Less than two weeks after Patrick Cantlay pinned the Tour Championship and just a week before the Ryder Cup, the 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule kicks off Thursday in Napa, California. So much for every type of off-season in the all-round era of professional golf.
Meanwhile, Port Neches-Groves duo Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry are facing big questions more than any season recently.
39-year-old Stroud has had an injury-ridden year in which he only contested three events before closing with serious back problems that seem resolved. He’s going to try to regain his PGA Tour card while playing on a medical exception that guarantees him 21 or 22 tournaments.
Landry, on the other hand, will be looking to recover from one of the worst seasons of his career. After a promising T4 on his first start at the RSM Classic, he managed just 12 of 25 cuts, dropped to 155th in both Fed Ex Cup points and earnings ($ 594,200), and says he needs more distance to survive in the golf bomb and Gouge era.
Both former Indians play in the former Safeway Classic this week now known as the Fortinet Championship. So also Lamar ex Dawie van der Walt, who earned a PGA Tour card in the Korn Ferry final.
Stroud, who has not played a round of competition in 50 weeks, is clearly optimistic. Pain free and armed with a new philosophy of workout, diet and exercise, and fresh from a week of training with his swing trainer in Jacksonville, Florida, he can’t wait to finish Thursday.
“It’s the best I’ve felt in years,” he said on Sunday evening on the way to Napa. “My mind is very sharp, my attitude will probably be the best of anybody in the field and I’m certainly more rested than anyone. I think I will be fine. I was keen on training laps, although I realize that this has nothing to do with a tour event.
“My putting is better than ever and I really bring it out from the tee. No doubt there will be some bad swings and bad decisions simply because you haven’t played a tournament in so long. But my expectations are high. I really think I’ll be the best golfer I’ve ever been. “
Landry, 34, doesn’t seem nearly as optimistic. He says he’s been in a dark place at times last year, had issues he doesn’t want to talk about, is seriously torn about how much time he has to separate from his wife and two children, and is hoping to have a clearer focus regaining on his game.
The good news is that he has time to sort things out. Thanks to the adjustments the PGA Tour made due to COVID 19 when it was closed for several months, he is still completely exempt from his American Express win in early 2020 for the next two seasons. It gives him time to make the big change he’s thinking about.
“I’m trying to find out a few things,” he said. “Although I think last season was maybe the worst of my career, I did some things well. My putting has improved. It made so much difference to have a putting coach with me every week. And my bunker game was better. Often it was small mistakes that prevented me from getting better.
“My wedge game wasn’t sharp enough. I wasn’t getting up and down as I needed and my par-5 score wasn’t what it should be. I know I can do better in these areas and that will lower my score. “
The driving distance is Landry’s main concern. As someone who modeled his game after Zach Johnson, he was able to survive and even thrive in other areas with accuracy from the tee and hitting-saving, strong games. Now he fears that this is not enough.
“The game is changing,” he said. “Guys who come out are longer and stronger. They’re just way too long and that’s a big plus. I will have to try to increase my swing speed and I will probably have to give up some accuracy to do so. I’m not built for length, but there is some training I can do to get more speed. “
CHIP SHOTS: Kenny Robbins of Port Arthur scored his second hole last Friday in one at Babe Zaharias on the same hole – number 7 – as his first. Robbins sank a pitching wedge from 115 yards. Witnesses were Doug LeBlanc, Steve Wisenbaker and Roy Martinez.
At the Super Saturday 2 Ball in Zaharias, the team of Rusty Hicks, Robbins, John Jessen and Buddy Hicks scored a sweep. They were 7 under in front and 2 under in back.
At Friday Senior 2 Ball, the team of James Vercher, Larry Reece, Richard Malone and Stewart Ellis won the front with minus 5. That was also the victory point on the back for the pair of four of Earl Richard, Bob Byerly, Charles Leard and Dillard Darbonne.
Closest to pin wins were Richard Menchaca (# 2), Robbins (# 7), Darbonne (# 12) and Charles Perez (# 15).
The Zaharias DogFight on Wednesday was played in an all-points-count format. The team of Vercher, Rufus Reyes, Steve Wisenbaker and Larry Foster took first place with 26 points. Rick Pritchett John House, Larry Lee and Jeff Rinehart’s foursome came in second with 23 points.
Closest to pin wins were Ed Holley (# 2), Butch Cross (# 7), Gary Fontenot (# 12), and Danny Robbins (# 15).
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