Ryan opened Rd 1 with level par which on a golf course such as Victoria National is plenty fine. This course is such a demanding course that we felt like (-10) at the end of the week would definitely put yourself inside the top 3 or even win the event.
Ryan came out in the second round playing extremely well. Through 10 holes he hit every green and every fairway except one which was by a yard or so. He was (-5) through those 10 which was shooting him up the leaderboard. The closing 5 holes on this course will make or break your round. Ryan dropped a shot a the par 5-15th due to a bad drive and a pitch out. But all was well when he hit a nice 7 iron from 162 yards on 18 to finish with a birdie to shoot the low round of the day at (-5) 67.
This put Ryan near the top only 3 shots back going into the final 36 holes. The cut ended up finishing at (+4) which was the highest cut in this tournament and one of the highest we see on this tour.
Saturday didn’t get us off to the start we wanted. A dropped shot at the 3rd was followed with a nice birdie on the 4th. The 7th hole par 3 produced a failed up and down for bogey from just short of the green. Anywhere (-1) to (+1) throughout the round is my gauge of how it’s going. We were fine still being at (-4) for the event with a tough back 9 coming up.
Ryan birdied the 10th after two shots that left him about 20 feet for eagle. He added in birdies on 13, 15 and 16 to get to (-7) which was in 2nd at the time. His birdie on 15 was a brave call to hit. A bad drive left a pitch out that still left 240 yards to the par 5 all over water. The issue was not the length of the shot, but how well it’s hit. 2 iron was plenty if hit good because there was plenty of green to use. He absolutely flushed it, landed it midway to the pin and it rolled up to about 5-6 feet for an improbable birdie. A great drive on 18 set up 164 yard shot to a very tough back left pin. He mishit his 8 iron slightly and ended up just short in some pretty thick grass.
The chip shot was so tough that his shot came out straight left and landed on the green some 15-20 feet for par. The putt had some good break and speed down the hill. This put was also a big because his playing parter was bogey at best so a par would put him in the final group. His putt finished dead center and he gave himself a fist pump because it got him in he final group Sunday 4 shots back of the leader. His (-2) 70 put him at (-7) after 54 holes.
Sunday was going to be different just because of the surroundings. This was a televised event on the Golf Channel and being in the final group would produce full TV exposure. Final rounds are tough because there is the pressure to play well. This course was also playing very tough. Combine those things in with some TV cameras and it suddenly gets very challenging.
The start was not great. But it also wasn’t terrible because you have to play this course to the end with all your focus. Bogeys on the 3rd & 4th was made tougher when the leader birdied 2-4 to open his lead up to 9 shots. It’s hard to get in position on the greens when you are not in the fairways because you now lose control of your golf ball. At this point it was a clear race for 2nd with the hope of getting some help along the way.
Ryan played (+2) on his front 9 which still kept him inside the top 5. I knew if we could get a few birdies on 10-13 we were in a great spot. We had our looks but just couldn’t capitalize.
The 15th hole again provided some unwanted issues. His drive again went right to where he just had to move it down the fairway. He hit a great shot that was too much club, but stayed just short of the hazard. It left him 65 yards to which he pulled his wedge shot into the bunker left. We call this a dead spot because getting up and down was going to be hard unless you make the 25 footer for par. He didn’t make the putt but made a great comeback putt for bogey.
16 & 17 were played to perfection but yielded no birdies. So at (-4) for the event stepping up on the last hole, we knew that we had one crack left at birdie. It’s very tough to have made no birdies through 17 holes, but on tough courses it’s easy to be just off enough. The 18th hole can give you birdie 3 or a very easy double bogey 6.
Under TV Cameras and pressure Ryan stepped up and hit it right down the center much like the last 3 days. It set up 157 yards to a middle right pin with water long and right.
We chose a solid 9 iron because you can’t land anything near the pin and there is a slope left to use to feed it right. With helping wind off his left shoulder it was a perfect 9 iron. He flushed it and was going right were we wanted it to. When it kicked left and headed towards the pin the crowd gave out a nice roar as it settled about 2 feet from the pin. At the time we knew it was close just didn’t know how close. It’s always nice to birdie 18 regardless but under this circumstance it was absolutely huge. He shot a final round (+2) 74. His final birdie moved him to T2 with two other players. The two foot birdie putt made him an extra $22,000 which was the difference between T4 and T2. Money is huge in this tour. It’s the standard of measure for getting to the PGA Tour.
I didn’t blog about last weeks event in Mexico for a few reasons. Long story short we stood on our 36th hole one shot inside the cut line. After being green side in 3 some 10 yards from the pin we walked off with double bogey 7 to miss the cut by one. In the matter of the last 2 minutes we went from playing the weekend to an early flight home.
I give lots of respect to Ryan for bouncing back from what I thought was one of the worst ways I have seen him miss a cut to having his best week on this tour. Golf is a such a tough game but every week is a new opportunity to do better. With this finish it moved Ryan to 24th on the money list. Top 25 at the end of season get their PGA Tour card so it’s good to be in the hunt with lots of season left.
Next week is the BMW Celebrity Pro Am event in Greer, SC. We play 3 different courses along side a celebrity for the first 3 rounds. Last year we had 4 rounds with Rob Riggle which was an awesome experience. Can’t wait to see what’s in store this year!
Stats for the Week:
Fairways – 42/56 (75%)
GIR – 53/72 (69.7%)
Putts – 121 (30.25/Rd)
1 putts – 23/72 (31.9%)
3 Putts – None
Bounce Back % – 3/9 (33.33%)
Sand Save % – 1/2 (50%)
Up/Down – 11/19 (57.89%)
Birdies – 14
Bogies – 9
Front 9 Scoring – 35.5
Back 9 Scoring – 34.75
72-67-70-74 = 283 (70.75/Rd)
Prize Money – T2 – $44,800
Money List Rank – 24th.