The course is Brasil was one of my favorites last year on this tour and this year was no different. Last year was a rough start to the season and this is where Ryan made his first cut to halt that rough start. He played well the first two rounds last year and had a rough weekend to finish middle of the pack. I consider this a great course for Ryan so I felt he could play well again.
This course isn’t overly long and would be considered a position golf course. He only hit driver on 7 holes this week. Usually courses demand more drivers but this course not so much. This course gives players lots of short irons and wedges which is usually why scores are low. Give pros lots of wedges and short irons and I promise you the course can be set on fire.
We had a great start to our afternoon round on Thursday. He made two quick birdies on the 2nd and 3rd holes. The combined feet of putts was probably 6-7 feet for those two birdies. For a pro I think it’s huge to get under par early because it gives you some confidence and frees you up just a bit. The sixth hole is one of the tougher holes on the course with bunkers on both sides of the landing area. To me the hole forces you to hit driver otherwise you will have a longer club into a challenging green.
He drove it left into the fairway bunker. The pin was deep left and there was a little wind into us. The shot was 168 yards. Normally Ryan can comfortably carry 7 iron that far. He had 7 iron in his hand ready to hit when he asked me 6 or 7 iron. I felt it was be better to hit 6 because the sand and wind would take a little off the yardage. He trusted my advice and hit a great shot to 3 feet and made the putt. It’s decisions like that which can make or break rounds and as Ryan says I got a check mark in the caddy column.
Pars on 7 and 8 kept us a 3 under going to the solid par 3 – 9th hole. The hole was playing 175 yards with the pin on top of a shelf. He hit a great 7 iron pin high left to about 18 feet. The putt was a bit quick with a few feet of break to the right. It’s definitely a putt that can get away from you with too much speed. He read it perfectly and the ball fell in on the last revolution. It was a great birdie to get him to turn in (-4) 31. The back 9 was a bit sluggish in terms of score. It ended up being all 9 pars which also included a rain delay that brought us back out to finish the next morning. All in all pars never really hurt you and it certainly didn’t as he finished up Friday morning early shooting an opening round (-4) 67.
The good news about finishing up early Friday and having a morning second round is that we had a 10 minute break then went right into our second round. We started on the back 9 which we just played so we had a good idea of how the course was playing.
The tenth hole started with Ryan hitting a wedge to less than a foot. It’s always nice to tap in for birdie and move on. On the 11th hole Ryan hit a solid 9 iron to 5 feet and made the relatively straight putt for back to back birdies. This was an absolute ideal way to get started and keep the momentum going. Three pars on 12-14 brought us to a difficult 222 yard par 3 that has a big ridge dissecting the green and trouble long.
We were in between hitting 4 iron and 3 hybrid. I felt we take long out of play by ripping 4 iron even if it doesn’t get all the way back there. Ryan felt hit could smooth a cut 3 hybrid back there. To me I always trust his feel and his instincts and have no problem with him going against what I think. He hit it high and just over the flag. It left him with a quick down the hill 20 footer that could definitely get away from you. He had a great read and drained it in the center for a strong birdie. Birdie on that hole definitely gets you something on the field.
A par on 16 followed by a sloppy yet good bogey on the par 5 -17th kept him at (-6) for the event. The 17th is reachable in two, but there are trees left that can wreck havoc if you are in them. He pulled his tee shot left. Tried to pitch out and didn’t get to the fairway. He ball was sitting so far down in the rough that he gouged it out but ran through the fairway. Now the trouble became a ball coming out of the rough with no spin to a back pin with a big fall off behind the green. He hit a good wedge shot that never stopped and rolled over the back of the green. From here making 6 is all you can ask for. He hit a great flop shot to a few feet to get out with that bogey 6. It stung because almost all the field can make birdie there. But like I try and say you make the best score possible with what you can when you are out of position and move on.
The 18th hole is a great hole. It’s 3 wood or long iron off the tee for position. The green has a huge slope the runs across it which defines 3 sections of the green and also has water hugging the right side. He hit it right off the tee into the rough. This is an absolute no no on this hole because the levels are so severe and hitting from the fairway is a must for distance control. He had 141 to the hole and 148 to the top part of the ridge which is the max the ball needs to travel before it funnels back down to the hole.
I felt it was a 9 iron because it would come out with no spin and it took the top plateau out of play. Any ball on top putting down is almost an automatic 3 putt. Ryan wanted to hit 8 soft to control the shot. I really didn’t like the idea because if it came out hot at all it could go way to far and get on top. He chose to hit the 8 and it came out a bit hot, got to the top right part of the ridge and funneled back down leaving him 25 feet or so back down a milder ridge. He had a great read and great speed and ran the putt in for birdie.
To me those shots are the fine lines golf presents. It very easily could have been 5 but he turned it into a 3 and those are so big over the course of 72 holes. That birdie got him back to (-7) for the tournament going to the very score able front 9.
A nice wedge shot to 10 feet on his 10th hole lead to birdie. A par on the next followed by a short birdie putt on his 12th got Ryan to (-9) for the event. At this point is was exciting because he was playing and scoring great. Two more pars led us to the challenging 6th hole (his 15th). His drive found the right bunker leaving him 191 yards to a very back right pin. Just as Ryan was getting ready to hit we got called off the course for dangerous weather. It ended up being two delays totaling two hours. The best thing that happened was Ryan got to work on the 191 yard bunker shot during his warmup session before going back out so it gave him a great feel and confidence for the shot.
When we all got back in position he recreated the lie he had. I swear to this day is was one of the best shots I have seen him hit. It was an absolutely flushed 5 iron that was shaping left to right towards the flag. It landed short of the ridge and hoped up to a few feet. He made the putt to get to (-10) for the event. To me that really showed something to have to think about that shot for a few hours then come out and execute it absolute perfectly.
He parred his next two holes which led us to his last hole which was a 151 par 3 where they had the pin tucked very close to the water. It’s definitely a pin location that can bait you into doing something stupid. He choose a smooth 8 iron that looked right at it the whole way. It was probably left of where he wanted but it came down and settled 3 feet from the flag. I quick read determined really straight and he knocked it in for a second round 64!
I have seen Ryan shoot a few rounds of 63 and plenty of 65’s and higher on the Web.com Tour, but the 64 always eluded him. It was one of the most impressive rounds I have seen him play and it moved him into solo 2nd at the time going into the weekend. Considering how the first 3 events went this was a huge step in the right direction. He was playing great and hitting lots of great shots and in my mind he had a great shot of winning this event going into the weekend.