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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The 4G's...The Greenbrier, Gambling, Greensboro, and A Special Little Girl

With Mr. Anonymous in the rear view mirror, I spent the week in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, for the Greenbrier Classic. In only its second year, this event is quickly becoming one of the best tournaments on the PGA Tour. I flew Beth along with my former UGA roommate and good friend Davis Thomason and his wife Lynn up for the week. The owner of the Greenbrier Resort, Mr. Jim Justice, leaves no stone unturned and the hospitality is second to none. A brand new casino, great restaurants, spa treatments, fishing, off-road driving, and skeet shooting are just a few of the activities available to the players and their guests. And if that wasn't enough, last year Mr. Justice built a huge concert arena near the Resort to provide music entertainment and hopefully draw bigger crowds to the tournament. Well, it worked. Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley performed during the week and the players were given VIP access to everything. It was amazing. Obviously this year was no different. On Thursday night, Luke Bryan and Tim McGraw performed followed by The Black Eyed Peas on Friday night. Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban rocked the stage Saturday night in front of a huge crowd. My favorite performance of the week was of course Georgia's own, Luke Bryan. The two of us met while we were in college at Georgia Southern and we spent most afternoons and late evenings together doing things that college kids do…enough said. Immediately following my round on Thursday, Davis and I met Luke outside the Greenbrier Resort. He drove up in his bright yellow Bronco and the three of us spent the rest of the afternoon playing golf on the Private course at the Greenbrier. We had a blast and laughter constantly filled the air. Luke dropped Davis and me off at the hotel and we quickly encouraged our wives to get ready so we wouldn't miss his concert. The four of us climbed on the Greenbrier bus outside the hotel around 6:45pm. With the concert arena less than 10 miles away, we had plenty of time to get there before Luke hit the stage at 8pm….or so we thought. For some reason, the local police closed most of roads leading to the venue and traffic quickly became a nightmare. When we finally arrived, the four of us walked into the VIP area (which was located against the stage) and Luke immediately held up his arms in a "where have you been" motion. We saw him play his last song and that was it!! Obviously this was a huge disappointment. However, moments after Luke walked off the stage, his manager came and invited us back to his bus. We took several other couples to meet Luke and his band and everyone had a great time. As imagined, stories of our college days were the topic of choice…some were good and some were probably better left untold!!

We skipped The Black Eyed Peas on Friday mainly because we didn't want to sit in traffic. Later that evening, a friend of mine told me that the traffic situation was resolved and the bus ride from the Greenbrier only took 15-20 minutes. I sure wish they would had figured that out a day earlier!! So like a bunch of yo-yos, we loaded the bus on Saturday once again…this time Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban took the stage. They both put on a great performance and of course all the ladies were googly eyed over Keith Urban. The highlight of the night was meeting Virginia Tech Football Coach Frank Beamer. He spoke with Davis and me for quite a while and I quickly reminded him about the 2006 bowl game defeat he experienced against my beloved Dawgs.

Lost amongst the entertainment was a golf tournament. After struggling through Friday's round in Canada, I met with my physical therapists and a doctor on Monday morning to access my hip. We all agreed that it was time for another cortisone shot. I drove over an hour and a half (one way) to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, to meet with the Football Team's head Orthopedic surgeon. He injected cortisone and a "greaser" into my hip socket. And in case you were wondering….it didn't tickle! When I woke up Tuesday morning I was shocked to find that I could barely walk. My hip swelled up from the injection and after the therapists examined me, they instructed me to not practice. I spent the next three hours in the rehab trailer with them in an attempt to improve my condition. Wednesday morning unfortunately brought the same swelling and discomfort in my hip. I was forced to withdraw from the Pro-Am and once again, I didn't practice. I spent the day in the trailer again and I entered Thursday's round without hitting a golf shot since my Friday round in Canada….and for a man that plays golf everyday, this was a long layoff. I woke up Thursday morning feeling much better. I scraped it around the course and shot a respectable score of 69. As I mentioned earlier, I played more golf that afternoon with Luke in an attempt to knock the remaining rust off my game. The rest of the week went about as expected for a man that was playing a little timid and scared. I made the cut and eventually finished 32nd. My good friend Scott Stallings however had an incredible week. He birdied the 18th hole to join a playoff with Bob Estes and another friend of mine Bill Haas. Stallings made a 6 footer on the first playoff hole to win the 2011 Greenbrier Classic. I couldn't be more happy for he and his wife Jennifer. They are two of the nicest people on Tour.

If you ever have a chance to visit the Greenbrier, make sure you listen out for the train as it rolls through the hills/ halls of West Virginia late at night (that's for you Davis and Lynn!!)

I left West Virginia and headed to Washington D.C for a Monday morning Pro-Am prior to my next event in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately, I went against my rule of never flying out of Dulles International. Several years ago, I vowed to never step foot in that airport after a nightmare trip of countless delays and disgruntled workers. Seriously, what is the deal with Dulles? Even Bruce Willis in the movie Die Hard got stranded at Dulles! Well, I rolled the dice again and lost……again! My flight to Reno, along with 15 other PGA Tour players, got delayed, canceled, re-booked, and delayed again. We missed our connecting flight in Denver and had to spend the night there. Thankfully I had some of the funniest guys on Tour alongside of me. We made the best of our situation and I laughed the entire time. I finally got to Reno Tuesday morning just in time to make it to my second of three Pro-Ams for the week. I hurried into the parking lot and changed right beside my car into some extremely….and I mean extremely…. wrinkled golf clothes. As you could see, the week was off to a roaring start. However, things were quickly about to change.

At the Pro-Am, I was paired with three guys from Charleston, South Carolina, and a Casino host from my hotel, the Eldorado. Obviously, all three fellas were big gamblers and after 12 holes, one of the guys suggested that the two of us bet on our final 6 holes. I quickly agreed to his wager and game of closest to the pin for $100 a shot. Well, after four holes…. ol' boy from South Carolina was down $400 to the redneck from Georgia. As expected, he pressed his bet to $200 a shot on our next to last hole. As I stood over my shot, I knew things were about to get out of hand. Already up $400 and with my opponent not very close to the hole, I had a decision to make. Either bury this guy, expect another press on the next hole, and eventually win $1000 or lay down. This was an extremely difficult decision because I NEVER LET anyone off the hook….heck I don't even let my 4 year old boy win at anything. I am the Dad that tackles hard, blocks shots, and whizzes fast balls past him….TIME OUT….before you get bent out of shape, my father and brother did the same to me growing up. It made me a better athlete and it will do the same for Jake. Anyway, after deciding that it probably wasn't a good idea to take a $1000 off a Pro-Am partner, I reluctantly and conveniently left my approach shot just outside of his ball. I entered the final hole up $200. As we walked on the tee box of our final hole, my opponent added a twist to our bet… $200 closest to the pin and $100 for a made putt. I agreed of course but now I was just mad at myself. Here I was, being Mr. Nice guy and instead of being up $600, I was only up $200 and I now had a chance to lose money! To add fuel to my fire, our last hole was a par 3 and his tees were about 25-30 yards closer. As expected, he began yapping and said that he couldn't wait to hit it closer than me, make the putt and then tell everyone at the Pro-Am that he took $100 from a PGA Tour player. He repeated this statement as I stood over my ball. As he talked about making the putt, I began to swing. My ball flew high in the air, landed softly about 6 feet behind the hole, spun back and went in the hole for a ONE!! His buddies and the Casino host went nuts! They were jumping up and down, slapping me high fives, and laughing at their dejected sidekick who in a blink of an eye, lost $400! They couldn't stop laughing. They told me that the best part was how their buddy "REALLY thought he could win." They loved how I "let him hang around and after messing with him, I shooed him away like an annoying fly. You crushed him by making a hole in one and never giving him a chance to win!" It was priceless and something I will never forget.

The events on Tuesday obviously gave me a bust of confidence and I entered Thursday's round with a positive outlook. I played solid the entire week and entered Sunday's round with a chance to win. Sitting three strokes back of the leader Scott Piercy, I knew that in order to win, I would need a flawless round out of myself as well as some help from him. To my credit, Sunday's round was one of the best ball striking rounds of the year. I hit the ball well from tee to green but once again, my putts burned the edges and never seemed to fall. I finished the tournament in a tie for 3rd place and by most calculations, I locked up my card for 2012. I of course, am not content with those figures and I will continue to play.

