A Week with The King

Hello everyone!

I’m recapping a pretty special week every year on the PGA Tour schedule, the Arnold Palmer Invitational (which is very obviously presented by MasterCard ;). This was my first time back at Bay Hill since I played on the Arnold Palmer Cup exemption in 2016. As background, the Arnold Palmer Cup is a Ryder Cup-style match between the top collegiate players from the USA and the rest of the world. When the US team won in 2015, I was selected to represent our team at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Though I was pretty tired from a taxing week at Honda, I was so excited to be back and playing yet another golf course in major-Championship condition. I kept my practice brief, but enjoyed the excellent player dining and spent a little extra time on the golf course working on my short game. One of the coolest holes on tour is the par5 6th hole, a horseshoe hole around the pond. Though it is only 345 yards from the tee to the green (yes, I measured), it is a dangerous hole where you have to decide how much you want to bite off. Any score from 3 to 8 is possible here!

Another highlight of the week was drinking an Arnold Palmer tea on the first hole of my practice round. It just tasted right!

The first round I teed off feeling very comfortable and confident, and I was cruising at 2 under par until my 3w snap hooked left out of bounds on the last hole. It was a very uncharacteristic shot for me and especially for that club… and looking back on it the last “good” 3w I hit was on the 15th hole in Puerto Rico. I wonder if it broke then… anyways, I tripled the last hole to shoot a very disappointing 73.

I knew I needed a good round to make the cut on Friday, but the conditions were so difficult with winds and fast, firm greens, that hanging around par would be more than enough. I was playing solidly but made a few mistakes in the middle of my second 9. Knowing I needed to play my final two holes under par to make the cut, I made an incredible birdie on the 8th hole, but just missed an 8 footer for par on the 9th, ending my week short, as well as my streak of 11 consecutive cuts.

To me, I was still encouraged that with so many mistakes, I still had the game to make it to the weekend. I tested my 3w the following week and found that it was broken (very similar to my driver at the start of the season last fall), which could have cost me several shots over the last few weeks.

Shifting gears, a lot has happened in the last few weeks. I went to the Players Championship as 3rd alternate, only to practice for a few days and see the tournament cancelled after the first round. The earliest the PGA Tour schedule will resume is May 18th at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and I am hopeful that that is the case.

In the meantime, I am getting plenty of rest, working out, enjoying some time at home, playing board and card games with my roommates, and practicing as long as the golf courses here in Las Vegas stay open.

Curriki is in High-Demand

With schools closing down everywhere, educators and parents are flocking to Curriki for help with virtual learning. Suddenly, parents are in the position of facilitating learning for their children and teachers are forced to modify their lessons for virtual classes. This is an unprecedented time and it impacts kids the most. If you are a parent, grandparent, or teacher seeking great content to liven up the learning, go to https://www.curriki.org/oer/Curriki-Virtual-Learning-Resources and explore the FREE, awesome (fun!) videos, simulations, and more!

So I’m asking you to consider upping your pledge level per birdie, and to recruit others to join the cause. Not only has COVID-19 shortened the season, reducing the number of birdies I’ll be able to make, but the need for what Curriki is doing isn’t a “nice to have” anymore! It is a dire need that will be important for decades going forward given all the k12 schools and colleges moving to distance learning. And – Curriki doesn’t EVER charge teachers, parents, or students anything.

Ask your golfing buddies to visit Birdies for Education and make a pledge.

To bump up your pledge, go to “My Account” on Birdies for Education.

Thank you so much for your support of Birdies for Education, and please stay safe and healthy in this strange time.

All the best!
Maverick

Hello From PGA National in West Palm Beach!

The Honda Classic is one of the toughest tests of the year on the PGA Tour… it is most famous for holes 15-17, known as the Bear Trap (Jack Nicklaus is the course designer). As you can probably see by looking at these photos, it does not look like there is much room to hit it. Practically all you can see is water…

But to add on to the challenge, the greens were rock-hard, fast, and the wind blew strong every day. However, this style of play fit my game really well, and I worked hard to leave the ball in the correct spots to secure a par just about every hole.

This week I had a consistent pattern of playing my first few holes extremely well. I was under par early every day in a tournament where single-digits under par has won most years. I shot even par in my first round, which held up to t23rd place… and when I shot one-under par in the second round, I vaulted up to 15th place. I hit the ball nearly flawlessly in my first round, and the putter going going in the second for a brief period of time.

The third round, I again played very solidly and kept myself in position, but just couldn’t read the greens very well. They were a very fast, dormant Bermuda grass, and the gusting wind was making green reading very challenging. It felt like disaster was a possibility on every shot, with water and hazards everywhere tee to green, and treacherously fast greens. But I managed to hold it together for a one-over-par 71, and moved up to 14th place.

The final round again started off hot, 2 under par through four holes. However I kept missing fairways with my 3wood (two weeks later I would find out that its face had finally “caved” in after 6 years…), but managed with exceptional short game and a few lucky breaks to have 9 putts on the final 9 holes (even with a missed 6 footer for birdie on 18) and shot 1 under par.

One of my best pars of the week came on the 15th hole, with water right and wind gusting into off the right. I tried to hit a draw into the back left portion of the green, but the ball started dead left and went straight into the grandstands. It rattled off a railing, bumped into a fan, and stayed near her seat. After getting free relief to drop in the rough below the grandstand, I signed a glove and slipped in a $20 bill to get herself and her friends drinks- I hear it can help numb the bruising!! I chipped it to 20 feet and drained the par putt to keep the round going. 

This round moved me up to t11 for my second- best tournament as a professional!

And while the acres of water around the golf course are what stick out most in my mind as the toughest hazard, the local wildlife made it even more of a place to be avoided…

My caddy Travis and I hopped in the car after the round and drove to Orlando to prepare for the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill… and needless to say, I slept well after what felt like a major-championship test!

Looking forward to week two of the “Florida Swing”…
Maverick