Spring Swing, Part 2: Charlotte, Kiawah, Colonial

Hello again from the second leg of the Spring Swing!
We started in Charlotte at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. This was a heck of a golf course–long, challenging, and in pristine condition… despite the fact that they closed right after our tournament for over a year to renovate it in advance of the Presidents Cup two years out. If the crowds during this week were any indication, that is shaping up to be a wild week.

This was a bit of an unfortunate week as far as the “draw” was concerned. Each week, you either play early on Thursday and late on Friday, or late Thursday and early Friday. Usually the order does not matter too much, but this week the “early/late” draw was the 8th highest discrepancy in scoring (nearly 3 shots!), and I was on the wrong side of it. We had a cool and breezy Thursday morning, where I shot 72 and was in 73rd place. The wind died in the afternoon and the temperature warmed up nicely, and the following morning that same other half of the field enjoyed a calm morning before winds gusting near 40mph picked up in the afternoon. I remember driving the ball in the green side bunker on the 8th hole (after a 380yd drive downwind on the 7th) and watching the flagstick bend almost 90 degrees as a particularly strong gust came through. This was also the week where Bryson Dechambeau finished his round Friday morning and flew home thinking he missed the cut, only to realize that afternoon scores were so high that he made the cut on the number and had to fly back to play the weekend! Unfortunately I shot 74 and missed the cut by two shots, but felt I played much better than that result.
The trend of windy conditions continued the following week at Kiawah Island, the site of my first major championship as a professional. With the prevailing wind, the home stretch of 14-18 was one of the most difficult I had ever played. In the practice rounds, once you made the turn back into the wind, we faced:14: 2iron par315: Driver-2iron par416: Driver-3w-8iron par517: 2iron par 3 (even saw some guys hit 3w!!)18: Driver-2iron par 4.

The golf course was unlike any other I had played, and definitely had the teeth to be considered a formidable major championship test. I got off to a rough start on Thursday, finishing 127th. But Friday I actually put together one of my better rounds of the year. I felt the most in control of my golf ball in a round in recent memory, playing soft chippy shots into the wind and taking aggressive lines off the tees. Aside from one buried lie green side on the par 5 7th and one poor 3w into the water, it was one of the best rounds of golf of the season. I missed the cut by 2, but stayed back to practice the rest of the weekend and put in some good work. A highlight from the range was trading a stinger-driver lesson for a flop shot lesson from Alex Noren.
Then I traveled to Ft. Worth for the Charles Schwab Invitational, at one of my favorite golf courses on tour, Colonial CC. The tight tree-lined fairways and thick Bermuda rough put a premium on good driving, which was quickly developing into my strong suit this season.

I also had a meeting with my performance team to discuss what had been a strange start to 2021. I had two top 5s and 6 missed cuts in my first 10 events of 2021. The message they gave me was to stay in the saddle and keep doing what I’m doing. I was on the right track.
I had a slow start again on Thursday, shooting even par to place 41st. But on Friday morning, I was in the first group off with Doug Ghim and Talor Gooch. We all played very well, and played in just under 4 hours. Apparently the group behind us was on the clock on the second hole!! I got the putter going and shot 63, vaulting my way into a tie for 6th place.

That weekend was a lot of fun, especially being in the mix with fans back. I found myself in the top 3 making the turn to the back 9 on Sunday, but fell out of my rhythm in a slower group and made the mistake of rushing to try to help keep pace. I ended up finishing the tournament in 20th place, but found both a level of consistency that I had been missing to that point in the season. As my team told me, good things would happen if I just stayed in the saddle!

Best, Maverick

Maverick McNealy makes an incredible hole-in-one at John Deere

On Friday, July 9, 2021 on the 2nd day of the John Deere Classic, Maverick made a hole-in-1 on the 16th hole. This was his first hole-in-1 as a PGA pro. 

Spring Swing, Part 1: Hilton Head and NOLA

Hello from mid-season on the PGA Tour! A lot has happened since the Florida swing, so I thought to break it up into two chunks, the first being my two-week trip from Hilton Head Island to New Orleans.

Coming off a very productive three-week break, where I have never practiced harder, worked out more diligently (7am, 4 times a week at Greathouse PT!), eaten healthier, and felt better about my game, I was itching to get back to competition at Harbour Town. The course was very different from how we saw it last summer, as the grainy Bermuda grass was overseeded, firm and fast this time around.