This week I am in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the Wyndham Championship after spending a week at home. In fact, last week was only my 2nd time at home in the last 18 weeks!! I cannot tell you how nice it was to sleep in my own bed. Beth and the kids made the trip north with me and I played the course on Tuesday with Boo and Jason Bohn. I hit the ball extremely well (17 of 18 greens and 14 of 14 fairways) especially since I didn't practice much last week. Hopefully good ball striking will once again be the norm throughout the week. Our FedEx Cup Playoffs begin next week in New Jersey and my goal is to make it to the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Only the Top 30 players advance to this final tournament and with my current standing at 71, the Tour Championship is certainly not out of reach. Why am I so concerned about the Tour Championship??? Well, by making it to this tournament you earn an invitation to all four Majors in 2012……and yes, that includes that event which takes place in early April about an hour down the road from my house!! The Masters

Thank you all for the emails and messages following my last post "Mr. Anonymous". They truly mean a lot and I appreciate all the kind words.

One last thing.....if you have a second please visit ( The parents of this beautiful little girl went to college with Beth and me at Georgia Southern. Their little princess Anna Hays was diagnosed with Leukemia on the day before her 3rd birthday! They could really use some prayers right now!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hello Mr. Anonymous.....

My red eye flight from Vancouver to West Virginia was scheduled for just over four hours. I spent the evening writing my blog from this past week's RBC Canadian Open. I was planning on combining my last two tournaments into one entry so that I hopefully wouldn't bore you to death. But oh how things quickly changed. As our wheels touched the ground, I turned on my phone and a few emails and texts began to show up. One email in particular made me sit there and scratch my head. So, rather than post my blog from the last two weeks of tournaments, I have decided to write a new one and focus on the nature of this "Anonymous" email.

When I began writing this blog, I did it because my friends and family asked me too. As a group, they have always been extremely supportive and insanely interested in my whereabouts. They convinced me that a blog could keep everyone informed of my weekly adventures without having to repeat myself through emails and phone calls. I reluctantly began writing the week prior to my first tournament on the PGA Tour in 2010. As the weeks progressed, I began to enjoy writing the entries because I realized just how special my blog might be one day to two people in particular. You see, my weekly entries are more like a diary. At some point, my children will be able to look back and not only read about their Daddy and his weekly battles against the best players in the world, but about their lives as well. There are stories of birdies and bogeys, first words and first steps and, of course, big laughs and big tears. So you see, my blog is not for me, it is for my kids. I have said a thousand times how difficult it is FOR ME to leave them for weeks at a time. I certainly realize that I am not the only person out there that goes through this dilemma. There are millions of parents that experience my same predicament each and every week. Our jobs require us to travel in order to provide for our families but that is what we do! I get up every morning and do my job the best I can because my family needs me. I travel a lot because my job is on the road. I would give anything to spend every night at home so I can tuck my kids in bed….but I can't. I sacrifice my time at home in order to provide a better life for my family.

With that being said, here is the message that was sent to me via the comment box below one of my entries…..

"You really are stuck on yourself and want it to appear that you just have the perfect life and perfect family……wow…… you complain that you have it so hard being away from your perfect family…….how do you think the military members feel being stuck in a desert for a year or two without the option to fly home on a private jet…….

By Anonymous"

First of all, I AM VERY PROUD OF MY FAMILY AND MY LIFE. Is it perfect?…..certainly not. But I have a wonderful family that I love dearly and I have worked extremely hard to get where I am in my career. Golf is not like some Fortune 500 company where I was handpicked to run a business and collect some huge salary. Golf doesn't care who you are or where you came from. A player must earn his stripes and climb the various levels or ranks to hopefully one day play on the biggest stage of all, the PGA Tour. I am guessing that Mr. Anonymous doesn't know me personally. If he did, he would know that I was not a spoon fed child growing up. My parents worked hard to provide for our family but we were certainly not living some fantasy life of luxury. I began my career on a very small tour (similar to AA baseball) and worked my way up. I battled injuries year after year and through hard work and perseverance, I made it to the PGA Tour in 2010. My body is beat and battered from the process and I put a lot of unseen and extremely hard work / rehab in each week just to be able to tee it up on Thursday. But I don't complain about that. The only complaint that I have is that I am away from the day to day activities of my family. But, as I mentioned earlier, my job is on the road and I must travel to provide for my family.

Secondly, Mr. Anonymous certainly hasn't read my blog over the last year and a half. If he did, he would realize that I have the upmost respect for the men and women in our military and their families. In fact, a large number of my family members have dedicated their lives and service to our Nation through military services over the years. In addition, one of my very first entries in 2010 was about my breathtaking and incredible experience when I visited Pearl Harbor. Most recently (because I know Mr. Anonymous didn't read that one), I wrote about meeting several members of the Wounded Warrior Program at the AT&T National in Pennsylvania. I spent a long time with each of them and I was blown away by their stories. I wrote how I walked away from the humbling experience an even better person.

Thirdly, I want to apologize to anyone if I have ever offended them in anyway with my blog. I am a very prideful person and I care what people think about me. I have never, and will never, compare my job or life to anyone else. I don't care if someone has $2 to their name or $200 billion….I don't care…..I treat people the same. I am just an average Joe who loves to spend time with his family, hunt and fish. I am who I am……and for those of you that know me (I am obviously convinced that Mr. Anonymous doesn't), know that I am just a big Redneck who can occasionally hit a golf ball halfway decent.

And last but not least, I, for one, completely understand how this world works. There will always be people who thrive on watching others fail. They cannot wait for you to make a mistake and they constantly root against you. I completely understand this ……it is only human nature and we are all guilty of wanting to see an eventual outcome…….a winner and a loser……and in most cases we don't care who suffers. My job is certainly not immune from this situation and I am perfectly OK with the haters of the world. I can handle their criticism. Our tournaments are viewed by millions of people all over the world each and every week. Every shot is praised and criticized by fans in the stands, announcers on TV, and the people following at home on their TV and Internet. However, when you sit back and think about it, how would you feel if you had someone standing over your desk at work criticizing you every move? You probably wouldn't like it. Like I said, I can handle the criticism because it is just human nature and part of being in a sports-related job. What I do not like, however, is for people to judge how I feel about my family. My job and the way I hit a golf ball is one thing, but my relationship with my family isn't. I AM VERY PROUD OF MY FAMILY AND MY LIFE and I will never apologize for that. I am very fortunate and I count my blessings every day.

I am curious about one thing though…..why would "Mr. Anonymous" bash someone that he probably doesn't even know without at least leaving his own name and personal information? Is he afraid of criticism? Is he afraid that I would post his information for everyone to judge his family and life in the same way he has mine? Can he handle someone looking over his shoulder watching his every move……telling him when he did something wrong? I think I have made my point and he obviously answered my question by signing it….."Mr. Anonymous"

I will leave you with this…..feel free to leave a comment, good or bad, in the comment box below this entry or any in the future. I have also set up an email address that can accommodate your responses as well ( I value your opinions and I apologize if I have ever offended any of you during the duration of this blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three Weeks of Being Inside the Ropes....

Temperatures in the high 70's dominated this year's Travelers Championship in Hartford, Connecticut. Cloud coverage and rain fall unfortunately played a role in these lower temperatures but after my off week in a very hot and humid South Georgia, I wasn't complaining. I practiced extremely hard on Tuesday and when I awoke Wednesday morning, the sound of rain filled my ears. I went to the golf course and after sitting there for almost five hours, I went with plan B. Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to play in the Hootie and The Blowfish Monday After the Masters Pro-Am in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was there where I met ESPN employee, basketball expert and radio host Doug Gotlieb. He invited several of us to visit ESPN during the week of the Travelers Championship and after the rain decided to spend the entire day with us in Hartford, I gladly made my way over to Bristol. Doug met a few of us when we arrived and he immediately began giving us a tour of the enormous ESPN campus. I met several legendary and longtime ESPN employees throughout the day and we even sat in on a few shows. Sports Center and NFL Live were being taped Live during our tour of the facilities and it was an unbelievable experience. Doug's radio show began at 4pm and he asked us to participate in a round table discussion before he went on Air. When the conversation quickly turned to golf, Doug asked me to join his show and discuss my opinion on Tiger's game, his personal life, and the respect/intimidation factor that players on Tour have toward him. I politely declined. Talking about other players is not a good idea in my opinion ....especially when it is done through the media! However to Doug's delight, immediately after I declined two other players (both Rookies) jumped at the occasion. They were both pretty opinionated during our round table discussions but as soon as the "On Air" light came on, they quickly changed their tune and they were both became very reserved. Smart move.

The tournament went ok for the most part despite a disappointing bogey on my 71st hole. I finished in a tie for 9th thanks in large part to a solid iron and putting performance. The putts didn't fall on Sunday but I couldn't really complain because I hit great putts....they just didn't fall. That's all the boring golf course information you get!! Haha.

