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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

In the Hunt at My First U.S. Open...

I first want to thank everyone for the tremendous support that I received last week during the U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California.  The hundreds of emails and texts that I received during the week were both humbling and inspiring.  I am forever grateful for your support and I hope that I will continue to make you proud.

The week began with some great preparation and advice from several U.S Open veterans.  I arrived in San Francisco on Saturday with my swing instructor, John Tillery, and my caddy, Barry Williams, by my side.  I played the course for the first time on Sunday morning and left The Olympic Club excited about the week ahead.  Since this was my first Major and U.S. Open, I made sure that I scheduled my practice rounds with experienced U.S. Open players… On Monday I played with 2009 U.S. Open Champion, Lucas Glover…Tuesday was with 2012 U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson…and Wednesday was with 2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III.  I leaned on each of them for advice on ways to attack/survive the difficult course conditions as well as the 45-minute phone call I received from my good friend, Kenny Perry.

As I predicted last week, The Olympic Club and the U.S. Open was by far the toughest test of golf that I have ever faced.  The course was in immaculate shape but the conditions and layout were brutally tough.  The rough was extremely thick and the greens were hard and lightning fast.   However, like any U.S. Open, fairways were a premium.  The difficulty with hitting the fairways at the Olympic Club was due to the fact that they were extremely sloped and in most cases, there was only one thing that could stop your ball…the THICK ROUGH!  I cannot begin to tell you how many of my tee shots landed perfectly in the fairway but wound up BURIED a few inches in the rough.  This was certainly the frustrating part of the U.S. Open but it was expected.  Perfect shots were often times not rewarded and the players that didn’t cry over the bad breaks were the most successful. 

I entered Sunday’s round with a chance to win my first Major in my very first attempt.  This was certainly a special feeling as I battled against the best players in the World on an extremely big stage. I began the Final Round only 3 shots off the lead but to be honest, I wasn’t the slightest bit worried about my deficit, the television cameras, the worldwide audience, or the leaders.  Why you ask?  Because I had enough to worry about… The Olympic Club on Sunday of the U.S. Open was going to be a battle…and a battle it was!  The course punched me in the mouth from the very beginning as I bogeyed my FIRST 6 holes!  To be fair, I probably should have only bogeyed 2 holes during that stretch (hole #1 and #4) but I wasn’t rewarded for some pretty darn good shots.  A couple of bad bounces left me in some awkward and difficult positions and before I knew it…I was 6 over for the day!  Some people would have given up and quit but like always, I refused to give up and I fought back.  I played my next 12 holes in one under par and received a huge ovation for my eagle at #17.  I played the Final Round with Two-time U.S. Open Champion Ernie Els and it was quite the experience.  I was able to pick his brain a little bit and I cannot tell you how extremely gracious he was along the way.   We talked a good bit throughout the day about golf and family and I will forever remember the experience.  Even though I didn’t hoist the trophy in the end, I learned a great deal from my first Major and I will be better prepared next time around. 

I hung in there for the most part and I once again proved a lot of people wrong.  Unlike some people, I embrace the criticism and use it as motivation.  I enjoy being the underdog and having the last laugh.  Thanks again for the motivation fellas!

As I mentioned last week, I have begun taking questions and comments from my readers and each of them will be included in my blogs throughout the year.  Since last week’s tournament was a new event, I didn’t feel as if I was repeating myself and I included some tidbits from the U.S. Open.  So keeping with the new theme, I will answer one of the many questions submitted.

Barry from Georgia wrote..."Blake - I know putting is critical to being successful on the Tour and you have changed putters a few times - so, what putter are you using and are you pleased overall with your putting?"

         Putting is the most important statistic on the PGA Tour.  I work extremely hard on my putting every day and I feel that I am getting better and better each week.  Currently, I am using an Odyssey White Hot #7M Belly Putter and it has been in my bag for over a year and a half.  I am very pleased with the direction that my putting has gone since I began using this putter.  My instructor, John Tillery, and I work hard and monitor my putting each and every week.  Putting is the key to success on the PGA Tour and I am definitely headed in the right direction.

Thank you for all your interest and please keep the questions and comments coming!

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