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Postcards from Parker - August 28, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008

Aloha from Boston!

We're here for the second event of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Last week was OK, but I felt a little rusty and missed the cut at The Barclays. The week before, I'd been home for the first time in a while, which was nice. But coming back to the course after a week off, I ended up being rusty during the first day of play on Thursday. I just wasn't as "tournament sharp" as I would have liked.

Overall, I think I made steps in the right direction. I definitely feel like this week is going to be much better all around with one week of playoffs under my belt.

Since I missed the cut at The Barclays, Kristy and I drove about 45 minutes into New York City. We saw Jersey Boys on Broadway, and got to walk around Little Italy and Greenwich Village. That was very relaxing and we had a great time.

But because I missed the cut, I dropped from 54th to 80th in the FedEx Cup point standings. That means that I need to make the cut this week to be in next week's top-70.

That's the thing about this year's playoffs. The playoffs last year were a big success, but the PGA Tour knew they needed to change the points structure. So with this year's structure it's easier to move up the points list. It can mean good things and can allow somebody that you've never heard of to have a chance at winning the $10 million. The down side of that is a great player like Padraig Harrington, a player who has won two majors this season, might not qualify for the Tour Championship if he misses a few cuts during the playoffs. That would be a huge disappointment.

Now that we're in Boston, I'm really excited about the week. On Saturday, Kristy and I are going to go to Fenway Park to see our first Boston Red Sox game. That's always been on my list of things to do. We might also have a chance to explore downtown Boston.

Since we arrived here at the beginning of the week, I've had a chance to play a couple practice rounds. The unique thing about the Deutsche Bank Championship is that it begins on Friday and finishes up on Monday, which is Labor Day. So that gives all of us some extra time to practice on the course.

Tomorrow, I'm paired with a close friend of mine, Bill Haas. It's always a nice bonus to be paired with someone you really enjoy playing with, and makes for a very special week. So I'm looking forward to a great week on tour and look forward to talking to you all next week.




Postcards from Parker - August 14, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Aloha from Phoenix,

I'm back in Arizona after seven weeks on the PGA Tour. It was supposed to be five weeks, and then I made the decision to go to Reno. After the win at Reno, that meant another week at the PGA Championship, my second major ever and my first PGA Championship.

When I arrived at the PGA Championship I was still coming off the emotional high of winning my first PGA Tour event. It started to hit me when other winners on the PGA Tour - guys who have won multiple events over the years - came up to me and told me and congratulated me. It's as if I was joining the "Double Wink Club." The guys out there on Tour were telling me how proud they were of me, and it's as if I am now a member of an elite fraternity. I played a practice round with Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger and he really opened up my eyes. He told me that if I really think about it, with the tens of thousands of players who have competed on the PGA Tour, I had now joined an elite club of incredibly few who can actually say that they won a PGA Tour event. It's just so exciting to be a winner on the PGA Tour.

Well, the PGA Championship was certainly a challenge. My energy was low and it was very tough to get momentum. It's hard to believe that I played pretty well and didn't make a single birdie over 36 holes. That shows how difficult the course was, especially since I had come from Reno, which was a tournament where I had made so many birdies.

Now, with the win, I have completely revamped my goals. The one negative of winning in Reno is that it did not give me a spot in the Masters. But I actually look at that as a positive. Now, my goal is to get into the Masters, and I need to finish in the top 30 to do that. With the Fed Ex Cup coming, and with the fact that I'm still just 20 or so places outside of the top 30, I have a real, attainable goal.

I know that I have said this before, but I want to thank you all again for supporting me. Every one of you in Hawai'i has been nothing short of incredible. You are incredibly supportive, and I feel your support when I'm out there on the PGA Tour. Most importantly, I want you all to know how much I enjoy representing the entire state of Hawai'i when I am on the golf course. Your support enabled me to become a winner on the PGA Tour, and I hope to continue to make you all proud. I'll see you in the Fed Ex Cup playoffs!