Week two brought me to the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, home of the AT&T National at historic Aronimink Golf Club. Tiger Woods played host for the event and as usual, everything was first class. I arrived at my hotel late Sunday evening and I couldn't wait to crawl into bed. My schedule was already slammed for the week and when my alarm sounded at 5:45am, I was ready to get started. Thanks to an invite from good friend and VWR (logo on my collar) President, John Ballbach, my Monday morning was a rare treat. When he picked me up at my hotel, we made the short drive over to the infamous Pine Valley Golf Club. For those of you that don't know, Golf Publications have always ranked Pine Valley among the top 3 courses in the world! Every year there is a battle between Augusta National, Cypress Point, and Pine Valley. I have been fortunate enough to play Augusta National twice and I played Cypress Point earlier this year. I was curious to see where Pine Valley ranked in my own personal rankings. To say the least, my experience was incredible. The atmosphere was extremely friendly and very laid back. I was expecting to "walk on eggshells" all day but it never came to that. I played with Michael Brown (good friend of John Ballbach), 11 time PGA Tour winner John Cook, and founder and CEO of Quicksilver Bob McKnight. We had a great time and I think they were all a little overwhelmed by the redneck wearing the TaylorMade hat. As far as my personal rankings go??? I am from the great state of Georgia....enough said.

On Wednesday morning, I was asked by the Tour to attend the opening ceremonies for the tournament with five other players. Tiger was among the five chosen for the event and before the festivities began, we were all escorted into a room inside the Aronimink Clubhouse. It was there where we spent about an hour speaking with several Wounded Warriors. As you can imagine, it was quite a humbling experience. Several of the soldiers were without limbs while others were severely burned from explosions that occurred during battle. One gentleman in particular had a roadside bomb to thank for his complete blindness and the loss of both of his legs. And I complain about needing hip replacement surgery?? Really....

That evening, John Ballbach and myself were guests at a private function that I will remember for a very long time. Darius Rucker performed a private concert for just over 150 people and to say it was incredible is a huge, huge injustice. He played all of his latest songs as well as a collection from his Hootie and the Blowfish days. We were even treated to him singing The Joker (Steve Miller Band) and Purple Rain (Prince). It was arguably the best concert I have ever seen!

A balky week with my driver lead to a disappointing missed cut. I was able to avoid my driver problems the week prior in Hartford because I gave up distance for accuracy and hit my 3wood all tournament. Aronimick Golf Club demands a long and straight driver which wasn't part of my arsenal for the week. Once again, that is all that you get from the boring side of the golf course!

If there is one tournament on Tour that caters to a redneck, the John Deere Classic in Moline, Illinois, certainly fits that bill. Beth and the kids made the trip up north and after two weeks alone on the road, I was ready to see them. If you remember from last year's entry about this tournament, the biggest highlight of the week takes place on Tuesday evening at the annual Big Dig. This event is located at the John Deere Test Site and only the players and their families are invited. Food, games, toys, fishing, and enormous equipment await the large number of wanna be rednecks. Kids of all ages are allowed to climb aboard excavators, tractors, dump trucks and other equipment. Most of the "kids" that attempt to maneuver the huge green equipment are above the age of 25. However, one of the most experienced operators on site happened to only be 4 years old. His name was none other than Jake Adams. As he sat in my lap on one of the extra large excavators, several players walked by and were amazed as he maneuvered the bucket in and out of the dirt. I held up my arms to show them that he was digging the massive hole all by himself. Not bad for a 4 year old. I will admit though, Jake did have a huge advantage over the other "kids" at the Big Dig. His PaPa owns an excavator and he only has to travel 4 miles to play on it.

I missed the cut by one lousy shot again (#5 on the year). Nothing more to say.

This week I am in Jackson, Mississippi, for the Viking Classic. This is my first time at the event and I am looking forward to the week. The course layout suits my eye and I cannot wait to get started on Thursday. Temperatures are expected to reach 100 degrees with the heat index between 110-115 degrees. Hopefully my putter will get as hot as the temperature!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I Hope You Like CliffsNotes...

I know, I know... a lot of time has passed since my last post. However, over the last few weeks, I have written my blogs as normal. They were ready to post on Tuesday or Wednesday but, to be honest, they just seemed a little boring to me. Stories of made cuts and mediocre play are a huge waste of your time and can be seen on the PGA Tour website. I would rather talk about life inside the ropes and entertain you with stories that cannot be seen on shot tracker. Besides, since I began writing this blog over a year and a half ago I have definitely received the most feedback when my weekly entries are focused on the people I meet and the crazy events I experience off the golf course. And to be honest, no one wants to hear about birdies and bogeys... Right?? Aren't stories of a "Big Dawg" smashing into a grown man's ankle more entertaining? I thought so too. So here you go.....below is a "cliffs notes" version of the last few weeks of entries.

As most of you know, the state of Texas has been really good to me over the last two years. In 2010, I played in four tournaments which were located in the Lone Star State and I finished a respectable 2nd, 14th, and 27th in three of them. Not bad. So as you would expect, I was definitely looking forward to playing back to back tournaments in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

The Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial was the first stop on my Texas swing. Located in Fort Worth, the Colonial is the home of PGA Tour legend Ben Hogan. His trophies and memorabilia are proudly displayed throughout the clubhouse and it is truly an honor and privilege to be invited and play in the event. Swirling winds and huge gusts were expected throughout the week. Already known as a "ball strikers" golf course, the difficult conditions only enhanced the Colonial's tough reputation. I entered the week well aware of the forecast and I was excited to get started. Good ball striking has been the norm for me this year and I certainly expected the trend to continue. Well, it didn't, and for some reason I hit it like a mule the entire week! Fortunately, though, my hard and seemingly endless work with the putter finally paid off. I finished the week tied for 5th and 11th in both putting statistics. These improved numbers helped lead the way to a T16th finish despite the poor ball striking week. Once again, I was reminded just how important it is to be a good putter on the PGA Tour! Amazing....I finished 16th hitting it like a mule. Can you imagine where I would have placed if my "normal" ball striking would have shown up? I sure can. As I walked off the 18th green on Sunday, I was immediately greeted by three reporters. Their first question...."How often do you think about the Byron Nelson and the events that took place on the final hole??"

The HP Byron Nelson. Site of such heartbreak and disappointment. It has been almost 365 days since my attempt to win my first PGA Tour event fell by the wayside (well, actually they washed away!!). I returned to Irving, Texas, with big plans and aspirations of finishing off what I started one year ago. My duel with eventual winner Jason Day on Sunday certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth. My expectations were extremely high but I did my best to treat it as just another golf tournament. I felt prepared as I entered the first round and my game plan was almost identical to the previous year. Unfortunately, though, the weather stole the headlines and played havoc during the week. On Tuesday night, several tornadoes ripped through the area and caused a great deal of damage. Baseball size hail pounded the ground, shattered car windows and damaged the greens beyond belief. High winds caused large trees to fall around the golf course and there were limbs everywhere. As we all know, the weather is unpredictable and it plays a major role in determining the outcome of a tournament each and every week. Players are on the course from dusk to dawn and the conditions can change quite frequently during this time frame. As a player, the hope is that the conditions remain fairly consistent throughout the day. Unfortunately some weeks this is simply not the case. The morning tee times are usually ideal for scoring due to the calm winds and it is up to the player to take advantage of the conditions. However, on Thursday the wind blew around 15 mph in the morning but settled down to around 7 mph in the afternoon. The 8 mph difference in wind is not a big deal except for the fact that it blew harder in the morning. An opening round 70 left me in decent position especially since I had an early tee time. I woke up Friday morning and watched as players took advantage of the mild wind conditions. The cut line was at Even Par and when my good friend Ben Crane finished his round and +2, he was in 87th place. Well, things quickly changed. The afternoon winds began to blow and by the time I walked to the first tee, my phone app said that the winds were churning at 30 mph with gusts up to 44 mph!! Nice. I played pretty good in the tough conditions but the putts just wouldn't fall. Six lip-outs during the round contributed to a second round score of 74 and an eventual missed cut by one shot (my 4th missed cut by one shot this year). Ben, however, was glad to see the change in weather. When he completed his round, he was well outside the cutline and his hopes of playing on the weekend were near impossible. However, when the gusty winds showed up that afternoon, he quickly moved from 86th place to a very comfortable 60th place. It was unfortunate to play on my wave of tee times but that is part of it. Every week, one wave plays harder than the other. As mentioned earlier, the only hope is that the two waves are fairly consistent. Some weeks this happens and other weeks it doesn't. That's just part of golf.

