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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life's Little Moments and A Monster of a Course...

After a successful week at the PGA Championship, I postponed my trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Wyndham Championship for a couple of days.  Thanks to my job and the travel demands it requires, I miss most of the “little moments” that take place in my children’s lives.  Whether it’s their first steps, first words or the trips to the ball field or dance studio…I have and will continue to miss almost everything.  I know, I know…I play a game for a living and I will be the first to admit that I am very blessed and fortunate when it comes to my career.  However, no success or achievement will ever replace those “moments” that I have lost along the way.  It makes me sad to look back over the last five years and think about how much the road has taken from me.  With that being said, there was no way I was going to miss another “first”…especially when my last tournament was only a few hours away.  I left Kiawah Island immediately following my round on Sunday and drove home to see my little shadow, Jake, begin his journey into Kindergarten bright and early Monday morning.  He begged me during the week of the PGA Championship to “please come home so you can take me to my first day of school.”  Without even blinking, I assured him that I would be there.  I played chauffer to and from school on Monday and then Tuesday morning before I headed north to Greensboro.  I cannot tell you how excited he was to have his Daddy (and Momma and Libby) alongside him as he walked through the halls and into his classroom.  I will always remember his face, his excitement and his thankfulness that I was there.  And to me…that’s better than any amount of success I will ever achieve on the golf course.

The 2012 Wyndham Championship was in some way, more of an experiment than a tournament.  After putting a new putter in place on the Sunday of a Major (crazy!), I kept it in the bag to see what it could do for an entire week.  The unexpected change at the PGA Championship was the first new look in almost two years!  I decided to switch the normal size Winn grip on my TaylorMade Spider putter for a bigger/fatter one (Super Stroke), which I truly believe gave me better feel on the greens.  I didn’t have a 3-putt during the entire week and I definitely made more putts beyond 10 feet than I had with my old putter.  In terms of statistics, I finished the week near the top in the two most important Putting Stats complied by the PGA Tour (6th in Putts per Green in Regulation and 13th in Strokes Gained).  In my opinion, the experiment was a success and I am looking forward to what it can do in the coming weeks.

I left Greensboro after another made cut and headed north to begin the most important stretch of the PGA Tour season…the FedEx Cup Playoffs.  New York City is the site of this week’s tournament (The Barclays) as we begin the first leg of a four-tournament elimination style format.  The infamous PUBLIC golf course, Bethpage Black, plays host for the week and from all indications…it is going to be a Monster.  In fact, when Lucas Glover won the U.S. Open here in 2009, it was regarded as one of the toughest Opens in history.  Players were unable to reach the fairways on several holes due to the extreme length.  I played the course for the first time on Tuesday and it certainly lived up to its reputation.  My swing coach, John Tillery, made the trip up from Georgia on Monday and we worked extremely hard on all areas of my game.  I feel really good heading into tomorrow’s first round and I am excited about the upcoming challenge that is Bethpage Black.  If I can drive the ball well off the tee then I WILL find myself in contention come Sunday.  Ball striking is a premium and judging from the last few days of practice…I am ready. Besides, shouldn’t I get a nod from the Golf Gods or have some sort of an advantage when the course’s name is Beth? I certainly hope so!  

This week’s question comes from James in North Carolina.  He writes:  Blake, what is the key to your success in the Majors?

Thank you James for the email and question.  I truly believe that my success in the Majors is a result of three things.  Number 1:  My Game Plan.  I have a very conservative but aggressive game plan.  The conservative approach begins at the tee with my main focus being the fairway.  My goal is to find the widest part of the fairway…regardless of what club it takes to get there.  Fairways are a premium!  For example, at this year’s U.S. Open I hit a 3wd or Hybrid off the tee on the treacherous 630 yard par 5, 16th hole just to make sure I hit the fairway.  When I am able to find the fairway, I can then play more aggressive and attack the tough pin locations.  Hacking it from the rough makes for a very, very long day!  Number 2:  My Mind Set.  Every Player knows that when they tee it up at a Major, they are in for a battle.  Birdies are hard to make while Ol Mr. Bogey is usually lurking around the corner.  You have to be prepared mentally to accept a few hiccups along the way but strong enough to bounce back from them.  As many of you know, I have a very even keel and laid back personality.  This certainly helps in my Profession when things aren’t going according to plan.  Golf can be a rollercoaster and if you let your emotions get the best of you...Good Luck!  Number 3:  My Overall Game.  I have always been a Player that has thrived on the tougher courses and setups.  I normally drive the ball well and as I mentioned earlier, fairways are a premium.  My iron play, short game, and putting are certainly respectable and I am able to contend in the Majors because these aspects of my game usually keep me away from the Big Number. 

Thankfully, this week’s tournament at Bethpage Black will play like a Major!

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