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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Bob Hope, Great Amateurs, and a Lifetime of Advice....

The Bob Hope Classic at PGA West in La Quinta, California, is one of the most unique tournaments on the PGA Tour. It is played over a span of five days, involves four golf courses, and pairs one professional with three different amateurs each day. Once again the weather was incredible and the temperature never fell below 72 degrees all week. After landing in Palm Springs around 3am Monday morning, I drove to the golf course bright and early to hopefully correct the mistakes from the week prior. There was definitely a sense of urgency with the first round beginning on Wednesday rather than our normal Thursday start. The short prep week wouldn’t have been as big of a deal except for the fact that my performance in Hawaii was less than satisfactory. I worked hard to improve the dismal iron play that lead to my first missed cut of 2011. I saw signs of improvement and entered the first round with a lot less rust and more confidence than I did a week earlier. Unfortunately, my putter decided to accumulate the rust that fell off my irons. Missed putts and wasted opportunities were a common theme throughout the week. My performance once again fell well short of my expectations but all was not lost. I safely made the cut and greatly improved my ball striking from my tournament in Hawaii. Hopefully I will have a week real soon where one area of my game doesn’t run away and disappear!!

The amateur portion of the Bob Hope Classic is what makes this event special. As I mentioned earlier, I was paired with three different amateurs for each of the first four rounds. I had some great partners throughout the week and I truly enjoyed spending time with each of them. Every one of my partners were extremely successful and powerful men at the pinnacle of their profession. I really enjoyed their stories of achievement and hopefully I can take some of their advice and apply it to my own career. There were two partners in particular who I spent a great deal of time with during the week. The first gentleman, Jay Goldberg, began a very successful career with IBM in 1961 and continued on to form several businesses of this own. He was extremely nice and we had a great time throughout the week. The second and final gentleman, Jim Crane, resides in Houston, Texas, and owns a hand full of companies. He loves sports and Major League Baseball is a huge passion of his for reasons I will let you investigate. Both of these gentlemen were tremendous partners and extremely gracious. If you have time, they are definitely worth a Google search or two!

I spent the week once again at my good friend's house, Mr. Larry McNabb. We had a great time as usual and I cannot thank him enough for the hospitality. On Friday, my college roommate at UGA, Davis Thomason, flew out to the desert and stayed with us at the house. He couldn't get over the perfect weather in La Quinta and I constantly saw him taking photos on his phone. I am sure he was sending them home to rub in the weather! We had a great time together and it was fun corrupting Mr. Larry with our Southern way of life. He will never be the same!

This week I am in San Diego at the legendary Torrey Pines. The tournament is played on two courses, the North and South, and once again the weather is expected to reach 80 degrees with little to no humidity!! The South course played host to the 2008 U.S. Open tournament where Tiger Woods beat Rocco Mediate in an 18 hole playoff. I have worked hard this week to improve on my mistakes from my first two golf tournaments. Hopefully, this will be my week and everything will fall into place. I made the cut here last year but a disappointing third round score lead to a mediocre finish. All the big boys are here this week. It should be an interesting tournament!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not as Bad as It Looked.......

According to the statistics that were complied during my first event of 2011, I looked as lost as one of last year's Easter eggs!! Thank goodness this wasn't entirely the case. Statistics are gathered each week by volunteers who graciously donate their time and energy. However, as volunteers, they learn while on the job and are certainly trying to do their best. I am a firm believer in statistics and I use them as a measuring stick, as well as an indicator for areas of improvement. Unfortunately, in most cases, they don't tell the whole story and at the end of the day they are just numbers. So because the volunteers are the ones gathering the numbers, they sometimes get confused and mix up the players. This happens every round and in reality it really isn't a big deal at the end of the day. Then again, when looking at it from an educational standpoint, it can mislead a player and send false hopes for an area where improvements need to be made. With that in mind, after every round of golf that I play, I compile my own statistics. I break down each and every hole and analyze shots far more than I probably need to. However, I think it is important to learn something from every round of golf I play. Good or bad, statistics help dictate my practice schedule each week. I learn from the information and hopefully improve on where I made my mistakes.

