20140611_190427Eagle Crest Par 72 71.7/133 6,537 Yards

Score: 80 (+8) FW: 8/14 GIR: 12/18 Putts: 37 Up/Down: 0/3 Sand Saves: 1/2 Penalties: 2

Played a round on Wednesday over at Eagle Crest with a couple friends, I didn’t really get to practice as much as I would like since my round last week, so I was still a little rusty playing a very difficult course.  I started off the round solid with pars on the first 3 holes, but then played a really bad stretch of golf.  The course is already challenging, but I didn’t help myself any by hitting a couple drives into hazards, lipped out 3 different putts, threw a couple 3-putts into the mix and I found myself admits a 8 holes stretch of (+9) golf.  YUK!  I haven’t strung together that many consecutive holes of bogey golf in a while, just nothing seemed to go right, hit a ton of solid putts, but all they wanted to do was lip out or stop 1 rotation short.  I didn’t hit it well off the tee on those holes, but it was more my inability of my short game that racked up the score.  I hit a total of 12 of 18 greens in regulation, but had 37 total putts!  I’m just not taking advantage of my opportunities and can’t seem to make any birdie putts.  However, like I’ve been telling you guys, I’ve been working hard on my mental game, staying positive and “going with the flow” if you will.  Enjoying the fact that I get to even play golf and really enjoy the challenges of getting up and down if I miss a green or trying to salvage a good score after a poor tee shot.  It’s that change of perspective that has helped me maintain such a calm persona on the course.  Even the best pros in the world have some bad stretches of holes, but they don’t let it define their overall game…they know that they have the ability to turn it 180 degrees at any moment and go on a birdie barrage.  I didn’t go on any birdie barrages, but I did play the final 7 holes in (-1) with 6 pars and a birdie.  Even through that terrible stretch, I knew it was just a matter of time before I turned it around and started playing up to my ability, I kept focused on my routine and just accepted the outcomes of each shot.

Been really busy with work since Wednesday, so I haven’t been able to practice much during the past few days, but this next week should be better.  I need to start getting back into my practice routine again, the couple week layoff and this past week have gotten me out of my routine, not only with golf, but with updating the blog as well.  Hoping to be able to play tomorrow, but it is supposed to be a cool 105 degrees…the heat I can deal with as I’m used to playing golf in Palm springs type weather of 110+, but the humidity is what is hard.  Anyway, I’ll update you guys soon as I get back into the grind starting tomorrow.

 

 

news-golf_tournament_bannerGot back into the swing of things this week with a range practice session on Tuesday night and then a round with some friends on Wednesday at the Vineyard.  Didn’t touch a club since last Wednesday, so I came back feeling fresh, but with an understanding that I’d be a little rusty so I had low expectation.  I shouldn’t keep doubting myself as I hit the ball well at the range on Tuesday and actually felt really confident in my ball striking heading into the round the following day.  I was most concerned about how the couple week layoff would affect my short game, chipping in particular, as that depends mostly on feel and takes constant practice to keep it sharp. 

The round yesterday went great and I shot a solid round of 74(+4).  I made a couple of really bad course management mistakes that cost me in what coulda, woulda, shoulda been my 3rd under par round! I made 2 double bogeys on the day, both on short par 3’s and both because I tried to play a cut into flags that really didn’t even call for it.  My go to natural shot is a slight draw, but I’ve also been working hard on developing a cut, to give me options, which I can use to take out the right side when needed.  I can hit it well a lot of the time, but it’s not as consistent as my normal shots yet.  Anyway, both of the par 3’s have hazards in front of the greens and I tried to hit cut shots into both and hit them both heavy and they came up short in the hazards.  I ended up taking double bogey 5’s on both the par 3’s.  So some bad course management on my part, followed by poor execution and if I had just parred those 2 holes I shoot even on the day…bogeyed the par 5 9th also after being only 65 yards out for my 3rd shot.  It’s these little mistakes that I need to work on eliminating. 

