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!