I got off to a slowish start, mostly struggling with a cold putter en route to an even-par 71. The putter was stubborn until I adjusted my eyeline on the 6th hole of my Friday round (I was looking a fraction too far right), and made four great birdies in a row to close out my first 9. I carried this momentum with the putter into a pair of 67s on the weekend that vaulted me into 10th after the 3rd round, and finished in a tie for 4th after the final round.

I was extremely encouraged by my ball striking–it was the first time in a while that I had gained strokes tee-to-green, and that combined with a putter that finally woke up resulted in my second top-5 of the season! I’m also finding that golf courses that require accurate driving and penalize certain misses around the green suit my game (Pebble Beach, and Mayakoba to name a few others).

Maverick McNealy sticks wedge close and birdies at RBC Heritage

The following week was the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, an event I had been looking forward to all year for the team aspect. I was paired with my roommate from home in Vegas, Joseph Bramlett, and our third roommate Chris was planning to spend the weekend cheering on the rest of the apartment crew! 

The golf course was an interesting Pete Dye design (as was Harbour Town), and included both the smallest bunker I’ve ever seen and possibly the largest gator I’ve seen! Safe to say I gave that big guy a nice wide berth.

In the first round, which was best-ball (meaning we both play our own balls and take the best score of our two for the hole), Joseph and I struggled with offense, only making a few birdies. We didn’t “ham and egg” it very well, making the same score on just about every hole- not the optimal outcome for best ball. Neither of us played particularly poorly, but just didn’t hole a few important putts that day.

In the second round, which was alternate shot (a much more difficult format), we shot a very solid round of -2, but at the last minute the cut line moved to -6, meaning we missed playing the weekend by one shot. I was very proud of our efforts that day, even down to the last 70 footer for eagle that I just missed on the high side on the 18th hole. 

While we were gutted to not be playing the weekend, we certainly made the most of our few days as a (fully vaccinated!) apartment crew in New Orleans. As you already know, food tourism is one of my hobbies, and NOLA did not disappoint. Quite possibly the best meal of my life came from Tchefuncte’s, which was a 45 minute drive over the longest bridge over a continuous body of water (Lake Ponchartrain)… I don’t think I’ve ever left a meal more full than I was that night. Many thanks to Chef Michael Gottleib for an amazing experience. We went to Cafe du Monde to try their world-famous beignets, toured the National WWII museum, took a stroll down Bourbon Street, had dinner at Galatoire’s (as I said, the NOLA food did not disappoint!!), and made one more trip back to Tchefuncte’s for their Sunday brunch before heading to the airport. Usually I lose a few pounds each tournament, but I’m positive I went the other direction this week.

Joseph went on the following week to the Valspar in Tampa, and Chris and I flew home to Vegas for another week of working out, practicing, and prepping for the next few events!

More to come…

Best,
Maverick

Hello everyone!

I’m checking in from Las Vegas, taking three weeks off after playing seven out of nine weeks to start the year. It was definitely a whirlwind of ups and downs, and some of the lowest lows and highest highs I’ve encountered as a professional. If you had told me that I would have only one finish inside the top 45 and was going to miss four cuts, I would have anticipated a disastrous first quarter. However, if you had told me that I would be leaving Florida with nearly 500 FedEx Cup points, I would have thought it was wildly successful. Luckily for me, the PGA Tour rewards high finishes, and I did just that at the AT&T Pebble Beach.

The season started out very auspiciously, as on the Nicklaus Tournament course at PGA West, I began my first seven holes of the season 6 under par, including an eagle on the 5th hole with an 8i from 177yds. After that, I cooled substantially, and really struggled on the difficult Stadium course, finishing last of those who had made the cut. This was a first in my professional career as well!

The following week at Torrey Pines, I battled with another bout of a cold putter, and missed the cut there by a few shots as well.

After a week off in Las Vegas, I returned to Pebble Beach where I had my previous best ever finish on the PGA Tour, an exciting t5th after a great 68 in the wind on Sunday. I got off to a very solid start, and was hanging around the top 10 all week despite, again, a quiet week with the putter. However, after a very soft bogey on the opening hole on Sunday, I adopted a much more aggressive mindset. I didn’t take on undue risk, but played more aggressively to the spots I wanted to. This spring boarded me to birdie the second, sixth, and seventh holes. After making the turn, I was finally rewarded with the hot 9 holes of putting I was waiting for, making birdies on 11, 12, 13, and 15. And the two shots I hit on the 18th hole to lead to a near-eagle and 2putt birdie were two of the best I’ve hit under pressure in my life. While I fell two shots short of the win, the solo second-place finish and back-nine 31 vaulted me inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup for the first time ever.