I’m proud of the way that I bounced back though mentally after my two mistakes on the par 3’s, I had a birdie the next hole after the first par 3 double and then on the back after the second, I rattled off 6 straight pars to end the round.  I feel like I’ve made some great strides in the mental aspect of my game, I’ve been able to move on quickly from disappointing shots and stay focus on the next shot at hand.  I lost track of my score again during the round and didn’t know my final score till after the final putt on 18, which is something I love doing.  It’s not always the easiest thing to achieve, but I’ve been able to do it a lot in recent rounds, it really keeps you focused when you get in that zone.  My chipping and putting surprisingly were solid despite the couple week break, zero 3 putts and had a lot of close chips, even chipped in for birdie on the 5th hole.  Will most likely have to wait till next Monday to play again, but in the next few days I’ll be practicing short and long game.

Total stats for the round were as follows:

The Vineyard Escondido Par 70 71.0/126 6,531 Yards

Score: 74 (+4) FW: 9/14 GIR: 12/18 Putts: 32 Up/Down: 2/6 Sand Save: 0/0 Penalties: 1

Just a quick update for you guys…I haven’t been playing much golf in these past two weeks following my tournament win.  I felt it necessary to take a week or two off after I got home from Palm Springs because I’ve been so intensely focused on playing well in the tournament for many months now that I felt I needed to take some time to just enjoy the win.  I also needed to clear my mind and reset before going full speed again with playing and practice.  Also, they haven’t posted many of the pictures from the tournament still, only ones I can find are from day 1 at the Norman course and the final day banquet. So the couple pictures you see are of our day 1 group at the Norman course and the one of me being announced as champion.

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I haven’t completely left golf alone over these past 2 week(I’m too obsessed for that), I have been to the range a couple times and did play once this past Tuesday.  I actually played real solid, played at the Vineyard with a couple friends and shot a 74(+4).  My putting, as usual is what cost me, definitely a little rusty after not putting for a week and a half…I had three 3 putts and missed a birdie putt inside of 3ft…so that’s is 4 strokes right there that I gave away.  My tee to green game was fantastic and I’m excited that I can take a week or 2 off and still have my ball striking remain solid.  For the round I hit 10/14 FW’s and 15/18 greens, but had 37 freaking putts!!  Anyway, like I said, I’m not focused on anything these past 2 weeks, still a solid score and I know what I need to work on heading back into full time practice and playing mode here again next week.

I have the idea of playing in some Golf Channel Am Tour events here in San Diego starting next year, so over the next few months I’ll be working hard to improve with that goal of playing well in those events in mind.  Have any of you guys ever played in a Golf Channel Am tour even before?? I’m curious to know what your experiences were with them, please let me know in the comments!

Got home from the annual Palm Springs tournament on Sunday night and I am so happy to report to you all that I have won the tournament for the 2nd consecutive year!  Back to back championships now and I’m so thrilled!  Unfortunately, I didn’t shoot that under par round that I was hoping for and I did make some uncharacteristic mistakes (I’ll get into that later), but overall, I played some real solid golf and in the end I accomplished the main goal of winning the tournament. 

For those of you who didn’t follow me or read my posts from last year’s Palm Springs tournament, it is a 3 day event where we play courses at both PGA West and La Quinta.  This year we had a field of about 90 golfers and although most of the field was just hacking it around, there are some really solid players that play in this event.  On the final round, the top 4 leading golfers in the tournament all play together and this year’s final group found me playing against some extremely good players.  It consisted of one who played at a division 1 college team, another who qualified for the Buick Invitational PGA Tour Event here in San Diego at Torrey Pines a few years ago (it’s now called the Farmers Insurance Open) and another a scratch golfer, who plays in many USGA events and was leading me by 3 strokes…not to mention it was about 110 degrees every single day.  This was now my 4th year attending this annual tournament in the desert and I had won it the year before so I also had that little added pressure of being defending champ!    