Postcards from Parker - August 7, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008

Aloha from the PGA Championship in Detroit!

Here is a postcard I have been waiting to write for the last year-and-a-half. It's funny to look back on last week because I almost didn't play in Reno. As I mentioned in last week's postcard, I made the last-minute decision to head there.

One of the reasons it was hard to leave for Reno was that I had just traveled back to Scottsdale with Kristy. The great people at JN Audi had provided me with a brand new Audi A7 and I was having so much fun driving it last Tuesday. But at the same time, I had been playing well and creating shots, so I just knew I had to keep the good vibes going. Lo and behold, I went out in Reno and shot rounds of 68 and 62.

Truthfully, shooting 62 isn't that much different than shooting a 67 or 68. You just seem to have a few more little things go your way, I hit some perfect yardages right into the pins and hit some great drives with my 9-iron. The numbers all seemed to work out right and I left myself with some pretty easy putts to birdie. Mainly, the ball just bounced closer to the hole than usual. It was the little things - nothing crazy, but just a good day. It was truly one of the smoothest and easiest rounds of golf I've played in my life. To do it on a tournament day really made me feel like all of my hard work had paid off.

Friday, my parents came into town. Since they got there that night, they didn't get to see my 62, but it was great for them to be there, period. We had a nice quiet dinner and really had a good time.

Then the weekend came around and I had my first-ever 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour. I woke up Saturday really nervous and felt out of place having the lead. I reminded myself of why I came to Reno in the first place, and that was to have fun! After calming myself and relaxing, I created some great golf shots.

It helped that I was playing with a great group of young guys in John Merrick, who I played college golf with, and Nick Flanagan, a laid-back Australian. That made me feel a lot more comfortable.

The first three holes I was very nervous but I made a great swing with a 5-iron on Hole 4, a par 5, for a 220 yards to within six feet of the hole. I missed the eagle putt, but my great swing on that hole gave me my confidence back.

The next hole was a 300-plus yard par 4. I hit my drive four yards from the hole and stretched my lead to six shots. After that, I never looked back.

Those two holes really calmed me down. I had a nice rhythm the rest of the day and played some really great golf Saturday. I shot the best score in the afternoon wave by a couple of shots. To come back and shoot 66 on Saturday following two solid rounds made me really proud. It also felt great to hear that my 54-hole score of 20-under par was a course record.

After I finished playing Saturday I was in such an incredible mind frame. In fact, I was so focused that I walked right off the course and by my parents without even noticing them here. I truly felt like I could play another solid 18 holes that very night. That spoke volumes about how good of a place I was in mentally after that round.

Instead of going out to dinner with my family Saturday night, I knew I needed to keep my focus. I knew I had a big lead but I've had big leads before and let them go. So to remain mentally tough and focused, I stayed in. I knew I had to keep that momentum going for another 24 hours.

It's amazing how much your body chemistry and nerves can change in just 12 hours, because when I woke up Sunday morning, it was a completely different story...

But before I tell you about Sunday, I want to explain the conversation I had with my wife, Kristy. Because I hadn't originally planned on playing in Reno, Kristy was back in Scottsdale. I talked to her Saturday night and we discussed the idea of her coming up to Reno so she could be there for what would hopefully be my first career PGA Tour win. Of course, you want the love of your life to be there and share that experience with you, each time I pictured myself walking off that 18th green and hugging her, I got very, very emotional.

It was incredibly hard to ask her to stay home, but I knew that if I saw her watching from the gallery, I would get choked up. So I told her it might be better if she stayed in Scottsdale. She was so great and understanding about it. She said she wanted me to stay in the zone and not mess with my momentum.

So I went to bed on Saturday night and never really slept. I tossed and turned all night, and my mind continued to wander. It was really tough to calm down, and I didn't get much sleep. When I woke up Sunday I felt really low on energy.