However, I think the real reason my putter heated up was because I finally paid my caddy Travis the $20 I owed him. Back story, we always bet a few dollars here and there during practice rounds and pro-ams to keep me engaged. I owe him $3 for every bogey, and he owes me $2 for every birdie. Two in a row doubles, three triples,etc. And when either of us reaches $20 of debt, we have to pay the other. Long story short, I got fleeced in the practice round on Wednesday, and ended up owing Travis $21. The week got going quickly, and our bets were placed on the back burner for now.

But walking down the hill to the famous seventh green at Pebble on Sunday, I was lamenting how putts just didn’t seem to want to drop in for me. I thought I needed something to change my fortune. So on that two minute walk, I calculated how much I owed Travis from the practice round, and realized I owed him a fresh $20 bill ASAP. He put the bag down by the green, I reached into the bag and shoved a fresh $20 into his caddie bib. I proceeded to drill a 35 foot birdie putt into the back of the hole at firm speed, smiled, and told Travis that I was never going to play golf owing him money again.

In all seriousness, I was so excited to perform under pressure on Sunday the way I did, and learned so much about how to manage my own tendencies and use the adrenaline and excitement to my advantage coming down the stretch. In the following highlights link, you tell by the big smile on my face, I was having a blast.

Maverick McNealy’s Round 4 Highlights from AT&T Pebble Beach

The rest of the weeks were largely forgettable from a golf standpoint- I missed a 20 footer on the last hole in Los Angeles to miss the cut by one shot, finished 46th at Bay Hill, and missed the cut by a lot at both Players and Honda. I continued to struggle with the putter, and adding poor iron play to the mix did not help my cause. The bright spot was after a disastrous start on my first 8 holes at Honda, I played the remaining 28 holes in 3 under par (which would have placed me inside the top 20). One of the highlights of the Players Championship week was to see the new PGA Tour Headquarters building in Ponte Vedra–it was only a few hundred yards from the famous island green! It is one of the coolest office buildings I have ever seen, and a beautiful home for the FedEx Cup!

I am now in the middle of three weeks off before I head to Hilton Head and New Orleans for Zurich. I am spending a lot of time in the gym at Greathouse Physical Therapy, taking advantage of my off time to “prehab” different areas of my body and build strength and athleticism. I am also spending a lot of time on my favorite “putting carpet”, the ugly plaid rug that I have putted on since high school to work on alignment and roll, and have seen huge improvements in my putting stroke.

Looking forward, I am very excited to play Hilton Head (which will be different this year over seeded versus entirely Bermuda), and even more-so, playing the Zurich Classic with my partner and roommate Joseph Bramlett. For those that don’t know, the Zurich is a team event that combines alternate shot and best ball formats, and Team Mav and Bram is going to have a great week!

What we’ve been working on at Curriki:

Our main focuses remain building upon our existing product CurrikiStudio, and even more importantly raising awareness of and assisting with its integration into groups that can use it. Over 5,000 organizations are now using CurrikiStudio, headlined by our recently launched programs with the PGA Tour, LA Opera, Teach for America, social-emotional learning startup Vivensity, civics curriculum Civicate, and Arizona State University. There are also three states with which Curriki is also working on implementations, giving us the potential reach of over 1M students next year.

On the product side, CurrikiStudio has released new functionality to allow teams of educators to collaborate on building interactive playlists, which was the most requested feature since launch. We are also actively building new features like virtual whiteboards, video conferencing, and peer-to-peer chat.

Due to Curriki’s growth and unique approach to education innovation, Larry Ellison donated $5M to continue to expand our mission and impact on learning. Thank you all for your generous contributions to Birdies for Education – it is commitment from this community that is vital to the ongoing efforts of Curriki’s mission.

It is so fun for me to know that $266 is being pledged every birdie I make, and I can’t wait to make some more.

Please continue to pass the BirdiesForEducation site along to your family, friends, and anyone else interested in golf and education– just $1 per birdie means the world to us, and is a fun way to follow along with our PGA Tour season!

Thanks again, Maverick