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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Made Cuts, New Equipment, and Some Great Pairings....

The last few weeks have been pretty uneventful in terms of great stories and adventures. I played in three tournaments and successfully made all three cuts. Beth and the kids journeyed out for the first two events and they were definitely the highlight of this past stretch. I rented a house for both of the tournaments they attended and I am very thankful that I did. My two wild hyenas had plenty of room to run around and this definitely helped out with their adjustment to time zones and bed time. The first house I rented for the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California, was located on a golf course inside PGA West. Mid-70 degree temperatures throughout the week were certainly a welcomed sight for my family who had just traveled from the cold January temperatures of Georgia. Jake and I ventured out on the golf course behind our house every afternoon and I was of course….his caddy. He smoked his "Big Dawg" and we had a blast walking the fairways in our bare feet. Libby usually followed along and I spent most of my time chasing and eventually pulling her out of the bunkers! They also loved the heated pool and hot tub at the house and we spent almost every evening swimming around. The second house was located in Del Mar, California, which is located just down the road from the Farmers Insurance Open at the infamous Torrey Pines Golf Course. This home was nice as well and the amenities were certainly a welcomed sight. The basketball goal, playground/fort, and trampoline were high priorities on my kids list each and every day. I lowered the goal for Jake and we spent hours outside in the driveway. Libby raised havoc on the playground and loved being chased as she scurried her little legs up and down the slides. My involvement with the last amenity would have worried the heck out of most over protective parents. A good ol' fashion trampoline…wow…I can see their faces now! I cannot remember the last time I climbed my old body up on a trampoline but one thing is for sure…I was certainly thankful that it had the protective walls wrapped around it! So, as Larry Munson used to say as he described the scene before every opening kickoff at UGA football games…."Get the picture!" Libby and Jake would lay on their back as their 6'3 205 pound father would jump up and down beside them. The sound of their laughs and cackles were priceless and yes…I didn't take it too easy on them. I will be the first to admit that I probably went a little overboard with the perfected double spring technique that I learned as a kid! Needless to say, they loved it. Their little bodies would flip and flop all over the place and regardless of how many times their Mommy told the over-grown man in charge of the aerial acrobatics to stop…they begged for more! We had a blast and thankfully, my little monkeys are going to be tough! Libby is something else and she is definitely going to be one tough cookie! Jake knows that his only option is to be tough and his Daddy constantly makes sure of it!

As far as the golf was concerned, there were definitely some positives to take away from the mediocre finishes of the last three weeks. Barry (my caddy) and I are getting more and more comfortable each and every week. His personality is very similar to mine and we have a lot in common. I am expecting great things throughout the season. My winter rust is fading with each and every week. I continue to have spurts where my game resembles a PGA Tour player but unfortunately an uninvited high handicapper shows his face from time to time. Hopefully the hard work and time that I continue to pour into my game will prevail as time progresses.

For those of you that don't know, the Humana Challenge is a Pro-Am format that matches two Professionals with two Amateurs. I was fortunate enough to have movie celebrity Lucas Black as my partner during Round One. Sling Blade, The Fast and the Furious, Friday Night Lights, and Seven Days in Utopia are just a few of his film accomplishments. We had a great time and instantly bonded due to our hunting and fishing background. Lucas currently lives in Missouri but was born and raised in Alabama. The only fault that I found in Lucas was his love for the Alabama Crimson Tide. I eventually gave him a pass due to the fact that my beloved Georgia Bulldogs haven't preformed up to their level lately. Hopefully my crew from Athens will turn things around and I will have the bragging rights over Lucas and our bordering state to the west! On Sunday, the Amateurs exited the tournament and the pairings went back to a grouping of three Professionals. I was once again dealt an interesting tee time and it was an honor and privilege to play with my good friend Jason Bohn and newly inducted PGA Tour Hall of Fame member, Phil Mickelson. The three of us were miles behind the leaders according to the scoreboard but the fans didn't care. Thousands of people lined the fairways as we made our way along the Palmer course at PGA West. This was my first pairing with Phil and due to the abundance of rust on my game, I was anxious to see how well my swing would hold up. Thankfully, I didn't embarrass myself despite having a faulty putter during the round. A respectable round of two under par gave me hope that bright things were on the horizon. My score would have been much lower but wasted shots around the green proved to be the difference. I certainly learned from the experience and I cannot wait to battle again with Phil sometime in the near future. Hopefully next time, our names will be a little closer to the top of the Leader Board!!