My Texas Swing didn't end as well as I would have hoped but I was excited about the next two tournaments on the schedule. The Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, is by far one of the best events on the PGA Tour. Hosted by one of the greatest players ever to play the game, Jack Nicklaus, the Memorial Tournament leaves no stone unturned and the players are treated like royalty. All the top players in the world show up to play Muirfield Village and their presence add a Major-like atmosphere to the event. Considering how poorly I hit the ball, my 37th place finish wasn't too disappointing. I managed to mask my poor ball striking efforts with another solid week of putting. I finished 13th and 26th in the two key putting statistics for the week and those obviously were instrumental in my decent finish. However, the highlight of the week occurred on Monday afternoon. Shortly after Kenny Perry and I sat down to eat lunch, a gentleman walked to our table and asked if he could sit down and join us. I looked up to see the legend himself, Jack Nicklaus. He sat directly across from me and it was an experience I will never forget. We talked for almost two hours about the golf course, our families, and stories of life on Tour. He went into great detail about some of his experiences and I cannot thank him enough for his honesty and insight . During this time, I was able to tell Mr. Nicklaus the story of our first meeting and encounter way back in 1993. I was 16 years old and the Men's Club Champion at Reynolds Plantation. Mr. Nicklaus had just finished building Great Waters (a remarkable golf course that sits along the edge of Lake Oconee at Reynolds Plantation) and he was in town to play his inaugural round of golf. As Men's Club Champion, I was allowed to walk several holes alongside Mr. Nicklaus and he played the course in front of thousands of spectators. It was an honor and privilege and he claimed he remembered the experience. The opportunity to sit across the table from him and basically have a one-on-one conversation was a once in a lifetime opportunity and something I will never forget.

The FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee, completed a nine week consecutive run of tournaments. This was my first trip to the city of Elvis and it was very memorable. Beth and the kids joined me for the week and we all had a great time. Poor ball striking was, unfortunately, the theme for the week but, once again, the putter saved my tail. I entered Sunday's round still searching for my swing and somehow I found myself in a tie for 7th place. I battled through the extremely hot temperatures in my traditional Sunday All-Black attire and I did the best I could as far as my golf game was concerned. A less than stellar swing provided me with very few birdie opportunities and a round of 71. A tie for 15th place was definitely disappointing considering where I entered the final round but given the way I played throughout the week, I felt like I was fortunate to end up in that position. The tournament was a success on and off the golf course. The event benefited the St. Jude Hospital and the thousands of kids who visit their facilities every year. Children are a huge part of my life and I am thankful that I was able to help contribute to the financial impact that the tournament has on so many sick individuals. I was able to meet several of the patients and it definitely put my life into perspective. I am very thankful and I count my blessings every day.

Last week I was at home for the first time since Masters week!! Nine consecutive weeks on the road is a long, long time. Everyone sees the glitz and glamour of life on Tour but they forget about the weeks and months where I am on the road and living out of a suitcase. We celebrated Jake's 4th birthday last week and I cannot believe how fast the last three years have flown by. He is growing up so fast and Libby is following suit. I really need to start winning tournaments so I can spend more time at home!!

I flew to Washington DC on Sunday night for a ProAm benefiting the First Tee Program. It was an incredible event and I was able to spend a great deal of time with several inner city kids throughout the day. A ton of Politicians participated in the event and thankfully we were able to raise a great deal of money for those less fortunate kids. One of the perks of the tournament included a charter flight from the DC area to this week's PGA Tour event in Hartford, Connecticut. I spent the entire day on Tuesday working with TaylorMade to find a new driver. Over the last few weeks my "ol faithful" has been acting up and for good reason. I was told that I flattened the face on the club which, for you non-golfers, is not a good thing! Hopefully I will have something in place come Thursday....we will see. Last year, Bubba Watson won this event and his career took off. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing another Georgia Bulldog win this year! I think I could deal with more time at home!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bet You Didn't See This on Shot Tracker.....

The week began as usual with three days of great practice and a solid game plan. I studied and analyzed every mound, bump, and detail of the infamous TPC Sawgrass. Preparation for my first Players Championship was complete and I was anxious for Thursday morning to arrive. However, in a blink of an eye, things quickly changed. On Wednesday night, Jake and I embarked on our daily ritual of walking up and down the beach on our man-made golf course. Without warning, and certainly by mistake, my excited three year old swung his "big dawg" (driver) at a large sea shell laying in the sand. His club exploded the shell and continued until it greeted my innocent left heel and ankle with a mighty thud. As you can imagine, this didn't tickle! After a minute on one knee and a choice word or two under my breath, I managed to stand on two feet. It took everything I had to not lay there until the next morning! The concerned look in Jake's eyes forced me to instantly play Mr. Tough Guy, even though I could barely walk. I slowly and politely explained the danger of swinging golf clubs around people and how careful he needed to be in the future. Needless to say, our evening of golf on the beach was cut short.

When my alarm began buzzing at 4:45 Thursday morning, my left ankle and heel were not excited to start the day. I gingerly made it around the house and to the golf course. Pressure was definitely an issue but I was determined to not let it bother my opening round. After a shaky and painful front nine, I managed to shoot even par, which under the circumstances wasn't too bad. In fact, if I could have erased the 3 three putts during the round, I would have been in great shape. Unfortunately, though, a balky putter has been my norm this year. I disappointingly signed my scorecard and headed for the practice green. After a few hours of work, I made my way to the house, and as you guessed it, Jake and I played golf on the beach again. This time, my ankle avoided his "Big Dawg."

Friday morning brought both good news and bad news. My ankle was much improved thanks to a night of ice and medication. Unfortunately, though, there was bad news. I was sick....and when I say sick, I mean sick. I didn't eat breakfast at the house and once I got to the course, lunch was definitely not an option. I walked to the driving range and tried to warm up normally. However, I couldn't. I was extremely queasy and my body felt terrible. By the time the round started I was in a mess. I had a fever and I was forced to kneel down in between shots to conserve energy. I threw up three times on the ground during the round which, as you can imagine, was not a pleasant sight. I also was forced to swallow a countless amount of throw up to avoid being embarrassed on National TV. In fact, one of these "special" moments occurred right before I hit my putt on the treacherous 17th island green in front of tens of thousands of people. Obviously, I have given you a visual picture that you probably wish you didn't have right now. And for that, I certainly apologize. A second round score of +4 cut my week short, but at the time I didn't really care. I just wanted to go home! I spent Saturday in pretty much the same condition but to my surprise, I woke up Sunday morning feeling like a champ. Unfortunately, though, my lovely wife was already in the bathroom throwing up!

Even though my first Players Championship didn't go as planned, it was one I will never forget. Can you imagine how much airtime I would have received if I didn't swallow all that junk on the 17th green??!! Would you have been embarrassed for me or just embarrassed that you know me? Regardless, it would have been awful.

This week I am in Fort Worth, Texas, for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. This event provides one of the most hallowed grounds on tour and the history at this tournament is breathtaking. All the greats have played at Colonial and most of them have won this event. To be invited to play here is a huge honor and privilege. To win this event, would be legendary! Ben Hogan's presence is everywhere and his memory is celebrated around every corner. We are expecting some rough weather and high winds throughout the week. The course demands great ball striking and the "horseshoe" (holes 3, 4, and 5) is considered one of the toughest stretch of holes on tour. I am expecting a great week.....well that is as long as I can avoid the "Big Dawg."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tears, a Tribute, and TPC

**The website has been down since Wednesday for some reason....I finally regained access a few minutes ago

As I hugged on Jake moments before I left for the Hilton Head airport, I was reminded of how hard my job is becoming. I knelt down and stood face to face with my tearful three year old boy while he begged me not to leave. "Why do you have to go? Please take me with you." As his eyes filled with water, I tried to explain that Daddy had to go to work in order to earn money for our family. He looked up at me and in the sweetest little voice and said, "Daddy, I have a great idea. Let's go home together as a family, and when we get there, me and you can run as fast as we can to my room and get my piggy bank. I will open it up, empty it out, and fill your pockets with all MY money so that YOU don't have to go to work! Come on Daddy! Hurry! Let's go home as fast as we can! Come on Daddy." How does anyone respond to that???