Day 1 – PGA West – Greg Norman Course

7340_10202274327331556_5856104486717021029_nThe first day we played at the Greg Norman, a course I had never played at before and it was extremely challenging.  I’ve never played a true “desert” course like that before…it was basically only fairways and desert.  Not much rough at all, but the fairways were narrow and you had to be deadly accurate both off the tee and on your 2nd shots or you were playing from the rock hard desert or losing your ball in the shrubs.  Playing any course for the first time is always difficult, obviously why pros play practice rounds, but I played some solid golf.  I ended up shooting a 78 (+6) with only 1 birdie, but was still only 2 shots off the lead after day 1.  My ball striking was really solid, but I was disappointed in my score, I just could not figure out the Bermuda greens and putted terrible.  My lag putting was horrid!  Left countless putts 3-4 ft short, but was making most of the 2nd putts, but I did end up 3-putting twice.  I’ve never played on Bermuda greens before and it’s something totally different than what I’m used to…so slow!!  I also bogeyed two par 5’s, something I almost never do, both as a result of tee shots that found the hazards.  So that is 4 shots right there that I should have the skills to avoid, so I left a possible low score on the course, but was still right there at the top of the leader board in 3rd place.

Day 2 – PGA West – Jack Nicklaus Tournament Coursenicklaus1a

I’ve played this course each of the previous 3 years, so I have some course knowledge built up by now.  I absolutely love this course; it’s challenging yet fun, beautiful and well maintained.  This only problem this year was that the greens had been aerated, must have been a few weeks prior, they weren’t sandy, but the punched holes still slightly remained, certainly enough to affect putts.  Nonetheless, I was most confident to play this course of all the 3 because I like the layout, my scores have improved every year here and I looked forward to trying to go low on a real difficult course.  My ball striking remained solid, but I just could not take advantage of ANYTHING all day and didn’t have a single birdie, yet was still able to shoot only a 75(+3).  15 pars and 3 bogeys, one of the bogies was another 3 putt and I again bogeyed two par 5’s!! What?!? I seriously never bogey par 5’s and I had now done it 4 times in 2 rounds, was frustrating beyond belief.  With my length, I expect to be making birdie on a lot of them and certainly never making worse than par.  As I had talked about in my previous post before I left, my wedge game from 100 yards and in was my main concern and it came into play big time during this round.  I had 5 shots from the range of 90-70 yards during the round and I only hit the green once!!  That is really really bad and I was left having to scramble for par (which I did successfully) rather than having a solid look at birdie and a par almost guaranteed with an easy 2 putt.  If I want to shoot under par, I must improve that part of my game, I’ll be sure to dedicate a lot more time to that area going forward.  The low round of the day was a 73(+1) from a guy who shot 77 the first day.  The person who was leading after a first round 76 ended up dropping back quite a bit and I jumped into 2nd place heading into the final round trailing by 3 strokes.  

**Here is a video of my tee shot on the par 3 17th hole.  You can’t really see the ball flight from the video, but I hit a 9iron that I tried to draw back to the flag…it finished about 15 ft pin high left.  2 putt par.**

Day 3 Final Round – La Quinta Dunes Course

This was a big day for me, all the work I’ve been doing on my mental game was going to come into play today.  I’ve never been in a tournament final round pairing before, last year I played in a pre set up group, so this year I had some nerves cooking.  I’ve never been in that type of situation before and I knew it was going to be great experience for later on when I play in bigger tournaments going forward, like Golf Channel Am Tour Events.  I studied my yardage book the night before, devised a game plan and visualized playing the course in my mind.  I even visualized them calling my name as champion at the banquet because I believe in the theory that if the mind can see it and truly believe it, then you can achieve it!  I went in with the mindset of keeping my emotions in check and trying to just focus on playing one single shot at a time.  I wanted to get lost in the game and try to go unconscious…I wanted to be in the “zone.”  I knew which player it was that I was 3 shots behind and I knew at some point if I looked like I was gaining ground or in the lead that I would be watching his shots thinking “ok, now I must make this putt to stay 1 down or 1 up” so I tried to make sure I didn’t fall into that trap.  In a sense I didn’t want to score board watch, I wanted to come down to the 18th hole not knowing if I was leading or not.  I just wanted to stick to my game plan I set up the night before and play my game, that’s all I can do and in the end if it’s not enough to be the winner so be it. 

