Every winter between Christmas and New Year's, I jot down my goals for the upcoming Tour season. For this year my list included earning $1 million, winning a tournament and having at least seven top 10 finishes. Making the Ryder Cup for the first time wasn't a consideration because accomplishing that seemed as improbable as earning enough to buy a Caribbean island. That changed when I won two consecutive starts—the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Genuity Championship—and vaulted from 52nd to eighth in the Ryder Cup standings. Overnight I had morphed from an unknown who could only dream about representing the U.S. in the Ryder Cup to a celebrity holding one of the team's 10 automatic berths. I thought, O.K., what do I do now?
What I did was make the Ryder Cup my primary focus. It would be hard for it not to be. Friends ask me about it hourly. Even my wife, Tracey, lovingly yet constantly reminds me that she wants me to make the team so that she can meet President Bush. I get goose bumps just thinking about being at the Belfry—watching the flags go up at the opening ceremony, wearing red-white-and-blue uniforms and hearing my name announced on the 1st tee. Trouble is, being a candidate for the team took me out of my routine. I've done too many outings and interviews, which cut into practice, and I've played more events than usual. I typically take several two-week breaks during the season, but I desperately want to stay in the top 10, so I didn't take off two straight weeks until this month, and I did so only because of a bulging disk in my neck.
Curtis Strange, our captain, has been a huge help. He called on July 30 to tell me to focus on what I can control—my golf—at this week's Buick Open and at the PGA. I'm 10th in the standings, but my year won't be ruined if I slip and don't make the team. I'll still take Tracey and our two children on a nice vacation after the season, maybe to the Caribbean.