FedEx St. Jude Classic: A Satisfying Finish

After playing on the Tour beginning in 2007, Fabian Gomez, made it to the PGA Tour in 2011. He wasn’t able to keep his card earning only $382,000 and 157th on the Money List and only 167th on the FedExCup points list. And thus began his bouncing back and forth between the two tours.

He was playing on the PGA Tour this year after finishing 48th on the priority list. That only got him into 16 events so far this season, but it got him into the most important one, the FedEx St. Jude Classic, his first PGA Tour victory. Finishing T2 in the Puerto Rico Open in 2013 was probably the affirmation that even at just 5′ 6″, he could actually achieve his dreams. And now he has.

You know, it’s like a dream come true for me.  Even if I won many tournaments, winning here on the PGA TOUR is something amazing and I’m going to enjoy the moment with my family.

And in this one, all the pieces finally came together, principally managing his nerves:  

The first important [thing was] that I slept well last night.  We have a nice barbeque in our hotel, and today I tried to, you know, keep playing the same way that I play the first three days, keep concentrating. And if in some moment I feel a little nervous, I try to think in another thing and keep my mind blank and enjoy the round.

England’s Greg Owen has had his own confidence boosts over the years finishing 3rd at Pebble Beach in 2005 and 2nd at Bay Hill in 2006. Living in Orlando surely helped with the latter. And now he has another 2nd this week. It wasn’t everything he wanted; he began with the lead, shot even par and lost by four to Gomez:

I just didn’t hit enough fairways today.  I played pretty good until 9.  I hit an awful shot on 9.  I don’t know where that came from.  Just — I didn’t hit one that far left in my life.

Obviously my swing didn’t stand up all week.  Couple days it got away from me.  Still a little bit to work on that.  Mentally I felt great.  I mean, I haven’t been in this position for a long time.  I thought I handled it pretty well.  It’s a tough course and to not be in this situation for awhile.  It was a good experience and hopefully next few weeks [I can] improve.

Maybe one of the biggest boosts was that the competitive juices started flowing coming down the stretch. He didn’t prevail with just two bogeys and a birdie to Gomez’ three birdies, but he had the old feelings:

Yeah, that’s why we play.  We say it now, but when you’re actually in it, you’re feeling it.  It means a lot.  We want to prove ourselves to ourselves and never mind anybody else.  You know, it gets the juices going, gets you really fired, and you realize what you miss when you’re not in it and makes you want to work harder and get back there.

When you’re a little further back, you got to make birdies.  Little easier to be aggressive than when you’re up at the top of the leaderboard and people chasing you, you start getting a little bit wary.

Fabian played great.  He deserved to win today.  He played a lot better than I did.  Congratulations to him, and I got a little bit of work to do to improve a little bit when it comes down to the stretch.

And finally, the other player who came away satisfied with this performance was Phil Mickelson who finished T3 with four others including Brooks Koepka. He shot 5-under 65 with 8 birdies. Eight, on a very challenging course. With a quick overnight dash home to California to get a day’s tune-up in before heading up to the U.S. Open outside of Seattle, it was the 8 birdies that got his juices flowing:

Yeah, this was a good day.  I played really well today, and looking back there were there were three, four, five shots I left out there.  I really hit a lot of good shots.  I made a lot of birdies.  Made some good putts.  More importantly I was able to control the miss for the most part on where I wanted it to go.  I hit a lot of good iron shots the way I wanted to and ended up making some good birdies.

It was a day to get some momentum and to get a little bit of confidence.  I feel like today was important for me because it validates that what I’ve been working on is the right path and getting a little bit better.

Now, I still have some work to do.  There were still some areas out there today that I let a few shots slide.  I’ve got to get sharper these next three days.  That’s what I’ll be working on.

The thing I found most interesting from a mastery point of view was his description of the Open course, Chambers Bay, in University Place, Washington. Gary Player never met a golf course that he didn’t love and Mickelson seems that same attitude. Check out this short video flyover of the front nine (at the bottom of the page) from to get a feel for what he’s talking about:

Well, I really like the golf course.  I think what Mike Davis [USGA Executive Director] said a few weeks ago is really true in that if you’re going to be ready for this tournament, it takes a lot more time to learn the golf course than just a couple of days, and if you’re having to use Monday through Wednesday to do that, you’re not putting that effort into your own game.  So I’m pleased that I’ve developed kind a game plan for each hole and how I’m going to get to certain pins, and I’m going to go back home tonight and spend the day practicing in San Diego working on a lot of shots.  I’ll get up there tomorrow night and put it to work on the practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday.

I really like the golf course, and I think that it’s a special course in that there’s a lot of different ways to play shots to a lot of different pins, and if you play the highest percentage shot, it’s not a hard golf course.  But if you don’t know what that shot is, you play the wrong one, there’s a lot of penalty.

And always in the back of his mind that he just needs one more major to complete the Grand Slam, the U.S. Open. And with his 45th birthday coming up on Tuesday, well, you know.

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