I’m so proud of myself, I honestly kept focused on one shot at a time, when my mind did wander a few times, I recognized it and snapped back out of it immediately.  I let go of any bad shots, maintained a positive attitude and neutral emotions and got into that elusive “zone” that golfers strive for.  I honestly had no idea of my individual score I was so much in the zone, let alone where I was in relation to the lead. I could sense that I was probably in the lead, but wasn’t sure by how much if at all.  They set it up so that our 18th hole was the 17th hole(pictured below)laquinta which is the #1 handicapped hole and I have heard the 1st or 2nd hardest hole in all of California!  It is a long dog leg left holes with water all down the left side, extremely intimidating, but I didn’t think twice and stuck to my game plan of hitting a 4 iron off the tee.  I hit it right down the middle of the fairway, where as the person I was battling the lead with took driver and hit it through the fairway into a bunker.  He had an almost impossible 2nd shot and hit it into the water.  He later told me that he was thinking in his head as he saw me pull 4 iron “wow he’s going conservative and playing it smart”  He talked himself out of doing the same, it was nice of him to tell me how impressed he was with my mental attitude, my game and how I went about playing the course.  I ended up winning by 4 strokes after being down 3 strokes going into the final round and accomplished my goal of back to back championships!!  Now my mind is already set on that 3-peat next year and shooting an under par round.  I want that under par round at that tourney, it didn’t happen this year, but I will have it!

I know this is a really long post, thanks for sticking around and taking the time to read it, thanks for all your support guys!  You are all helping me make my dreams become reality one day at a time and I hope that I can help you all go after and accomplish your dreams as well…we are in this together, you all motivate me to be better and live a life which I have imagined.  Thank you, hope you enjoyed this tournament recap!  They haven’t posted any pictures from the tournament yet, so I’ll post a few when they get released.

Alright well I’m leaving tomorrow for the 3 day tournament in Palm Springs and I’m both excited and little nervous.  I’m more excited than nervous really, but there is a part of me that has added some unneeded pressure on my performance this year because of the unexpected success I experienced last year.  I want to go into this years tournament just like last year with no expectations of results, just purely with the mindset of sticking to my routine and focusing on trying to execute one shot at a time…if i can do that, the score will take care of itself.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my goals for this tournament (shoot an under par round), but I know it’s going to be extremely difficult and that the only way I’m going to actually accomplish that is if I stick to my routine and stay positive.  Can’t get too up or too down and I must tag the same amount of low importance on every shot, from the first tee shot to the last putt and everything in between. A lot can happen in 54 holes…I know I have the ability to shoot under par now, I know that it’s possible, so lets have a positive mind set and give it my best shot!

I’m planning on taking some videos of my swing during the tournament and some pictures of the overall event that’ll be able to share when I get back.  That is if the camera on my phone doesn’t bug out on me again like it has been for the past week or so.  It’s been freezing up lately, but I got it working last night and had a friend record my last swing at the range.  I haven’t shown you guys the progress of my swing in many months, so I thought I’d show you guys a quick down the line video of my driver.  I’m really happy that I have figured out my driver in advance of the tournament, finally found a set up that is allowing me consistent solid strikes and the ball is jumping off the face with accuracy.  Any feedback on the swing would be nice, I haven’t looked at my swing on video in awhile, It looks like I get pretty steep, but I’ve always done that naturally and right now I’m sticking with it because I’ve learned how to hit the ball well with it…I guess it doesn’t matter if the ball goes straight.

