The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
s soon as Chris Stroud can determine exactly whose brainstorm was responsible for the new wraparound PGA Tour schedule, there will be a name added to his Christmas shopping list.
Stroud, along with a handful of other players on the rise — Jimmy Walker, Ryan Moore, Chris Kirk and Harris English — is headed into the 2014 portion of the season with security and scheduling flexibility he’s never enjoyed before. Consequently, he’s going to be able to pick and choose when and where he plays, and zero in on loftier goals.
It’s all fallen into place because of Stroud’s stellar play for the second time in four weeks on foreign soil. He slogged his way through daily downpours at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba to rounds of 66-68-66-68, good for a T3 that was worth $312,000. Added to his T3 in late October at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, the PN-G and Lamar ex is now sitting pretty with $718,000 in official money before Thanksgiving turkeys have been defrosted.
He’s No. 11 on the PGA Tour money list, No. 14 in Fed Ex Cup points and has climbed to an all-time high of No. 78 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Had a 7-foot birdie putt fallen on the 72nd hole, elevating him to T2, the numbers would be even better. But why get greedy?
“I am so happy with how I played and the position that I’m in,” Stroud said from his home in The Woodlands. “I liked the new schedule concept when it was announced and I like it even better now. I’m also starting to understand more and more how important it is to go to courses where you play well.
“For some reason, I have played very well at Mayakoba in recent years. To be honest, I really didn’t want to go down there last week. I was aware the forecast called for a lot of rain. But it would have been a bad business decision not to go. It turned out to be a good week all around. I did everything pretty well.”
Despite missing two of four fall cuts — events he probably won’t play next year — Stroud’s accomplishments are monumental. His two top 3s, for instance, are one more than in his first 192 PGA events. Think about that a minute. Other than the near miss at the Traveler’s Championship in June, when he lost to Ken Duke in sudden death, Chris had never finished higher that fourth.
Now, in less than a month, he’s twice tied for third. At the CIMB, he was inches away from another sudden death playoff. At the OHL, he narrowly missed a T2. His winnings from the pair of T3s have him probably within $100,000 of guaranteeing his tour card for 2014-15. Plus, his Fed Ex Cup points and ascending world ranking give him a running start toward moving into the next echelon of players.
Stroud’s immediate goal, which was not feasible until now, is to climb into the top 64 in the OGWR by mid February. That would get him into the World Match Play championship at Dove Mountain in Arizona. Ultimately, if he can climb into the top 50 in the OGWR, it opens the door to nearly every event out there. Including, he’s pretty sure, the Masters.
“It’s not wishful thinking. I know I can get there,” he said. “Whitey (Lamar golf coach Brian White) and I both think I’ve still only reached about 75 percent of my potential. I’m really learning how to play the game, how to score and where I can score. Some of my key stats — scrambling and putting — have not been as good as they were earlier but I’ve got two top threes.”
Stroud’s reward for his impressive start to the 2013-14 season is rest, relaxation and quality family time. He’s won’t tee it up in tournament play again until the Jan. 9-12 Sony Classic in Honolulu. He’ll then skip two California tournaments before playing the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Jan. 30-Feb. 2. Pebble Beach the following week is iffy and he’ll probably skip Riviera on Feb. 13-16.
“I just haven’t played well in the West Coast tournaments,” he said, “so I’m going to skip them. I’ve got a good handle on what I need to do, as far as playing. Whitey and I and the rest of my team will sit down in the next few weeks and talk about the plan and if it needs to be adjusted. But, as I’ve said before, I want to cut back on the number of tournaments and work hard on my game in between.
“Why go to a tournament where I’ve historically not done well? Even Tiger Woods is selective that way. He plays courses where he’s confident because of the success he’s had on those courses. It’s the smart thing to do. Especially, when you are not having to sweat keeping your tour card.”
Meanwhile, Stroud will be getting busy finding out whose name he needs to add to the Christmas list. And making sure his passport doesn’t get lost.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com