Teeing Off in Houston

I have to be honest, it felt like I was dragging myself to the airport again on Monday… the workload of the last 21 week stretch, plus an exciting and hard-working week in Vegas had really drained my energy. I told myself that this was like 3rd period hockey, and planned to leave it all out there in my last event before a two week break!

The golf course was big, with lots of water and very grainy Bermuda grass. The 18th hole was the most memorable, particularly because there seemed to be three times more water than fairway…

I adjusted the lie angles on my irons, and had some of the best practice with Butch that I have had all year. It took us a few tweaks, but I think we had finally found the perfect recipe for my irons! I also did a little bit more golf ball testing with the Callaway team, as they are putting the finishing touches on the prototype golf balls set to release early next year.

Spoiler alert, they’re really good.

We hit draws, fades, soft shots and full shots with several versions of balls to see how they reacted, and make sure the ball performed optimally for all types of shots.

I teed off Thursday afternoon, and Butch (who was being honored by the tournament for his contributions to the Houston Open and golf in Houston) followed along on his personal golf cart… And joked that his credential had so any access letters that it looked like he was in a spelling bee.

In the afternoon wind, I shot an excellent 68 to move into a tie for 14th. My short irons were really good, as Butch and I were working on flighting them lower to control distance better. I teed off again the following morning, but played one hole (note, in 75 degrees and no wind) before a thunderstorm rolled through. After a two hour delay, I went back to the 11th hole to be greeted by temperature in the low 60s and 20-30mph of wind. It was a grind, including smashing a drive that only went 239 yards on 18 (where I hit it nearly 320 yards the previous day) but ground out a 74 that only moved me back to 31st place.

Again, I had a frustratingly slow start on Saturday, going three over through my first 12 holes before making three late birdies and a bogey to get back to a 73. I had dropped down to 46th, and talked to my girlfriend Danielle Kang (on the LPGA Tour, who just won this week in Shanghai!!). I told her how I was frustrated that my best finish on the PGA Tour was 29th place, and that I hadn’t moved forward on a weekend since Panama in January…

Needless to say, I got an earful about setting my goals higher and being more positive. I had been too focused on what everyone else was doing around me on the weekends especially, and while I fought back well, the poor starts were affecting me too much. She gave me three things to focus on, which her older brother Alex had told her to do a few years back as well: do not look at leaderboards, focus harder on my mental scorecard, and say two nice things to myself about every shot I hit.

I did this, and started Sunday with a much more positive attitude and a pitching wedge that I nearly holed on the second hole. I hit a few birdie putts too firm in the early going- the cold weather and Sunday cut had the greens far faster than I expected.. I then birdied the 5th hole (the 3rd hardest on the course), and made a great birdie on the 6th hole (the hardest on the course, that I had previously played in 5 over par). The first green I missed in regulation was a perfect 4iron on 9 that got just hit by the wind into the bunker… but a great sand save and I turned in 3 under par. I missed a short birdie putt on 10 and barely missed another on 11, but then got on my best run of the season. I birdie 12 with a wedge, up and down birdie on 13, hit 6iron to 20’ for birdie on 14, pitched to 3’ for birdie on 15, and hit 18 to 10’ for birdie on 16. I rocketed up the leaderboards (exactly how high, I am not sure ;).. I just missed my par save on the 17th hole after having to lay up out of a bad lie in the bunker, but made a great sand save on the difficult 18th to shoot a final round 65, my best round on tour at 7 under par.

This moved me up to 17th place, my best finish on tour, and validated a lot of the hard work and changes I had made over the past few weeks. I raced to the airport, and enjoyed my three hour flight back home to Vegas, where I was going to have my first two week stretch in my own bed since… March!!

Thanks again for following, and see you in Bermuda!

At Home In Nevada

This week is a special week for me, playing less than 10 minutes from where I live at TPC Summerlin, at one of my home courses. We also had perfect weather all week, and the golf course was in flawless shape. I took extra pleasure in parking in my usual “Tour Member Reserved” spot in the parking lot.

I enjoyed some long sleeps in my own bed, and was extremely motivated to work hard and improve this week after getting my rear end handed to me on the weekend in Napa. I spent almost all day hitting balls and practicing on Monday (I think I went through 8 or 9 bags of balls, chipped for close to two hours, and putted for another two?). I spent Tuesday playing the entire golf course, and worked with Butch Harmon (my swing coach) on alignment and shot shapes. One more practice session Wednesday and I was feeling ready to go.

I came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders, making the turn at 5 under, and following up with birdies on 11, 13, 15 and 16. I unfortunately bogied 17 and 18 as darkness fell, but I had already put myself in a great position to have a great week. The following morning, I got off to a fast start on the scoreable back-9, getting to 9 under par before a disastrous 17th hole- one ball pulled left in the water, and a wrong yardage calculated on the wedge shot… resulting in a quadruple bogey. I birdied the next two to get the ship righted, but given my start it was a disappointing 2-under-par 69.