PGA-West-Nicklaus-Tournament-e1300984704835I’m a far better player than I was this time last year heading into the Palm Springs tournament.  My goal last year was just to break 80 all 3 days (which I accomplished), but this year my goal has been to shoot an under par round on at least one of the 3 days.  It is going to be an incredibly difficult task, but since I’ve been able to shoot under par a few times now recently, I know truly that it’s possible and I have the ability to do it. My game seems to be peaking at exactly the perfect time…I’ve never been so confident in my short game as I am right now, especially in my putting and the results are starting to show.  I had 11 1-putts yesterday and 7 birdies in route to a (-4) 56 at the Oaks North executive course.  The changes I made in my putting last week have turned my game around 180 degrees, the ball rolling off the face perfectly, tracking and staying on line so nicely and mentally I’ve never been so confident.  My ball striking is exponentially better right now than this time last year and I have added a cut shot into my arsenal that I can hit consistently.  I’m also hitting my driver consistently well again and with my improved accuracy with my 3 and 5 woods, I’m keeping the ball in or right near the fairway on every tee shot.  The one area I would say I haven’t improved as much as I would like is my wedge game.  I’m still not consistently putting the ball on the green or close to the flag from about 120 yards and in.  That’s the one thing that scares me right now heading into this tournament as something that will stop me from shooting under par…I have to take advantage of good drives and at least give myself a realistic opportunity for birdie.  My distance control hasn’t been consistent and my miss seems to be a block.  These courses at PGA West are very difficult (same courses they play at PGA Tour Q-School) so when you get a chance with a wedge in your hand to put it close you must take advantage to score low.  That is something I’ll be working on this next week both on the course and at the range and hopefully I’ll be more confident in it heading into next weekend.

Here are my scores for this past week:

8/4/14

The Vineyard Escondido Par 70 71.0/126 6,531 Yards

Score: 72 (+2) FW: 7/14 GIR: 12/18 Putts: 31 Up/Down: 4/5 Sand Save: 1/1 Penalties: 1

8/6/14

The Vineyard Escondido Par 70 71.0/126 6,531 Yards

Score: 74 (+4) FW: 11/14 GIR: 11/18 Putts: 32 Up/Down: 5/8 Sand Save: 0/1 Penalties: 0

8/7/14

Oaks North Executive Par 60 South/North 56.8/89 3,608 Yards

Score: 56(-4) FW: 3/6 GIR: 11/18 Putts: 25 Up/Down: 4/7 Sand Saves: 1/1 Penalties: 0

10550821_10101246679486357_1570307122834162756_nWow!!  Almost had my first hole in one this past week! A 149yard 9iron, just hit a perfectly flush high shot right at the flag just about a half inch to the right!  You can see how close the pitch mark is from almost flying it in the hole.  I’ve had a lot of near misses over this past year, but the golfing Gods continue to deny me!  If I keep firing these darts at the flag sticks, one day, luck willing I’ll get one to fall.

Overall, I actually had a kind of a disappointing week in terms of scores.  Hit a few drives that found the out of bounds and a couple 3 putts sprinkled in here and there during the rounds.  I’ve actually made a big turnaround in my putting since Wednesdays round however.  I’m really excited as I’ve been reading Dave Stockton’s book on putting called “Unconscious Putting” and I have had a lot of success on the practice greens since.  I’m making a TON of putts right now, anywhere from 3-15 feet and even a few longer bombs.  I played an up and down game last night at the driving range:  I threw 3 balls toward a hole on the other side of the green and then when I got up there I pulled back the balls a full club length and tried to make the putts as if they were for par.  I did this 5 times with 3 balls, so 15 total attempts and all of them I pulled back anywhere from 3-15 ft…I only missed 2 putts!!  That’s just insane and I did that on Thursday and Wednesday after my round as well, it’s like a complete 180 turn around in my putting.  Stockton talks about just picking a spot about an inch in front of the ball and just trying to roll your putt over that spot.  Obviously there is some other stuff involved too, but this has helped me keep my putts online and they are all tracking at the hole now.  I’m really excited to see how it translates to scores this next week, I know that if I get confidence in my putting I have the ability to shoot some low scores.  I’m going to need great putting in the Palm Springs tournament coming up here in 2 weeks if I want to shoot an under par round there and defend my title.  I’m confident in what I’m doing with the putter now and confidence in putting is half the battle…I’ve been close to zero confidence for so long that it’s a huge turn around for me, let’s hope I can turn it into scores! We have some thunderstorms here right now for the next few days, so I won’t be able to play or practice unfortunately till Monday.