As I mentioned earlier, my next tournament was held just outside of San Diego along the beautiful shores of Torrey Pines.. Another made cut was welcomed but the story of the week involved my visit to the Titleist Performance Facility on Wednesday morning. For those of you that don't know, Titleist is the #1 ball in golf and for good reason. Traditionally, they introduce a new golf ball to the public every two years. Every ball is different and the difference is certainly noticeable to those of us that play golf everyday. They make an amazing product and since Titleist is a performance driven company, they give Tour players several options to chose from. We are not limited to the current ball that most of you see in each and every pro shop around the world. They want us to play the ball that suits our game regardless of its introductory date. That was of course, until this year! Since 2005, I have played the 2005 Titleist Pro V1x and for good reason. As a player who creates a lot of spin, the 05x is a perfect fit. It is a lower flighted golf ball that has a limited amount of spin. Since Titleist doesn't offer this ball to the public anymore, they cannot make a profit on its production. Therefore, they decided to eliminate the 2005 Pro V1 line of golf balls from their inventory. I certainly wasn't happy with their decision but I understood the reasoning. So, on Wednesday morning I made my way to their incredible Facility with an open mind. I was excited to test their other golf balls under the watchful eye of the Titleist experts. Unfortunately, the numbers were drastically different. The 05x outperformed the other balls with my current equipment and as you can imagine, this was a little worrisome. Equipment change is never easy, especially when you are in the middle of a season. However, I trusted the knowledge and opinions of the Titleist experts and we kept testing until we found a solution. Eventually, every club in my bag needed to be changed to accommodate the new golf ball. A shaft change was mandatory in my irons along with a new 3 wood and Driver. The numbers greatly improved after the change and my new golf ball of choice is the 2009 Pro V1x. My clubs are still and will always be TaylorMade products and my 3 wood and Driver are members of the new RBZ / Rocketballz line. They are extremely good clubs and I am excited to try everything out this coming week.

Last week I made my third cut of the year (out of four tournaments) at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This was certainly an accomplishment because the tournament at TPC Scottsdale has been the culprit of two missed cuts during each of the last two years (both by one shot!). Even though the weekend didn't go as planned, it was still a success. I continued to knock off the rust and I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully some of you were able to witness the craziness that has become known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The infamous 16th hole is a short par 3 surrounded by stands to create a coliseum effect. Estimations of crowd size for that particular hole were well above 50,000 people each day! In fact, Saturday's attendance for the entire property was over 171,000! Think about that…Sanford Stadium, home of the University of Georgia Football Team, holds just under 93,000 fans and 171,000 people attended a golf tournament in one day! Amazing. The roars and Boo's (yes...Boo's...if you miss the green on hole 16 the crowds Boo's you as loud as they can!) were deafening around the course all week. I was amazed at how many people were positioned on every hole throughout the course, let alone the 16th. Fortunately, I managed only one Boo for the week and I was very thankful. Hopefully next year I will make a few more birdies leading up the 16th and my good play on that hole will be even more rewarding.

This week I am at one of my favorite places in the world….Pebble Beach. The views here are breathtaking and I welcome each of you to attend this area at least one time in your life. You will certainly not be disappointed. As mentioned earlier, I am introducing a new golf ball and Driver to my bag (I have had the new Rocketballz 3 wood since Hawaii). Hopefully they will behave and my week will be a success. In 2010, I finished in a tie for 10th place at this event and if any putts had fallen during the week, I might have been holding up the trophy on Sunday. Maybe this year will be the year! This tournament is once again played in a Pro-Am format and I am paired with my good friend and partner from last year, Mr. Jim Crane. He recently fulfilled a lifetime dream of his by purchasing the Houston Astros and I am exited to spend the next few days by his side. NBA Hall of Fame Member Clyde Drexler is the other Amateur in my group. This will certainly be an honor to play with both of them and I cannot wait to get started in the morning. Please tune in to the Golf Channel and CBS throughout the rest of the week…you will be amazed at the views! Hopefully while you are mesmerized by the scenery, you will catch a glimpse or two of a South Georgia Redneck playing some decent golf!

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