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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.