Three Feel-Good Nuggets From The Players

A couple of really nice things happened in the background of Tiger Woods’ dominant, 2-shot win at The Players Championship on Sunday. The TPC Sawgrass did a pretty good job of identifying players who had the best control of their games. After Tiger, it was the three men who finished 11-under and T2: Kevin Streelman, Jeff Maggert and rookie, David Lingmerth.

In “Kevin Streelman: Paid His Dues in Blood, Sweat and Years,” I documented all the hard work and effort that Streelman went to in order to become a member of the PGA Tour and, with his win at the Tampa Bay Championship back in March, a winner on the PGA Tour. 

But after a long journey like Streelman endured, you always have to wonder if the goal of winning would become a one-and-done event. Once the win was accomplished, would the thirst be quenched? It doesn’t appear that that is the case. Since his win, he has finished: T21 at Arnold Palmer’s Invitational at Bay Hill, T3 at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, T6 at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and now, T2 at The Players Championship. And he corralled a pretty good haul, $1.3 million for just those four and another $1.0 million for his win.

Of the four wins since Tampa, The Players Championship was the most significant because it was comprised of an “All World” field that was mostly befuddled by the intricacies of the TPC Sawgrass. Only 7 players got to double digits and there was a 3-stroke gap back to the guys who finished 7-under or higher. Streelman’s finish was a very unambiguous validation.

Jeff Maggert possesses one of the cleanest, neatest swings on the PGA Tour. There are no extraneous moving parts, no idiosyncrasies, just clean.  In 1999, he was good enough to win the Accenture World Match Play Championship. He’s won three tournaments all together. And with his 50th birthday approaching in February of 2014, he should make a killing once he arrives on the Champions Tour.

But for now, he has been whiling away his time on the PGA Tour trying to remain competitive against the behemoths of the game. He’s 5′ 9″ and 165 pounds, not always detrimental, but certainly no advantage. He had to go back to Q-School in 2009 to regain his Tour card, had a fair year in 2010 compared to some of his glory years and missed the middle of 2011 with shoulder surgery:

I actually started [2012] on a major medical, but I went to the Q-School last fall because I wanted to try to improve on that major medical position.  Played well at the tour school last fall.  My major medical is for about 10 tournaments, so I wanted to have a little bit of a backup plan for the rest of the year.

Played pretty well in those 10 tournaments at the beginning, but I was a little bit short of making the money to be exempt for the rest of the year.  So I did have to fall back on my tour school category in the spring.

The 2013 season started out pretty lean. He finished toward the back of the pack in 7 tournaments, missed the cut in 4 and withdrew from another. The $709,333 he just won at The Players made his year and set him up to cruise to his date with the Champions Tour. Based on the evidence, highly improbable that this would have happened. But it did. What a great game.

When David Lingmerth’s third round was called by darkness, he had one hole to play and a 2-shot lead over Sergio, Tiger and Henrik Stenson. In “David Lingmerth: Calm Warrior or Sitting Duck?” I wondered in my title whether this young rookie would be able to hold his own on Sunday.

There was some evidence that he could after losing the playoff to Brian Gay in the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs back in January. In just two tournaments he was over half a million dollars in earnings and a virtual lock to retain his card for next year. His check for The Players put him at $1.3 million and locked it up for certain.

Paired with Sergio, it was remarkable how calm he seemed during the final round and how completely unintimidated he was:

I’m out there to do my own thing.  Sergio does Sergio, and Tiger does Tiger, and I’m going to do me.  But Sergio was really nice.  He came up to me and was really friendly from the get‑go.  We had a good day out there, and he’s a great guy.

And for as little PGA Tour experience as he had, it was remarkable that he was able to hold it together having come into the week off of his 5th missed cut in a row. But all through the round there was no evidence that he was going to fold. In fact, as the holes went by, it seemed like he was getting stronger and more sure of himself and that he was putting the pedal to the metal:

Yeah, well, I really don’t feel like I put the pedal to the metal today.  I felt like I left a lot of shots out there.  I shot even par, which is not a bad score out there, but I feel like I could have done a lot better, and that’s why that’s leaving a little sour taste right now. Obviously, tied second is a great week.  But if you would have asked me if I would have taken a 72 before the final round I probably would have tried to do better instead of taking that.

With the finish of the 3rd round Sunday morning, Lingmerth ended up in a three-way tie with Sergio and Tiger to begin the day. What did it feel like to try to chase down Tiger?

Yeah, I really wasn’t trying to chase him too much.  I was trying to do my own thing and I ended up having a chance there towards the end.  Like I said, I shot 72, but it didn’t feel like I was chasing him.  I was just trying to shoot a good score.

That is a very detached, calm approach to trying to play your best in a huge tournament with an incredible field.

So three feel-good stories from The Players from three disparate sources. And in Lingmerth in particular, a steady, new young player who should spend a lot of time at the top of the leaderboard.

the Tampa Bay Championship,
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