As I analyzed the first two rounds of the Sony Open in Hawaii, several things stood out. The first and obviously most important piece of information was the fact that my two day total (rounds of 72 and 69) finished outside the cut line. As you can expect this didn't sit well with me and it obviously wasn't how I envisioned my 2011 season beginning. I also noticed that the statistics I gathered didn't match the ones that were posted on This certainly isn't a big deal but it is a little bit misleading. I hit several more fairways over the two rounds and my putting stats were better than reported. I actually drove the ball extremely well, especially when you take all the circumstances into consideration. When I arrived to the golf course on Monday morning at 7am, I noticed that the shaft in my driver was cracked! This happened as a result of the always gentle bag handlers that chunked and slammed my golf bag around the airport. My driver was in perfect shape when I practiced last week in La Quinta, California, and it certainly was when I packed my things to leave for Hawaii. If you remember last year while I was in Hawaii, my putter fell off the cart during a Wednesday Pro-Am and broke. Since golf clubs are extremely difficult to duplicate, this unfortunate break lead to several months of searching for a similar putter. Thankfully, the TaylorMade staff was there to help. They did a great job with my driver and almost matched it perfectly. Another positive note is that I probably putted the best I have in a tournament since joining the PGA Tour last year. I didn't miss a putt inside 11 feet during the entire tournament! It was great to see the ball FINALLY fall in the cup over and over again. Unfortunately, though, my irons were horrific and they were the culprit of my first missed cut of 2011. Usually they are a strong point but, for some reason this past week, they let me down. Hopefully I can make a small tweak or two and things will be back to normal.

All in all, Hawaii was a great week. Sure I had some rust, a broken driver shaft, and a rough few days on the golf course but you will not hear me complain. I spent eight days on a beautiful island where I could hear the waves crash as I hit golf balls. That is very hard to beat, especially when my friends and family are freezing back home!! Sorry to rub it in.

This week I am back in La Quinta, California, for the Bob Hope Classic. This event begins on Wednesday and is a Pro-Am format. It is played on four different courses throughout the desert and there is a cut following Saturday's round. I have been practicing very hard this week and hopefully the rust will be gone by the time I tee it up on Wednesday morning. The weather has been around 80 degrees every day and yes, I am once again rubbing it in. I am looking forward to a great week and hopefully I will have better news to report from a golf standpoint next time. However, regardless of how things turn out, the sun will shine and I will continue to work hard. Stay warm back home and please don't be mad when you see us on TV sweating out here in the desert!

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm Back.....

I want to apologize for the last few months and the disappearing act since my last post. Things have been pretty hectic since the Canadian Open. The circumstance that ultimately halted my dedication to this blog was completely unexpected. My family and I are dealing with the situation the best we can and hopefully things will be resolved in the near future. Unfortunately, I cannot reveal all of the details at this moment. I will say that the situation wasn’t provoked by anyone in my family. It involves a (formally) trusted NON-family member, who was very dishonest and is doing his best to take advantage of me and my family. I am doing everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen. I promise that over time I will open up about the events that caused this disturbing distraction and everyone will understand the reason behind my blog disappearance. I know that I am leaving everyone high and dry but I promise that one day, everyone will know the truth.

A lot has happened since my last entry. Rather than play catch-up and bore everyone with a weekly summary of past tournaments, I would like to “bore” you in a few other ways. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the black cloud situation that burdened my family back in July (and unfortunately continues to linger today) didn’t put a damper on my rookie season. However, like any other obstacle or adversity that I have faced during my career, I will deal with the situation the best I can. Regardless, my rookie season on the PGA Tour was somewhat successful. I achieved several of the goals that I set at the beginning of the year but to be honest, I disappointingly fell short of the majority of them. Even though the goals were extremely lofty, they were still reachable. I set them with the intention of success, not failure. I will enter this season with the same mindset and similar goals. I certainly expect better results this time around.

