf, a tough year like this one will make it all the more rewarding! 

Right now, I'm super excited. I am going to be back in competition this week. I will tee it up in the eGolf Professional Tour's Tour Championship December 3-6 on Hilton Head Island. The work that I have been doing on my golf game is feeling very good, and I think that testing it under some tournament conditions will be good for me. I expect to be fairly sharp for the tournament and plan to compete for the win, but my primary goal will be to continue working on my game under tournament conditions. I will treat the event with tournament-week focus, but this is still a part of my off-season planI absolutely believe that I will be playing the best golf of my life when the calendar turns to 2015. 

Here is where I am right now. My work on my golf swing does not feel natural yet, but I am comfortable with it and know that I am moving in the right direction. Despite a challenging week of putting practice, my short game and putting are in solid form. I am excited to give it all a test in the tournament this week.

I will end this post by saying one more thing for which I am thankful: all of you for following me and offering your support! Keep it here for tournament and practice updates from Hilton head Island this week.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Big "Next" Step

I want to start by saying that I have just completed another great week of work. I finished my Full Fitness Routine and my Full Practice Schedule. I am feeling great physically and am very excited about the state of my game. Over the past three weeks, I have had the best practice that I can ever remember. My optimism and my motivation to keep improving continue to grow. I say it in every post, but I'm going to reiterate it here: I will be playing the best golf of my life when the New Year gets here. 

I have been talking about a lot of the things that I am doing this off-season to improve. The basis of my plan is, and will always be, a well-rounded and thorough practice routine. However, there is one major new thing that I am doing this off-season that I have not yet discussed. I am consulting with a new instructor in Orlando, Florida. 

Before I go farther, I need to take a minute to clarify some things. My long-time coach is Bobby "Bobbo" Bray, and he won't cease to be that. Bobbo and I go way back, and there is no way that I'd be where I am without him. He is a coach, mentor, and great friend to me. He is still the most genuine and generous human being I've ever met. He's also one heck of a golfer and a great coach. He and I will continue to work on my game together, and he'll be there when I win my first major!

I'm also lucky to have a brilliant golf-swing mind that lives 12 minutes from me in Knoxville, TN. Jake Reeves has helped me with my game and become a great friend. I'm thankful to have him in my court and will continue to learn from him. He and I are both going to play in the same PGA Championship here one year very soon! And if it comes down to the two of us for the title, he'll ball-strike the heck out of it, so you'd better believe I'm going have to make a big putt to beat him!

This offseason, though, I decided that I wanted to get some input from a new set of eyes. I spoke with several instructors around the country and found that I communicated the most comfortably with Mitchell Spearman. I have had three sessions with Mitchell, and we are working to eliminate some excess movement, solidify my leg action, and create an increased sense of connection between my arms and my body during my swing. Though changes can be hard, nothing that we have done has seemed like a daunting task. I am still in a stage of development where I am having to consciously think about my swing while hitting balls, but the results are already starting to show. As the changes to my motion become natural, I am confident that my swing will be more efficient and my ball-striking will be much more consistent. 

This is a big step for me. I will always rely on my attitude and my putting to be my greatest assets on the course, but in order to achieve my goal of being one of the best golfers in the world, I need to improve my ball-striking. My work with Mitchell Spearman is going to jump-start  that. 

Through this process, I am continuing to have balanced, complete-game practice. Though I have done something new to focus on my ball-striking, I am not neglecting the rest of my game. I believe that I will be hitting the ball better than I ever have here soon, but I'm determined to have all areas of my game reach new heights. 

This is exciting stuff. I am getting better, and I can feel it! 

As a side-note, Mitchell teaches at Isleworth Country Club in Orlando. I played the course last time I was down there. It's no wonder so many of the best players in the world live there. It's beautiful, in fantastic condition, and it tests absolutely every element of the game. 
Thank you for following and believing in me! Great stuff is coming. Keep it here for more reports from my off-season work.