When I landed in New Orleans for the Zurich Classic, my heart was definitely aching for the family that I was forced to leave behind. I always knew that my job would get harder as the kids got older but WOW!! Luckily, the Zurich Classic did a great job occupying my time on and off the golf course. The TPC of Louisiana is a demanding golf course that requires patience and accurate ball striking. I worked extremely hard throughout the week and I felt really good entering Thursday's first round. Former UGA roommate and good friend, Bruce Kelly, left Athens bright and early Thursday morning in order to make my opening two rounds. He saw first hand how the putts constantly burned the edges but never seemed to fall. Another made cut and a disappointing T26 finish left me scratching my head yet again. I actually lead the tournament in pars made (56 in 72 holes) and least number of bogeys (4 all week)....only one problem, the Zurich Classic isn't the U.S. Open! However, as I mentioned before, the Zurich Classic did a great job in providing players with several options to get "away" from golf. On Tuesday, the tournament sent Boo and I on a chartered fishing trip for the second year in a row. We caught our limit in Redfish well before lunch and were able to practice a little golf that afternoon. On Thursday, I carried Bruce to the Annual Private-Players Only Party at Acme Oyster Bar. This event offers an open menu and bar to those attending which as you can imagine, can get a little out of hand. Thanks to a very early Friday morning tee time, I only ordered from the food side of the menu. To add to the list of activities, I also got invited to sit in a box for the New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers game Thursday night after the party. However, the thought of a long basketball game and the sound of my 4:30 am wake up call early Friday morning made my decision to quickly crawl in bed an easy one.

I flew from New Orleans Sunday afternoon courtesy of Chick-Fil-A via their very, very nice private plane. We headed to Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee for the Chick-Fil-A Pro-Am. I still consider Eatonton my "home" and it was a real treat to fly over my hometown for the first time. My family picked me up from the airport and we headed to my Mom's house for the evening. Jake was so excited to see his Daddy and once again, begged me not to leave him EVER again. I think I am in for a long year!!

I drove up to Charlotte for the Wells Fargo Quail Hollow Championship shortly after the Chick-Fil-A Pro-Am. I practiced extremely hard during the week and was grateful to have longtime friend and swing instructor John Tillery alongside. We concentrated on improving my putting because in all honesty, my ball striking didn't need any work. On Tuesday, I hit it the best I have all year long. Quail Hollow is an extremely difficult course and I couldn't wait until Thursday's opening round. Unfortunately, below 40 degree temperatures and a strong and steady wind greeted me bright and early for my 7am tee time. My old and achy body didn't quite cooperate and a second round score of 71 couldn't make up for the early mishaps. My first missed cut in 8 events definitely left a sour taste in my mouth. However, having my family with me in Charlotte certainly made things a little better but all in all, I was extremely disappointed. Jake however, was fired up that his Daddy didn't have to go to work on Saturday morning!!

For the first time in forever, I witnessed a milestone of one of my kids. Life on the road is hard enough, especially when one child is begging you not to leave. However, when you never see a child's first steps or that is heartbreaking. To my astonishment, Libby took her first multiple steps one night on the putting green. Everyone was so excited for her but as you can imagine, it was especially special for me. I usually hear of these events after they take place so to actually see something first hand was priceless.

We drove home after my disappointing missed cut in Charlotte and celebrated the "special" day as a family. Mother's Day is obviously very close to my heart and I will be the first to admit that I am one lucky man to have Beth in my life. She is the backbone of our family and her daily commitment to the well-being of our kids is unmatched. I really don't know what I would do without her. I am forever grateful. She is without a doubt my best friend...and yes, I definitely out kicked my coverage! What was she thinking when she said I DO???!!!

Everyone is proud of their own Mom but mine is truly an inspiration. Her battles over the years have definitely been a blueprint for how to handle adversity. She never complains or makes excuses when these hiccups in life occur. She truly is special and I am honored to call her Mom.

This week I am in Jacksonville, Florida, for my first Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. Regarded as the "5th Major", this event is enormous and the atmosphere certainly plays the part. I rented a place on the beach just a few miles from the course which is great for Beth and the kids. We spend the evenings alongside the ocean and I cannot tell you how much fun I have had hitting golf balls with Jake till dark. We make our own golf course in the sand and the happiness on his face is contagious. Hopefully, I will get a few tips from Jake on how to play this crazy game of golf. If my putter cooperates, it could be a magical week.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Close Am I to Something Great????......

I have heard some of your grumblings. A few have been face to face but most come second or third hand. "What is wrong with Blake? He needs to get in gear....Does he realize the season is almost half-way over? Do you think he will keep his card?" While I appreciate the concern, one thing is for sure.....I will be fine. Regardless of how things look to those of you at home on shot tracker, my golf game is headed in the right direction. In fact, it is miles ahead of where I was last year. I am better from tee to green in all aspects of the game and my comfort level out here is very relaxed. Believe me, I am well aware of how I stand on both the Money List and the FedEx Cup Race. However, those numbers are just numbers and can change in a blink of an eye. I am one good finish away from having those grumbles turn into something more positive. Like I said earlier, I am very grateful for the concern and support but things are much better than they appear. I am continuing to work hard and I am extremely confident that GREAT things are on the horizon.

With that said, I know what the last two weeks have looked like from the PGA Tour website....two more made cuts but unfortunately two more mediocre finishes. Both are certainly true and I was definitely disappointed with both of my results. However, when I sit down and look at the bigger picture, it certainly tells a different story. In San Antonio, I was 7th in Driving Accuracy, 9th in Putts per Round, and 31st in Putts per Green in Regulation. My Greens in Regulation were a little higher than normal (59th) but I barely missed a ton of greens by a foot or two. In fact, I putted from off the green probably more times than I chipped! My T30 mediocre finish was, in large part, a result of one lousy hole. During Friday's round I misjudged the wind on a long par 3 over water. After two untimely gusts, I walked off the green with a crowd pleasing 7. This one hole derailed any chance I had of making a run for the title. However, just to let you know how close I was to a great finish...a PAR on this hole and my T30 finish now becomes a T9!! Last week in Hilton Head, I was 9th in Driving Accuracy, 30th in Greens in Regulation, 17th in Putts per Round, and 11th in Putts per Green in Regulation. Not bad. Once again, I burned the lips all week and didn't score as well as I should have. Regardless, I entered Sunday's round in a respectable 24th place and in a position where a great round would leap frog up the leader board. In fact, the eventual winner, Brandt Snedeker, started the day only 7 places in front of me. Unfortunately, I woke up Sunday with a body that didn't want to cooperate and I was limited in what I could do. I struggled to make a fluid and unrestricted swing and my score showed this battle. I finished the day with a score of 73 which plummeted down the ranks. To put it in perspective, if I had just shot one under par on both nine's Sunday morning, my T46 finish now becomes T14. And believe me, that is certainly not asking a lot!

So you see, things are better than they appear. I am very, very close to playing GREAT. Maybe this week in New Orleans is my week. If not, I will try again the following week in Charlotte, and then in Jacksonville, and so on until my goals are reached and the grumblings of concern cease.

On a brighter note, today is my sweet little girl Libby's first birthday. We celebrated her birthday last Saturday in Hilton Head amongst several family members and friends. I cannot believe how fast the last 365 days have raced on by. She has brought so much joy to our family and I couldn't be more proud of her and Jake. They, along with Beth, are the reason I am here, the reason I work hard, and the reason I never give up. I approach each day as my last and I refuse to let mediocrity win. I wake up each morning knowing that even though I play a game for a living, I am truly fighting for the well-being of my family. That is why I am so hard on myself and I expect the best. However, regardless of how things turn out each week, I know there are three people at home who are anxious for my return. And to me, that means more than anything in the world.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Oh Putter Oh Putter, Where Have You Gone?.....

Since my last entry not much has changed. My putting game is still being treated as a missing persons case and the authorities (Golf Gods) have no clue on its whereabouts. To say the least, it has been pretty much nonexistent this season in comparison to years' past. Glimpses of something resembling a person who can putt has occasionally shown up from time to time but unfortunately, the stay is very short lived. Somehow though, during this dreadful and entirely too long of a dry spell, I have achieved the impossible. I have made four cuts in a row despite finishing each week almost dead last in putting statistics. It makes me nauseous to look at my results and imagine where a decent putter would finish. Oh well. All I can do is continue to work hard and good things will eventually happen.

To be honest, writing about made cuts, mediocre finishes and horrendous putting is getting old. I find it more enjoyable to bore you to death with a few short stories of life outside the ropes. I hope this is ok for a change.

Beth hates lizards. I mean, absolutely hates them. I can understand snakes, but a lizard?? Come on. You would think she could handle all sorts of rodents and slimy creatures, especially since she grew up in the country. Oh nooooooo. She is terrified of them. Well, to her delight, Puerto Rico is covered with huge iguanas. And I mean HUGE ones. I obviously knew this prior to booking her flight but I figured that if I told her, she would cancel the trip. Well, to no surprise, the night before she was scheduled to fly to the tournament, she called me with a panic in her voice. "I heard there were big lizards and iguanas down there. Is that true?" My response….."Well, there are lizards and iguanas down here but they are VERY friendly. They are basically like the squirrels we have at home. When you lay out by the pool they come by your chair and beg for food. In fact, last year this player was laying on his bed watching TV when he looked over and saw a HUGE iguana sitting at the foot of his bed!!!" All that was a lie of course but it was all in good fun. She walked around petrified the entire trip and swore that they were out to get her!

