BOB WEST ON GOLF — Stroud wants to turn clock back to PGA Tour School days

Published 12:07 am Wednesday, August 10, 2022

One could make the argument – and. yes, it’s a bit of a reach – that the Golf Gods finally smiled ever so slightly on Chris Stroud last Friday after two plus years of injuries and frustration. However, it could be as much as a month before a definitive conclusion can be drawn.

Stroud, trying to sharpen his game and build confidence for a bid to save his PGA Tour card in the upcoming Korn Ferry Tour Finals, was sitting one-shot off the cut line in the Wyndham Championship at one-under when play was suspended by darkness. It looked almost certain the cut to the low 65 and ties would be minus 2.

So certain, in fact, that the 21 players sitting on minus 1 began leaving town. Shane Bieber flew home to South Florida. Stroud checked out of his hotel early the next morning and was preparing to head for some intensive work with his swing coach in Jacksonville.

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Why not? There were only seven players left to finish, some with two holes to play, some with one. With two of the seven players at minus 3 and minus 2, respectively, the fat lady was clearing her throat. But then came that ever so slight smile.

Chris Gotterup, who was walking down 18 two under when play was stopped on Friday, made a bogey. Nobody else moved up with a birdie. Twenty-one players had to be contacted and scramble to get back to the golf course for tee times starting at 11 a.m.

“I wound up having to get another hotel,” said Stroud. “I actually thought the cut was going to be minus 3. My focus was to get to Jacksonville. My swing had not been great. I was kind of scraping it around.”

Stroud, who had only played 31 tournament rounds in the 2021-22 season, made the most of two more. He shot 70-67 on the weekend, overcoming a Saturday triple bogey in the process, to finish T61 and improve his frame of mind before spending Monday and Tuesday in Jacksonville. The next few days will be spent in Houston preparing for three of his most important tournaments in years.

Dating back to 2007, Stroud has owned full status on the PGA Tour for 16 consecutive years. Though he had to fight to save his card in 2008 and 2009, after earning it the hard way in 2007, he never once lost it. He has not hoisted as many trophies as he wanted or expected, but it’s been a solid career filled with numerous highlights.

The Port Neches-Groves ex has won once – the 2017 Barracuda Championship – lost in a playoff once, had another second, placed third twice, recorded 33 top 10s, 77 tops 25s and played in the final pairing at a major. He won over a million dollars five times and banked $12,911,419 in official earnings.

Now, with age, physical issues and an onslaught of fearless young talent working against him, full-time status could be about to slip away. He has two chances – finish in the top 25 in the three-event Korn Ferry Finals or pull off the improbable with his seven remaining PGA Tour starts on a medical exemption.

Chris doesn’t want being a full-time PGA Tour player to end. Who would? He insists he’s a better ball striker today than ever and believes a top 25 in the Korn Ferry Finals is well within reach. Especially if he can get his off-again, on-again putting stroke in a consistent groove.

Foremost in his mind, with all-due respect to Michael J. Fox, is taking a trip back to the future. That would be the 2007, 2008 and 2009 PGA Tour Schools in which he arguably performed better under intense pressure than at any point in his career.

If you will hop into the DeLorean, we’ll check it out. When Stroud came out of Lamar as a two-time All-America, the only access to golf’s highest level was a brutal examination called PGA Tour Q school. It involved surviving three stages, with the finale a 108-hole competition among 163 players for 25 cards.

In Stroud’s first attempt at PGA West in California, he opened with rounds of 73-77, was near the bottom of the pack and was quickly written off. Then, amazingly, he rebounded with rounds of 69-69-65-68 to finish T16, earning that first PGA Tour card by two strokes.

A year later he was back at Q school and authored rounds of 69-68-69-68-64-71 to finish outright third at 23 under. Just to prove it was no fluke in 2008, he reeled off rounds of 69-69-72-66-67-66 for another 23 under and a T4.

All total, with a tour card on the line, he shot 57 under par in 18 rounds. He was in the 60s in 14 of those rounds.

So, can a 40-year-old Stroud turn back the clock to the point where he’s able to treat the Korn Ferry Finals the way a mid-20s Stroud treated PGA Tour School.

“Yes,” is his one-word answer. Stay tuned. It could be a fun ride.

CHIP SHOTS: Brody Townley of Port Neches celebrated grandson Bailey DeCuir’s 26th birthday on Friday by making his first hole in one. It came on the 108-yard, 17th at Henry Homberg Golf Club in Beaumont. Townley used a 9-iron for the shot witnessed by Jeff Buchanan.

PNG ex Andrew Landry completed a disappointing, injury-plagued 2021-22 PGA Tour season by missing the cut at the Wyndham Classic. Landry carded rounds of 74-68. His season earnings were $598,700.

Wet conditions at Babe Zaharias relegated the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball to a par 4-format. Tying the front at minus 11 was the team of Ron LaSalle, Eddie Delk, John House and Dan Flood and the foursome of Ed Holley, Ted Freeman, Larry Reece and James Trahan.

On the back, the Holley team tied the team of Gary Fontenot, James Smith, Aubrey Ward and Jeff Romero at minus 9. Closest to the pin winners were Kenny Robbins (No. 2, 2 feet, 9 inches), Romero (No. 12, 11-7) and Darrell Mouille (No. 15, 6-9).

Format for the Babe Zaharias DogFight was all-points count. Winning with 29 points was the team of Earl Richard, Rusty Hicks, Charles Leard and Jerry Watson. Second with 25 was the foursome of Bob West, Don MacNeil, Ward and Glenn Knight.

Closest to the pin winners were Freeman (No. 2), Doug LeBlanc (No. 7), Ron Mistrot (No. 12) and Flood (No. 15).

Golf news should be e-mailed to rdwest@usa.net