Where do I begin? The HP Byron Nelson was obviously a tournament that I will never forget. Unfortunately, it didn't end the way that I wanted but I definitely learned a lot about myself and I will be better from the experience.
I entered Thursday's round with a great deal of confidence and for the first time all year it was a result of my putter. I put a new TaylorMade Ghost in my bag and for the first three days of practice I putted extremely well. The head of the putter is completely white, which according to TaylorMade's research department, improves alignment because of the color contrast with the greens. I immediately found this to be the case and I couldn't wait for the tournament to begin. On Thursday, I was paired with 16 year old and current US Junior Amateur Champion Jordan Spieth. He was a really nice and talented kid and also a Dallas area resident. His fan support was tremendous. I played pretty good the first two rounds but I was definitely second fiddle to Jordan. He became one of the youngest players to ever make the cut in a PGA Tour event and I was glad I saw it firsthand. After 36 holes, I was tied for the lead with Cameron Beckman at 10 under par. I entered Saturday's round in the final pairing, and like most afternoons in Texas, the wind was howling. The course played extremely difficult and unfortunately I didn't hit the ball as well as I would have liked. I struggled mainly off the tee and eventually finished the round at even par (70), two shots off the lead. Sunday's final round was very similar to Saturday's. I was in the final pairing and, once again, the wind was howling. The crowds were enormous and I was fortunate enough to have several friends and family members on hand. I was paired with Jason Day and we both knew the conditions were going to be difficult. I played decent throughout the day and as I walked to the 18th hole, I found myself only one shot back. The wind was blowing hard from left to right and when my 3wood climbed a little higher than I wanted it too, the wind pushed it into the right rough. After a huge bounce, my ball ended up under a group of trees. However, I had an absolutely perfect angle to the green! I was only 166 yards to the front of the green and I couldn't have asked for a better shot from the trees. My normal ball flight moves from left to right and due to my angle to the green and the surrounding trees, a left to right shot was ideal. I couldn't have placed my ball in a better position. The only problem I had was the fact that my ball was sitting in a low area. These little bowl-like areas are usually created from rain water and unfortunately, my ball was right in the middle of one. As I looked toward the green, the limbs on the tree ahead were not even in play. I chose to hit a 5 iron and, once again, I couldn't have asked for a better shot from the trees! However, because my ball was sitting in the low area, it unexpectedly ran up the slope of the bowl and hit a limb. The ball kicked directly left and I painfully watched my tournament hopes roll into the water. I couldn't believe what had just happened! I had a perfect angle, a great yardage, and a shot that required my left to right pattern. It was ideal! The ball just ramped up the slope and hit the limb. I didn't know that Jason had hit his approach shot in the water, but to be honest, it wouldn't have mattered. My only option was to play toward the green and given my "ideal" scenario, I wouldn't have changed a thing (except of course the low area that my ball was sitting in!!)
All in all, I learned a lot from the experience and because of it I will be a better player in the long run. I also learned a great deal about myself. I never felt the nervousness that you would expect from being in the final group of a PGA Tour event. I felt comfortable out there and I approached each day as just another round of golf. I was also pleased, for the most part, with how I played. I held things together pretty well, especially for being in the last group on Saturday and Sunday for the first time. I certainly didn't play my best, but in the end I still had a chance to win. I will continue to work hard and hopefully I will put myself in contention again real soon. Next time, I expect the results to be different!
After signing my scorecard, I walked down the stairs only to find my little shadow Jake waiting for me. I immediately picked him up and he held my neck as hard as he could. Beth, Libby, and several members of our family were standing around. Someone made the comment "Jake, your daddy played really good didn't he?" His response was simply "Ahhhmmm, my daddy hit it in the water!!" Honesty at its finest!
Bryon Nelson is obviously one of the greatest golfers to ever play our sport. As a tribute to him, the tournament committee placed a sign on each tee box last week identifying some of his great accomplishments. His achievements are incredible and I really enjoyed reading them.
* In 1945, he had 18 wins in 30 tournaments
* He won 34 times between 1944-1946
* He shot under par 22 straight rounds in 1945
* He won 6 tournaments by more than 10 shots
* He finished top 5 in the Majors 73% of the time
* His career earning were $220,580.78
* He never shot above 71 in a final round in 1945
* He retired at the age of 34
* He had 113 straight top 20 finishes
* He won 11 consecutive tournaments in 1945
* He had 74 top 9 finishes in 75 events between 1944-1946
This week we are in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Crowne Plaza Colonial Invitational. Ben Hogan lived only a short drive from the course and the clubhouse is filled with his memorabilia. My brother, Chris, actually worked on the grounds crew at this course during one summer in college. I am looking forward to this event and hopefully I can improve on last week's finish!