The Transitions Championship in Tampa began with one proud moment. Beth and I flew in from Puerto Rico and met her parents and the kids at the host of that week's event, Innisbrook Resort and Spa. Libby, pigtails and all, immediately gave her proud parents her best toothless grin and squirmed to get in our arms. Jake jumped out of the car and was beyond excited to see us. He gave me a huge hug that was well worth the two weeks that we had been apart. His happiness quickly turned to panic when he saw me wearing my normal attire of jeans and boots. He frantically jumped out of my arms, ripped open his suitcase, and pulled out his Georgia Boots all while taking off his NewBalance tennis shoes. He proudly put on his boots and said, "Look Daddy, we have the same boots on because we are buddies…. best buddies." The look in his eyes was priceless. Can you imagine mine?

During the same week, Jake was a frequent visitor to the driving range. He has grown quite the reputation on Tour among the players and many of them know him by name. We spend most of our "practice time" with him in front of a small crowd and the story is always the same. He tees up his "Big Dawg" (as he calls it) and proudly YELLS….."Now on the tee, from Nunez, Georgia……Jaaaaaaaaake Adams!!!!" He swings as hard as he can and smokes it down the range. It is hilarious. He started doing this out of the blue a couple of years ago while we were at our house hitting balls. Now that people have seen it, they immediately beg him to do it when they see him walk on the range. He very proudly obliges. Is it bad that a 3 year old thinks it is normal to be announced when he hits his "Big Dawg" on the first tee? Probably. Oh well, blame it on me and his attendance to my tournaments since he was six weeks old!

Is it a sign of things to come when your 11 month little girl is SOMEHOW more rambunctious than your maniac little boy when he was her age? Lord, please help me when she is between the ages of 14 and 26. Please, please, help me!

This past week I was in Houston, Texas, for the Shell Houston Open where last year I finished a respectful 14th place. After a 66 with no bogeys on Monday during the Pro-Am, my expectations were high and I was confident I could improve on my previous finish. Unfortunately, my putter only showed up during Saturday's round and I once again finished near the bottom of the putting statistics. However, all was not lost during the week. My partner from the Bob Hope and Pebble Beach tournaments this year, Mr. Jim Crane, lives in the area and graciously offered his guest house for the week. We had a great week together and, as most of you know, the city of Houston was the host of some great sporting events during the week. On Thursday, I passed on an offer to see the Houston Astros play the Boston RedSox. I didn't, however, miss the Houston Rockets play the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. We sat on the 2nd row at mid-court which, as you guessed, are pretty good seats!! Mr. Jim also owns a suite inside the Lexus VIP area which is located underneath the stadium seating. There was plenty of food and drinks and I was able to get close to several NBA legends. Ralph Sampson, Dikembe Motumbo, and Moses Malone were all inside the VIP area during halftime of the game. They are ridiculously tall and at 6'3", I felt like a midget. The Rockets won in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive. On Saturday, Mr. Jim gave me two tickets to watch the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four. I took my caddy, Aaron Wark, and as expected, everything was first class. He had a driver pick us up at the house so we wouldn't have to fight the traffic and parking. We watched the two cinderella teams of the tournament battle it out during the first game. Butler defeated a pesky Virginia Commonwealth team in a close matchup. The two heavyweights fought in the second game and to no one's surprise, it came down to the wire. UConn defeated a young and very athletic Kentucky team in front of a new NCAA Tournament attendance record (over 75,000 people)! Did I mention my seats were once again at mid-court?? Thank you Mr. Jim.

Dear Golf Gods,
Please find my missing putting game and bring it back to where it belongs. I would really like to make some putts before Christmas gets here. I am really enjoying my life on the PGA Tour but when you putt like a blind man, your Tour life expectancy will be short lived. Feel free to return my putting from 2009 to my golf bag ASAP. I will be in San Antonio the week after the Masters. Thank you

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Two weeks for the PRICE of one........

After a great week at home with the family, I headed south to Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic at PGA National. As I pulled out of the driveway, I was confident about one thing. No other PGA Tour player had a better person to practice and prepare with during the off week than I did. Why am I so certain? Because my "partner" for the week was my three year old boy Jake. We either hit balls behind the house or drove 45 miles the golf course every day while I was home. As you have gathered from my blogs each week, Jake is a golf fanatic and loves to practice with his Daddy. One thing is for sure…if he continues on the path he is going, he will put his ol' man's career to shame. I, for one, would love to see that happen!

The week began with some great news. My former roommate and good friend Josh Broadaway Monday qualified into the Honda Classic with a score of 66. This was his first PGA Tour event and I couldn't have been more proud of him. He stayed in my room for the first part of the week and we had a blast with our other sidekick, Boo. I invited Kenny Perry to join us for our practice round on Tuesday and I think he was a little overwhelmed having three rednecks in his group. Josh was obviously a little nervous on the first tee but he settled down as the round progressed. I know he will probably kill me for what I am about to tell you, but I just can't resist. Kenny Perry is, without a doubt, one of the nicest and most genuine guys on the PGA Tour. He has been nothing but helpful to me during my two years out here and I often lean on him for knowledge and advice. He welcomed Josh with open arms during our practice round and offered him advice and strategy for the course. This type of help is the norm for Kenny, and I was grateful for his hospitality toward Josh. Everything was going great and we were all laughing and cutting up with each other.....but oh how things quickly changed!! As I was hitting bunker shots on the difficult 17th hole, Josh and Kenny were putting together on a portion of the green near me. I could hear them talking and I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I heard this……

Josh: "Kenny, I was really pulling for you at Augusta a few years ago and I was really glad to see you win the Green Jacket"
Kenny: "Haaaaaaaa. Yeah right."
Josh: "No, I was pulling for you, seriously."
Kenny: "Buddy, I didn't win the Masters that year! I had a two shot lead with two holes to play but lost."
Josh: "Ohmmmmmmmm. I think I will shut up now and walk over here!"

Josh made a beeline over to me and was as white as a ghost! He was so embarrassed and kept saying, "I am such a idiot. I cannot believe I said that! What was I thinking! I knew he didn't win. What was I thinking!!" I almost fell over in the bunker when I heard the conversation. I was laughing so hard my sides were hurting. Obviously, Josh was extremely embarrassed and after I finally got control of myself, I assured him it really wasn't that big of a deal. Kenny was, and is always, a class act. He did everything he could to make Josh feel better about his unforgettable moment. We continued to give Josh a hard time and Boo made things better by telling us the story of his similar mishap at the British Open a few years ago. He asked Paul Lawrie, "How did you qualify for this tournament?" His response, "Ahmmmmmm, by winning the British Open!!" He won the previous year!

The conditions this year at the Honda Classic were extremely tough. When I walked to the first tee on Thursday morning at 8am, the weather channel app on my phone said the wind was blowing 22mph with gusts in the mid 30's!! I navigated around the course well from tee to green but once again struggled on the greens. Many of the top players in the world shot in the 80's both days which obviously validated the tough conditions. The highlight of the week came during the final round. I was paired with Hall of Fame legend Nick Price and the experience was incredible. He played great in the tough conditions and I made a point to watch him carefully as he hit his shots. He is a phenomenal ball striker and it was certainly a sight to see. I cannot thank him enough for his kindness and willingness to answer my questions during the round. One thing is for sure, he gave me chills as we walked toward the 18th green. I told him that I really appreciated everything he had done during the round and that it had been an honor to play with him. He responded with a few comments that I will probably never forget. As a modest person, I have chosen not to divulge in the exact words of the conversation. However I assure you that I walked away with a renewed sense of confidence about my golf game and the direction it is heading. He was extremely complementary about my game and I am still in shock a bit about what he said.

