BOB WEST ON GOLF — Stroud, Landry face different challenges in new PGA season
Less than two weeks after Patrick Cantlay nailed down the Tour Championship, and only one week ahead of the Ryder Cup, the PGA Tour’s 2021-22 schedule launches Thursday in Napa, California. So much for any kind of off season in professional golf’s wraparound era.
Meanwhile, more than any season in recent memory there are major questions facing the Port Neches-Groves duo of Chris Stroud and Andrew Landry.
Stroud, 39, is coming off an injury-throttled year that saw him play only three events before having to shut down with serious back issues that seem to be resolved. He’ll be trying to regain his PGA Tour card while playing on a medical exemption that guarantees him 21 or 22 tournaments.
Landry, on the other hand, will be trying to rebound from what he labels one of the worst seasons of his career. After a promising T4 in his first start at the RSM Classic, he wound up making only 12 of 25 cuts, tumbled to No. 155 in both Fed Ex Cup points and earnings ($594,200) and says he needs added distance to survive in golf’s bomb and gouge era.
Both former Indians are playing this week in the former Safeway Classic now known as the Fortinet Championship. So is Lamar ex Dawie van der Walt who earned a PGA Tour card in the Korn Ferry Finals.
Stroud, who hasn’t played a competitive round of golf in 50 weeks, is clearly upbeat. Pain free and armed with a new philosophy on practice, diet and working out, and fresh from a week of tuning up with his swing coach in Jacksonville, Florida., he clearly can’t wait to tee it up Thursday.
“This is the best I’ve felt in years,” he said Sunday evening enroute to Napa. “My mind is very sharp, my attitude is probably going to be the best of anybody in the field and I’m certainly more rested than anybody. I think I am going to do well. I’ve been sharp in practice rounds, although I realize that is nothing like playing in a tour event.
“My putting is as good as it’s ever been and I’m really getting it out there off the tee. No doubt there will be some bad swings and bad decisions simply from not playing a tournament in so long. But my expectations are high. I truly believe I am going to be the best golfer I have ever been.”
Landry, 34, doesn’t seem nearly as optimistic. He says he was in a dark place at times last year, had issues he doesn’t want to talk about, is seriously torn about how much time he has to spend away from his wife and two kids and is hoping to regain a clearer focus on his game.
The good news is he has time to work things out. Thanks to adjustments the PGA Tour made because of COVID 19 when it was shut down for several months, he is still fully exempt for the next two seasons off his early 2020 victory in the American Express. It gives him time to make the major change he’s contemplating.
“I’m trying to figure some things out,” he said. “Although I think last season was maybe the worst of my career, I did some things well. My putting improved. It made so much difference having a putting coach out there with me every week. And my bunker play was better. A lot of times it was small mistakes that keep me from doing better.
“My wedge play wasn’t sharp enough. I didn’t get up and down the way I need to and my par 5 scoring wasn’t what it needs to be. I know I can do better in those areas and that will lower my scoring.”
Driving distance is Landry’s biggest concern. As someone who modeled his game after Zach Johnson, he’d been able to survive and even thrive with accuracy off the tee and stroke-saving strong play in other areas. Now he fears that isn’t enough.
“The game is changing,” he said. “Guys coming out are longer and stronger. They are just way too long and it is a huge advantage. I am going to have to try to get my swing speed up and I will probably have to give up some accuracy to do it. I’m not built for length, but there is some training stuff I can do to get more speed.”
CHIP SHOTS: Kenny Robbins of Port Arthur scored his second hole in one last Friday at Babe Zaharias and did it on the same hole – No. 7 – as his first one. Robbins sank a pitching wedge from 115 yards. Witnesses were Doug LeBlanc, Steve Wisenbaker and Roy Martinez.
In the Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Rusty Hicks, Robbins, John Jessen and Buddy Hicks scored a sweep. They were 7 under on the front and 2 under on the back.
The Friday Senior 2 ball saw the team of James Vercher, Larry Reece, Richard Malone and Stewart Ellis win the front with minus 5. That was also the winning score on the back for the foursome of Earl Richard, Bob Byerly, Charles Leard and Dillard Darbonne.
Closest to the pin winners were Richard Menchaca (No. 2), Robbins (No. 7), Darbonne (No. 12) and Charles Perez (No. 15).
Wednesday’s Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points-count format. Taking first place with 26 points was the team of Vercher, Rufus Reyes, Steve Wisenbaker and Larry Foster. Taking second with 23 points was the foursome of Rick Pritchett John House, Larry Lee and Jeff Rinehart.
Closest to the pin winners were Ed Holley (No. 2), Butch Cross (No. 7), Gary Fontenot (No. 12) and Danny Robbins (No. 15).
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