I combined for 5 under par over the weekend to finish the tournament at 13 under par and in a tie for 37th.. A solid week other than the 17th hole (which I played a whopping 6 over par!). I was in the top 10 in putting, a huge bright spot, and found myself playing stretches of golf that felt more like the best version of me than I had seen for a while.

With the changing of my iron shafts, I had a sneaking suspicion that my irons were now too upright. I realized I had missed over 90% of my shots left (which was problematic on the 17th hole, with water left…). I planned to get these adjusted in Houston the following day, and it was back to the airport for my 17th event in 21 weeks!

Back in California

I am back here at the Safeway Open in Napa, site of my professional debut back in 2017. I was extremely fortunate to earn a sponsors exemption into this event, as I was originally slated to be the first or second alternate into the event- so a special thank-you to Bob Miller of Safeway/Albertsons and the tournament staff for the opportunity to compete!

It was also great to return to a golf course where I was playing the PGA Tour event for the third time, in addition to a collegiate event here my senior year at Stanford. Needless to say I was very familiar with the golf course! I kicked off the week by watching Blake Shelton perform live in a private setting off the 10th hole of the golf course… he’s every bit as good live as he is on recording!

I also made some equipment discoveries with Callaway. I had a hard time feeling the clubface on my irons, so I took apart an old set of irons from college and the ones I had been using. We found 2-4g weight plugs in the hosel of my irons, which we promptly removed and made up the difference with lead tape on the back of the iron. The difference in feel was immediate, and I could feel the clubface again! I also finished off my golf ball testing and moved into the lower-spinning golf ball, and “hard-stepped” my Dynamic Gold X100 shafts in my irons- making them firmer- as I was using the same stiffness in my irons as I had in high school. This sounds like a big change, but I was very excited about the feels I was experiencing with the irons.

I made the cut with a few shots to spare, but struggled a bit to start my Saturday round.. I was three over par thru 4 and hit the tee shot on the 5th hole just OB… But managed to fight back hard and shot an even-par 72. I was not happy with how I had moved back, but given my start, was very pleased with how I fought back. I ended up shooting even par with birdies on two of my last three holes on Sunday to finish in a tie for 52nd. A pretty average finish, where I realized I needed to just hit higher quality shots and improve to beat these guys!

It was fun having my family out to watch, and I got to play one of my favorite par5s on the planet, the 16th hole. But I was most excited to get on an airplane and fly back to Vegas for another week spent in my own bed!

Thanks again for following along!

Disappointed in Jackson, MS

After a somewhat nightmare-ish travel day from a corporate outing on Monday, I finally made it to my hotel in Jackson (might have gotten the only available room in the entire city for the week!). I played this event the year previous, so I was familiar with the golf course- I only played it once, opting for one of my late Tuesday afternoon practice round times (3-6:30pm).

Again, it was a somewhat disappointing week, missing the cut by just two shots, but I was starting to see improvements in my game. I drove the ball well, my short game was tidy, and my iron play was starting to show signs of improvement. However, these guys are very good and just average golf was not going to cut it.

The restaurant to visit when in the Jackson/Ridgeland area is Tico’s Steakhouse, where a few other players went as well. The steaks come out on piping hot plates- the steak itself was pretty rare when it was first served, but after slicing it and laying it on the plate for a few seconds, it came out a perfect medium!

I also noticed that my golf ball was not performing how I wanted it to, especially in the breeze. It was too hard for me to turn the ball back into the breeze, and too easy to get away from me downbreeze. I did some extensive testing with the Callaway guys, and decided to make the switch to the Chrome Soft 2Arrow version, most similar to the standard Chrome Soft X, which I found performed much better in the breeze than the higher-spin version I had been using previously.

I rushed to the airport and got to spend two nights in my own bed, which has been a rare treat lately! Then back to the Bay Area for the Safeway Open on Sunday evening…

Thank you all for following along!

Hello From the PGA Tour!

I just finished off an eventful five-in-a-row stretch to start the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season. I’ll start with the Military Classic at the Greenbrier, the first event of the year, in West Virginia.

Despite missing the cut, it was a very memorable week. I flew in two days early for the new member orientation on the PGA Tour, where I was reminded of my days in the classroom.

Three four-hour sessions and we were fully briefed on what to expect as a new PGA Tour member!

It was really fun to enjoy all the perks of the PGA Tour- good player dining (no powdered eggs!!), courtesy transportation, pure greens, challenging golf courses, and bigger galleries… and the best part was knowing that this was going to continue week after week! 

I shot an opening 3-under-par round, highlighted by two hole-outs. One was a 9 iron on the 11th hole, and the second was an even more improbably flop shot hole-out on the 13th. My favorite was Craig Perks (the Golf Channel analyst) saying that I had “no shot” and that it was “absolutely impossible” before I made it…