As I left Palm Beach Gardens and headed toward San Juan, Puerto Rico, I couldn't help but think about my conversation with Nick Price. I was anxious to get to work on my game and hopefully improve on the putting issues that have continued to plague me so far this year. This was my first trip to Puerto Rico and the course and facilities were great as usual. Beth flew down on Wednesday to enjoy the hot sun and beach for a few days. It was sad not having the kids with us, but I knew Beth deserved a few days of relaxation. We had a great time and we used the Jeep Wrangler that the tournament issued us to explore the island and rain forest. We ate at some great restaurants and the views were incredible. My agent, Alan Bullington, came down for the week, as well, and arranged for several players and caddies to go to the KISS concert. We had backstage passes before and after the concert and also a hospitality suite. For Beth and I, the concert was interesting to say the least. I will be the first to admit that I am not a KISS fan. In fact, I found it a little embarrassing to receive VIP access and treatment when I only knew three songs. Beth and I laughed the whole time because the only reason we knew two of the three songs were because of her name and a Dr. Pepper commercial!! We met the band and hopefully I can figure out a way to download a picture off their web site that they took of us at the meet and greet. Why am I so interested?? Because Gene Simmons had Beth in a headlock!! It was hilarious and I will try and post it as soon as I get it. As far as the tournament went, I made the cut once again but a balky putter kept me from playing well. On Saturday I missed 9 putts from inside 12 feet and on Sunday I missed 5 putts from inside 8 feet on the first 8 holes. I didn't even try and figure up my missed putts from the first two days because I wanted to keep my sanity. However, I did birdie my last four holes on Sunday which definitely helped me leave Puerto Rico on a good note. Hopefully, I will continue my birdie streak next week in Tampa at the Transitions Championship. However, if things go astray, I will remember one image that I know will make things better…..Beth in a headlock courtesy of Gene Simmons!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Lets change things up a bit. Rather than bore everyone to death with yet another tale of missed putts and opportunities, I think the focus should be on the positives of the West Coast Swing and my plan moving forward. On paper, things look dismal. Missed cuts and mediocre finishes have been the norm over the past six weeks. I certainly didn't expect these results when I boarded a plane for Palm Springs back on January 3rd. However, I am actually very, very excited heading into my first off week of the year. I know, I know… can I be excited over another missed cut? Have I lowered my expectations? Absolutely not! For those that know me personally or have followed my blog since day one know that I am very competitive and extremely hard on myself. I accept only the best and I don't settle for mediocrity when it comes to anything that I do. It doesn't matter if I'm playing golf or being a father, husband or friend - I simply expect and demand the best from myself. So with that in mind, I am obviously not thrilled with my results over the past six weeks. However, when I look at the big picture, I am as encouraged, optimistic and excited about my golf game as I have been since turning professional in 2001. That's impossible, right? Three straight missed cuts and "I am as encouraged, optimistic, and excited about my golf game as I have been since turning professional in 2001?" I can hear you now…What about the successful 2009 Nationwide Tour season where I almost won three times and top 10 finishes were almost a weekly occurrence? What about my near victory at the Byron Nelson last year? It sounds weird but I truly believe that I am playing better from tee to green than I did during either of those times. The problem, of course, lies on the greens and my inability to make putts so far this season. Seems like an easy fix, right? Wrong. How can I fix something when it is nearly impossible to pinpoint what exactly is wrong? I continually hit great putts and that is what makes it so frustrating. The ball is starting on line and more times that not, it hits the hole. The ball just isn't finding the bottom of the cup. It certainly would be a lot easier if I was pushing or pulling putts and the ball wound up way off line. Even my playing partner this past week at Riviera, Chris DiMarco, commented several times to his caddy, as well as mine, about my near misses. He told them "I cannot believe how many great putts he has hit that haven't gone in. As soon as they start falling, he will win by a mile." That's pretty encouraging, especially when it comes from a veteran like DiMarco. Despite the talk, at the end of the day (and especially in my mind) a missed putt is a missed putt, regardless of how big or small. So why am I so "encouraged, optimistic, and excited?" The biggest reason is the fact that my ball striking is light years ahead of last season and any other time in my career. I am driving it well off the tee and if I miss a fairway it is usually by only a yard or two. In fact, I can name on one hand the number of fairways I have missed by more than a few yards all year long. The majority of my missed fairways come from actually going through the fairway rather than right or left. My irons are more solid and crisp than in years past, as well. I credit a great deal of that to a pretty healthy hip that is allowing me to turn freely. My good friend and swing coach, John Tillery, has definitely helped add validation to what I am doing with my golf swing. We haven't made any major swing changes so far but we have a game plan in place that will eventually add even more consistency. My short game has improved a great deal, as well, and I am especially excited about my bunker play. So where do I go from here? How can I improve my putting (which in return will improve my results)? I honestly have no idea… HaHa. Just kidding. I have a few things to try this week while I am practicing at home. TaylorMade made me several different putters to try out before I return to action week after next in Florida. Who knows? A small tweak to my setup or a different putter could change things forever. In all reality I am not a bad putter. I am actually a good putter who just wants to be the best.

Like I mentioned earlier, this coming week will be my first off week of the year. I have played six straight tournaments and I haven't slept in my bed or played with my dog since January 3rd. My black lab, Bo (or BoBo), may not even recognize me! I cannot wait to spend the week with my family and see what its like to be a full-time Daddy and Husband again. I plan on taking my little maniac Jake fishing and to the golf course almost everyday. I know he is supposed to attend 3 year old Church school this week but if I have my way, he will be playing hooky!! As for Libby, she is keeping Beth on her toes. I am sure my bride is anxious for an extra hand or two with Libby, and I am looking forward to playing with my girls too.

All in all, my golf game is better than it appears. I am going to work hard this week and hopefully I will see the results in Florida. Regardless of what happens with my golf, my family is happy to have me home and that means more than anything!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Opportunities Missed but Lifetime Experiences Gained....

As I enter my final tournament of the west coast swing this week in LA, I am encouraged but disappointed at the same time. I continue to improve each week and my game is light years ahead of where I was last year. Unfortunately, my results aren't telling the same story. This has been extremely aggravating and I will be the first to admit that frustration has begun to set in. Golf is a game of patience and I am well aware of that. However, time is money and opportunities lost is even more money. Fortunately, my job is unique and each week I am given a clean slate to create more opportunities for success. One good tournament and the mishaps of previous weeks are washed away . Perception and mindsets change along with confidence, a career, and even a lifestyle. I know that I am very, very close. Regardless of how the results and statistics look, I am confident that things are headed in the right direction.

The last two weeks have been eerily similar. Wasted opportunities were once again a common theme on golf courses that definitely suited my game. Two missed cuts by one shot each only added fuel to my ever-growing fire. The Waste Management Phoenix Open once again lived up to the hype and created an atmosphere that no other PGA Tour tournament can match. The crowds were enormous and their opinions were often expressed at volumes not accustomed to the traditional golf course. Good shots were rewarded with loud cheers and applause. However, the mediocre and bad shots got blasted and abused from the rowdy and boisterous crowds. Alcohol played a major role in the criticism and as the day progressed so did the content of the expressions. Extremely cool temperatures for the desert area added an unexpected twist to the tournament and frost delays were very popular each morning. The event was pushed into a Monday morning finish which forced golf fans in corporate America to work a little slower. Despite the missed cut by a shot, the week wasn't a total bust. On Wednesday evening, my agent, Alan Bulllington, and I went to the Phoenix Suns game and sat in a box. I spent the majority of the evening talking golf and sports with current Arizona Cardinal Quarterback Derrick Anderson. He is a golf nut and we had a great time. The Suns beat the Milwaukee Bucks pretty easily, thanks to a 21 point half time lead. Boo, his caddy Joe, and I rented a house for the week and, as usual, there were plenty of laughs. I always have a great time with those guys regardless of how many putts fall during the week. I was also fortunate enough to have several of my longtime friends watch me play. Louis Viamonte, Bill Faith, and Jay Sanders ventured to the course and supported my efforts. However, they spent the majority of their time around the par 3, 16th hole, and for good reason. The coliseum setting, obnoxious crowd and abundant beer stations kept them close to the action. I appreciate their attendance though and hopefully next year I will give them more to cheer about.

This past week I played at one of my most favorite places on earth, Pebble Beach. Another missed cut by one lousy shot unfortunately lead to another short week of work. I didn't capitalize on my opportunities as I mentioned earlier, and as you have gathered, that usually leads to an early exit on the PGA Tour. Beth and Jake flew out to Pebble on Wednesday but sadly left little Libby back home with her grandparents. I had several other visitors to the scenic west coast. My Mom and Step-dad Mike, my brother Chris and his wife Jill, my sister Courtney and her husband Jon and my Uncle David and his entire family flew out to experience the views of Pebble Beach. We rented two houses and obviously had a good time. For the first time in decades, the tournament didn't experience a single drop of rain during the event. Usually during this time of year, rain along the shores of Pebble Beach heavily outweigh the sunshine. Fortunately for us, the weather was perfect and my family was able to experience the sights and sounds of the breathtaking shoreline without an umbrella.