I got to the course and tried to go through my normal routine. I listened to some music, ate only about a half of a bowl of cereal and tried to get fired up. There was a heavy wind, as well as tough greens and pin locations. Sunday was tough before I ever teed up. I knew that day was not going to be a walk in the park.

I teed off and tried to tell myself that if I could just hit that first shot on the fairway, I would be in good shape metal. Sure enough, I had a great swing and landed my shot in the fairway. It was one of my best swings all day.

The first nine holes were a challenge. It was windy and I didn't have my legs under me to support my swing. I had to rely on my short game for eight out of my first nine holes, where I only hit one green. My short game was great and I was making putts - 4-to-10-foot putts for par - like nobody's business!

Things started getting tense on the back nine. I bogeyed 10, then Brian Davis holed out a greenside bunker shot on 11 for birdie to cut the lead to four shots.

Then on hole 12, a par 3, I had a poor iron shot and had to set things up out of the trees. But I ended up making a 15-foot putt for par, and the outcome of the tournament was decided in the next three holes.

On 13, Brian had an eight-footer for birdie and I had an 8-footer for par. He missed the birdie putt and I made mine, and that helped carry my momentum. I two-putted from 15 and Brian ended up with a double bogey. At that point I knew the tournament was over and I just needed to stay focused for a few more holes. But I knew I could do it.

After a couple sloppy holes on 16 and 17, I came into 18 determined to finish on a high note. I had a well-struck shot off the tee to the green. It was one of the best feelings I could ever have, walking to the green to a standing ovation. And I finished with a bang by focusing hard and making another 15-foot putt (for birdie). I have a fist pump, a yell, and it was done. I had finally done it.

The feeling of winning my first PGA Tour tournament was of pure excitement and an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. Everything I had worked for since I was 12 years old had finally come to fruition. I was just overjoyed and emotional. Part of me wanted to scream, and the other part just wanted to break down and cry. As a professional athlete, you work so hard and put in so much effort that lots of deep down emotions come out when you finally succeed.

To have my family there with me to celebrate was amazing. Seeing my dad in tears and giving him a big bear hug as pretty emotional. I am so glad my parents were able to share in that experience with me.

People out there might be asking, "What does this mean for your career? How does this win change things?"

First of all, this victory secures a two-year exemption for me on the PGA Tour through 2010 (no Q-school for a while...hooray!). Also, it gets me into the field at the Mercedes-Benz Championship next January on Maui. Unfortunately, because this event was played opposite the World Golf Classic, it doesn't get me into the Masters next season. But the points I earned from the win move me up to 47th in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings. If I finish the season in the top-30, I'll gain entry to the Masters. The win also granted me a spot in this week's PGA Championship.

When I finished the tournament in Reno, I didn't think I'd want to play in the PGA Championship because I was so exhausted from being on the road for five straight weeks. But after thinking long and hard about it, I knew I had to test my game in a major against some of the best players in golf in one of golf's premier settings. Now that I'm here in Michigan, I couldn't be happier about my decision.

I am really excited about playing in the PGA Championship this week. Yesterday I played a practice round with Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger. It was an absolute blast and I was able to talk about the upcoming Ryder Cup.

Although it was an individual victory on paper, I couldn't have won the Legends Reno-Tahoe Open without the team of people who have stood behind me for so long. From my first teacher, Greg Nichols at Ko Olina, to Scott Head and the entire team at Waikoloa, my home away from home. I owe a huge thank you to Don Greene, my sports psychologist and to my parents, who have always provided me with everything I've needed to excel and achieve my accomplishments in the game of golf. Of course, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my incredibly supportive wife Kristy who has been by my side both in person and in spirit for all of the ups and downs during my career. And I want to thank you, the people of Hawaii who have followed my career and have always believed in me on my journey to becoming a PGA Tour winner. Thank you for your kind words and the Aloha you have shown me through the years.



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