As I look back at the success and failures of 2010, there are three events that will forever stand out in my mind. The first event took place on April 27th with the birth of my sweet little girl Libby. She has been such a blessing to our family and it is a rarity to ever see her cry. I don’t believe I will have much to worry about when it comes to her. She is going to be tough as nails thanks to the constant tackling she receives from her older brother. She just shakes it off. I thank God everyday for allowing her to look like her beautiful mother rather than her father. It is unbelievable how identical their baby pictures are to each other. The only feature that Libby has to my credit are her blue eyes. Thank goodness. The second event took place during the PGA Tour event at Disney when Jake and I played in the Parent-Child alternate shot golf tournament. For those of you who don’t know Jake, he is a golf nut. Throughout the week, Beth carried him to the various parks and to no surprise he wanted to leave and “go practice with daddy at the golf course.” That’s my boy. And besides, Mickey is overrated in my opinion! Disney doesn’t have a chance with a kid whose world revolves around John Deere, golf, airplanes, hunting, fishing, and UGA football. By the time Wednesday arrived, Jake was beyond excited. We alternated shots (which can be very difficult with most 3 year olds!!) and Jake played great as usual. He almost drove every green with his tee shot! The tees for his age division were at or past the 100 yard marker on every hole. We shot 5 under par on 6 holes and WON the tournament by 11 shots! Not bad my boy. Not bad. The last event that really stands out in my mind was my near victory at the Byron Nelson. Since that tournament, I have been very critical and hard on myself. Not only for the last hole but also for the mistakes that happened well before my shot hit that fateful limb. Regardless of how poorly the ball was sitting in the dirt, the fact that I didn’t pull off the shot continues to haunt me today. I learned a lot from the situation and I truly believe that it just wasn’t my time. Hopefully, the cards will play out differently next time.

Over the last few months I have really enjoyed my time at home and the “normal” feeling of being a father and husband. Make no mistake, I love my job. However, life on the road and the weeks I spend away from my family is a tough gig. I enjoyed being “normal” as I took Jake to school almost every day. I was even successful a couple of times when I convinced Beth that he needed to stay home and play with his daddy. I enjoyed being “normal” as I put my little girl down for naps, fixed bottles, and changed a countless number of diapers. However, like most husbands I know, I called in reinforcements for the major diapers!! Beth didn’t like that. I also enjoyed being “normal” as I spent every day with my wife. She has a tough job raising two kids when I am gone and I cannot thank her enough. She is the backbone of our family and I am very lucky to have her in my life.

Just like last year, on January 3rd,I left my family and traded in the cold weather of Georgia for the sunshine of Palm Springs, California. This was by far the most emotional departure I have had since turning professional in 2001. You cannot imagine how hard it is to tell your 3 year old son that you won’t see him for a MINIMUM of three weeks! The begging and tears of “daddy please don’t go without me” absolutely cripples you. Think of how hard it is to hold him as he cries himself to sleep while knowing that in the morning when he wakes up, you will be gone. To add to the misery, my little girl Libby, who over the last few months quickly turned from a momma’s girl to a daddy’s girl was unaware of the whole situation. And my poor wife, watching her eyes fill with tears just sealed the deal. However, my job is to provide for my family and in order to do so, I have to work from the road and at times leave them behind. I flew from Savannah bright and early Monday morning and spent this past week at my good friend, Mr. Larry McNabb’s house. He lives at PGA West, home of the Bob Hope Classic and the site of my second tournament of 2011. He was kind enough to let me invite a few of my friends to stay at his home during the week as well. Boo and his caddy Joe arrived to the desert on Wednesday. This was their first time meeting Mr. Larry and it couldn’t have gone better. I also invited my good friend and Head Golf Professional at Milledgeville Country Club, John Tillery. We have known each other for years and recently began working together to improve my swing for the upcoming season. I haven’t had an “official” instructor since I was 16 years old when I worked with the legendary Lowell Fritz of Dalton, Georgia. Sure, over the years, several individuals have been an “eye” for my golf swing and seldom, if any, changes were ever made with their instruction. I have built this “homemade” swing on my own and so far, it has held up decently well. However, in order to take my game to the next level, I know a few tweaks are necessary. I trust John and his incredible knowledge of the golf swing. We spent the entire week in Palm Springs and attempted to remove the rust off my game. We made some big strides and were even able to creep into some future adjustments. For the first time in a while, I was able to swing without restrictions in my body. I worked hard during the off-season with a personal trainer three days a week and I actually feel pretty good. Hopefully, my body will survive the long season ahead and I can play each and every week pain free.

I apologize, once again, for my disappearance from this blog. Lots of time has passed since my last entry and I promise that if there is enough interest, I will continue to post throughout the season. Feel free to submit your comments, suggestions, and thoughts. I sincerely appreciate all the support. You cannot imagine how much it means. Life on the road is tough, especially when your family is far away. However, having friends who support your journey is truly a blessing. My hopes for this season are to make you proud. I will do my best to achieve this.

**By the way……it’s 78 degrees here in Hawaii !!!