Rookie diary: Enjoying the scenery in New Orleans
PGA Tour rookie Nate Smith blogs exclusively for Golfweek.com. Here is his latest installment:
This week the PGA Tour is in New Orleans for the Zurich Classic. New Orleans is probably best known for Mardi Gras, its rich Jazz culture and some seriously unbelievable food! I love to eat and I love good music so this is shaping up to be a fun week. One of the things that make the Zurich Classic special is the hospitality extended by the city of New Orleans. Everyone is familiar with the hardship that the city went through following Hurricane Katrina but they have rebounded and you won’t find a nicer bunch of people.
The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is in town this week, too, so I am going to try to check out some of the events there. First up on my list is Mumford and Sons Friday afternoon so hopefully I can make it over there after my morning tee time.
There are so many great restaurants here that I am not sure if I am going to blow up like a blimp after this week but I am going to do my best to systematically work my way through like I’m doing a special for the Food Network. Acme Oyster House, Dragos, the Bon Ton Café, Lafitte’s , Emeril’s and Morton’s Steakhouse are just a few of the gems. I am a sucker for the crawfish etoufee but I love it all.
Golf will be paramount and I really like the way this golf course sets up. I play at a Pete Dye course in Florida, and see a lot of similarities here at TPC Louisiana. The greens are small with run-offs on the sides and contain a lot of subtle breaks that are not necessarily consistent throughout the entire green. I like to use the analogy of someone putting a tissue on a table and plucking it up in certain areas so that there are twists and turns throughout the whole thing.
We are through a good portion of the year and so far it has been a bit frustrating for me. With my number in the re-shuffle, I have been on the outside looking in for a few tournaments and you can’t make any money when you aren’t playing! I am in a better position than some players, but at the same time it is a challenge to gain any momentum when you aren’t sure when you will be able to play and the option of playing more than one week in a row is somewhat scarce. I am currently 156/156 for next week’s Wells Fargo Championship, but I have no idea if I will actually get into the event. Players have until Friday to commit or de-commit and then my final position will be finalized Monday morning depending on how many players (not already eligible) gain entry via a top-10 finish in New Orleans. If I don’t get into Charlotte, I will go play the Nationwide event in Athens, Ga. Fingers crossed.
There is a lot of pressure to play well as a rookie, and when things aren’t going your way it is difficult to stay confident. Any good player wants to believe his best play is right around the corner, but when it hasn’t happened it is easy to get frustrated. When you believe you are capable of playing much better than you have the temptation is to start pushing and to get down on yourself but in actuality that is when you need to be most patient. The nice thing is that it just takes one good week to change things. I remember last year on the Nationwide Tour I didn’t play very well at the beginning of the year, and then hit a hot streak so I am hoping that the same form holds true this year. I have been practicing hard and doing all of the right things to prepare, so when it comes to on-course performance, I can only hope for the best.
I have been enjoying watching the success of the young players on Tour and it really comes as no surprise to me. Playing the Nationwide Tour last year, I knew that our graduating class was filled with some really talented guys who would be a large part of the PGA Tour for years to come. There is a young, talented crop of players who are starting to make their presence felt and it’s fun to watch. Congrats to Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland and Brendan Steele for wining this year. Chris Kirk, Keegan Bradley and Zach Miller have played great all year long, too, and even though they haven’t won yet, have acquitted themselves very well.
This is an exciting time of the year for sports fans as we enter the NBA and NHL playoffs. I am a Golden State Warriors fan so I personally don’t have a team playing but I still enjoy watching all of the drama unfold. I have decided to root for the Bulls since they have a lot of Duke players and Derrick Rose is really fun to watch. I also hate the Lakers so I am fitting right in here in New Orleans right now. As far as the NHL, I root for the San Jose Sharks and they will be battling the Detroit Red Wings again for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. The Red Wings have usually gotten the best of San Jose in the playoffs, so go Sharkies!
I am off to go get a little Wednesday practice in, so y’all take care and follow me on Twitter at NateSmithPGA.