Tomorrow is a really big day for Harrison Frazar. If only he can treat it like it’s not. He sits just one stroke back of Swede, Robert Karlsson, at the FedEx St. Jude Classic at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
I’ve written about him before in “Harrison Frazar” and in “Transformation” and the struggle he’s had trying to win his first tournament. Everybody has trouble winning their first tournament, but Frazar has been trying since 1998, his first year on the PGA Tour. That’s 13 years, 13 long years for someone good enough to have earned $9.5 million in the 203 cuts he’s made. And he had to wade into 354 tournaments to do that.
He’s managed to finish 2nd four times, 3rd six times and Top-10 thirty-four times. And he got ever so close to winning; one of those 2nd place finishes was a playoff loss in 2004 in the season-opening Sony in Honolulu.
But he’s had a glimmer of hope after a horrible beginning this year. After missing 6 of 8 cuts and finishing T54 and T51 in the ones he did make, he had a great final round at the Byron Nelson in terrible winds and finished T14. That $107,000 went a long way towards soothing those early wounds.
He managed to get into Memphis somehow—he doesn’t have high status anymore—and probably thought, “Oh, here we go again,” when he opened with a 1-over 71 which included two bogeys and a double bogey. The leader shot 5-under 65 and five guys shot 66. But Frazar hung in there and shot his own 65 on Friday with no bogeys and a 64 yesterday with one.
So here he sits in the catbird seat with all the scars and all the wisdom that losses bring and he had an opportunity to reflect on all of that and his plan for today in the media room last night.
Q. You’ve been in this position before heading into the final round with chances to win. How do you — what’s your mindset? Do you just kind of continue doing what you’re doing, what’s working right for you, do you try the change or alter anything?
Obviously I haven’t figured it out yet. I think – you know, I think that you got to forget about trying to win the golf tournament. Lot of people ask all the time, “Why haven’t you won? When are you going to win? What’s going on?” We put winning on a pedestal. Guys that win golf tournaments don’t think about it until the very end and figure out what to do [then].
Tomorrow I’m not going to give it any credence. I’m not even going to think about what’s happening out there except just what’s going on with my golf game, and then I’ll try to look up at the end, you know, see where we stand and see if anything needs to be done the last few holes.
But up to that point, I don’t think it’s going to do any good. So, you know, in the past I’ve tried to – you know, I’ve tried to tell myself I’m going to play more aggressive or tell myself I’m going to play more conservative. I try to do these other things the night before, you know, talking to psychologists and coaches and everything else. It’s just never panned out. So I think let’s just go play golf the way we know how to play golf and see where it goes.
Q. You came in here swinging pretty good. You qualified for The Open early this week and shot a 64 in the final round. Obviously, you came in here with a lot of confidence feeling that you were hitting it pretty well.
I came in here feeling real close. I shot 2-over at the opening round at the U.S. Open qualifier, also. There were still some rusty points I needed to work out. To be able to come back when it was 100 [degrees], 105 there in the afternoon in the second 18 and shoot 64, showed me that if I would just relax and quit thinking about things too hard, there’s some pretty good stuff underneath there. So, let’s just go play golf, you know, quit worrying about this stuff.
I started – I was 3 over after three holes on Thursday here. Made a couple of mistakes trying too hard, trying to out-think and out-figure the golf course. Stand up and hit the shot. Once I got that point, I relaxed. I relaxed and started playing.
Q. After you hurt your back earlier this year when you went back to work in practicing, what did you have to straighten out in your game? Because you said you struggled at the start of this year and then worked hard. What did you have to kind of figure out?
Last year I had hip surgery on my left hip, and for about three, four years I couldn’t quite get all my weight to the left side [in the followthrough] that I needed to. So there was still some scar tissue physically and mentally on getting to the left side. I could do it fine in practice sessions, but I couldn’t quite trust it on the golf course and I couldn’t do it enough to really build repetition.
So when I missed the cut in New Orleans and went home, I went out to the driving range, I took 600 balls and said I’m going to get to my left side. If my body breaks, I’m going to learn to get to my left side. That was the wrong thing, because I ended up hurting myself enough to the point where I needed to skip that week in [Charlotte], which I wanted to play. But the positive of that is the Players Championship was after that, I had that week off and then Colonial, I didn’t get to play there, either.
So I ended up with three weeks off, I was able to get my body feeling right, and I was able to have good focus sessions with my coach and by myself getting to my left side and learning how to trust that.
Hopefully, he won’t be going into today’s final round thinking that it’s all about being able to get to his left side, but rather all of the things in his responses to the first two questions: not thinking about winning, not trying too hard, not trying to out-think or out-figure the golf course, but just playing. To “just go play golf the way we know how to play golf.” To, “just go play golf, you know, quit worrying about this stuff.” To “stand up and [just see and] hit the shot.” And to paraphrase in the present tense, to “relax and start playing.”
For his part, the 6’ 5” Swede, Karlsson, has won 11 times around the world, but never in the U.S. He’s playing in Memphis because he likes the course and just missed winning it last year, losing in a playoff. He was cruising yesterday until he bogeyed the last two holes.
Frazar and Karlsson will be playing together today, so it should make for a fascinating afternoon of golf mastery.
Particularly since Frazar has finally discovered that, “…if I would just relax and quit thinking about things too hard, there’s some pretty good stuff underneath there.”