For those of you who don't know, the tournament at Pebble Beach is a Pro-Am format that pairs one amateur with one professional. The event is played on three different courses (Pebble Beach, Spy Glass, and Monterey Peninsula) throughout the week and the cut is made after Saturday's round. Jim Crane, my partner at the Bob Hope Classic, was once again my teammate for the week. Neither one of us played our best during the week and we disappointingly missed making the cut in the team division by two shots. The experience was incredible and I truly appreciate his kindness and hospitality throughout the week. On Wednesday, Mr. Jim invited me to play one of the four courses on my bucket list. Cypress Point, one of the most famous courses in the world, is extremely private and rated as one of the top three courses each year by golf publications. Some people say it is easier to get an invite to Augusta National than Cypress Point. I am not sure about that but the experience was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. It is the purest form of golf imaginable. There is not a single yardage marker on the course or a hole marker. Caddies are mandatory and you have to trust their knowledge of the course. If you have a chance, please Google Cypress Point Golf Club. The views are incredible and the par 3, 16th hole is its signature. I am forever grateful for the invite and my golf bucket list is almost complete. Since I was a child, my dream golf courses have been Augusta National, Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, and St Andrews. Thanks to Mr. Jim, St Andrews is the final course on my short bucket list.

The 16th at Cypress Point....

This week I am playing Riviera Country Club on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The course was built in 1927 and is often referred to as "Hogan's Alley" due to the success of the legendary Ben Hogan. He won three events in a span of 18 months at Riviera, one of which included the 1948 U.S. Open. I played the course on Tuesday and really enjoyed the layout. Regarded as a favorite of most tour veterans, Riviera does a great job combining a challenging layout with a traditional golf course. The course hasn't been altered very much over the years and this is certainly a nice change. Often times a golf course will add length and reshape holes in an attempt to slow down the progression of technology. There is something to be said, however, about walking and playing on the same layout and conditions that the legends of the PGA Tour did years ago. The clubhouse and locker room at Riviera does a tremendous job displaying its rich history throughout the hallways. I often find myself staring at the pictures. Just the thought of following in their footsteps is a bit overwhelming. I am very fortunate to play on the PGA Tour and I am proud of every opportunity that I have. However, to walk the same halls and play the same courses that the legends did before me is really, really cool. I often sit in front of my locker each week and wonder what legend sat here and did the same??

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Never Say Never....

The biggest highlight of my 2011 season occurred this past Monday afternoon in San Diego. Immediately following the morning Pro-Am at Torrey Pines, I drove as fast as I could to the house I rented for the week. As I opened the door, I heard a loud "Daddddddy" and watched a teary eyed, three year old boy come barreling down the hall. I knelt down and Jake almost knocked me over as he into my arms. For the first time in his life, he was speechless and didn't say a word for almost 15 minutes. He just hugged my neck and wouldn't let go. I stood up, holding Jake, and walked toward the living room to find my little girl Libby and Beth. This was the first time in over three weeks that I had seen my family. To make matters worse, poor little Libby didn't even recognize me. This absolutely broke my heart. It didn't take long before I had her laughing and playing. Beth was wonderful as usual and I am a very lucky man. It takes a special person to accept a golfer's life on the road with a smile. Whether it is a fake smile or not, she wears it well. I am very proud to call her my wife and I know my kids are in good hands.

Torrey Pines is one of the most scenic courses on the PGA Tour. It sits along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and I often found myself peeking over the ledge like a tourist. This tournament is played on both of the courses located at Torrey Pines. The South course is more difficult and hosted the 2008 U.S. Open where Tiger beat Rocco Mediate in a playoff. Last year the North course was very easy in comparison to the South. However, they made several of the holes longer and added very thick rough to the mix. I played the first two rounds with PGA Tour Veterans Rich Beem and Scott McCarron. Unfortunately they didn't play their best and missed the weekend. Thursday's round on the North course was by far my best ball striking round of the year. I hit 17 of the 18 greens in regulation with my only misfire ending up on the fringe. This was a huge improvement from two weeks ago in Hawaii where my irons were a disaster and it seemed I missed every other green. My putter let me down once again during the first round and I walked away with a disappointing score of one under par (71). I immediately left the course and took a short drive to the TaylorMade Kingdom which is located in Carlsbad, CA. Beth, Jake, and my caddy Aaron made the trip as well. We went straight to the putting lab to hopefully find some answers from my dismal day on the greens. The Kingdom at TaylorMade is amazing, especially when it comes to the putting lab. With the use of about twenty high definition cameras, I was able to analyze my putting stroke, as well as how the ball was reacting off the putter. This information was very useful and it showed that I needed to make a few adjustments to both my setup and putter. The ball immediately began rolling better off the putter. You cannot imagine how useful it was to hit a putt and look at the data, make a tweak or two, and continue to repeat the process until we got the numbers we wanted. I cannot thank everyone at TaylorMade enough for their help. They even made Jake a TaylorMade 6 iron for him to hit on the driving range while we were there. He had a blast and hit almost every ball they had available! The next day I played the more difficult South course. I hit the ball well again and, thankfully, I made some putts. I shot four under par (68) and moved a mile up the leader board. After making the cut, we continued the tradition at Torrey Pines by abandoning the North course on the weekend. Round three and four are played on the more difficult South course and the scores definitely reflect the move. I played pretty good on Saturday but didn't score as well as I would have liked. I shot one under par (71) and went into Sunday's final round in a tie for 13th place. Unfortunately, my golf game deserted me overnight and I didn't play well to finish the tournament. The South course at Torrey Pines doesn't accept mediocre shots and sadly enough, that was all I had on Sunday. My three over par score of 75 looked terrible on paper and to be honest, it felt the same way too. However, as I looked back over my round a few days later, it really wasn't as bad as I thought. Sure, I could have hit more greens and fairways but the course was playing really difficult due to the wind and late rain storm. My disappointing final round score, and eventual finish of 29th, basically boiled down to the par 5's #13 and #18. I bogeyed both holes, which is very uncharacteristic for me on par 5's. Both holes were playing downwind and very easy. Swapping out the bogeys for birdies on those two holes and I finish in a more respectable 14th place. I could have accepted that finish, especially after the poor putting performance in round one.

I have always heard the phrase "you should never say never." Well, for some reason, two of my lifelong "never" comments played a major role in my week at Torrey. As a redneck from South Georgia, I dress pretty conservative. Outside of my clothing requirements with Adidas, I am a jeans and boots kind of guy. It is rare that I wear anything else. My Adidas contract is great and I wear whatever they send me for the most part. Over the last few years, there has been a huge rise in players wearing white pants and white belts. From the beginning of this trend, I swore that I would stick to my Georgia roots and "never" wear either. In my opinion, rednecks don't wear white pants and belts! Well, to help promote the new TaylorMade R11 driver (white faced driver compared to the normal black faced drivers on the market), it was HIGHLY recommended that I wore ALL WHITE on Thursday's round at Torrey. I almost threw up when they told me this!! Since I obviously don't own a pair of white pants or belt, TaylorMade was soooooooo kind and placed them in my locker. So, bright and early Thursday morning, I got dressed in a white hat, white shirt, white pants and white shoes. I couldn't pull the trigger on the white belt so I replaced it with my normal black one. The TaylorMade staff thanked me for being a "team player" and branching out of my normal attire. To add the dismantle of my "I will never" list, I had an interesting pairing during the Monday Pro-Am at Torrey. When I showed up to meet my group of amateur partners, I was greeted by four women and caddies, ALL dressed in PINK!! Once again, rednecks don't wear pink. I laughed when I saw them and I knew what was coming next. They reached in a bag and with a big smile, handed me a lovely pink shirt. I have never worn a true pink shirt before in my life. During Breast Cancer Awareness days, I have worn a light shade of pink in honor of my mother and her battle with the disease. However, the shirt they handed me was truly a PINK shirt. They insisted that I wear it and even bought Aaron one. I reluctantly put it on because, once again, rednecks don't wear pink. Lesson of the week?? Never say never!

This week I am in Phoenix, Arizona, for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This tournament is played in front of the largest crowds on the PGA Tour. The infamous hole #16 is completely surrounded by grandstands and the fans are loud and very outspoken. Good shots are rewarded with loud cheers, while mediocre and bad shots welcome the Boo birds. They are very outspoken and love to voice their opinion. It is the only tournament where boos and heckling are encouraged. It is a crazy atmosphere but fun at the same time. Beer and alcohol stations are strategically located around the 16th, as well as other holes. This obviously elevates the volume of the boos and makes for a very entertaining tournament. Even if you don't watch golf on TV, please take a look at the coverage this week. You will be glad that you did. The Phoenix Open is one of a kind.