BOB WEST ON GOLF — PNG, LU exes set for critical PGA Tour season

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Three players with Southeast Texas ties – Chris Stroud, Andrew Landry and MJ Daffue — will be part of the PGA Tour’s 2022-23 season launch Thursday at the Fortinet Classic in California wine country. For all three, the next few months will be career defining or redefining in an evolving workplace facing major change.

Stroud, a 14-year tour veteran whose last two seasons have been throttled by injuries, is fighting to keep from losing his tour card. As has been well documented in this space, he’s down to seven tournaments on a medical exemption before possibly being on the outside looking in.

The good news is that the Port Neches-Groves ex showed encouraging signs of being primed to launch a comeback two weeks ago in the Korn Ferry Finals. He put together rounds of 68-69-67 before slipping into a tie for 26th with a 73 after a three-hour rain delay.

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It was definitely a confidence-building highlight in a struggling year that saw him make only four of 12 cuts and earn just $95,000. Stroud’s hoping to build on the KFT showing in the Fortinet and buy time on making a career-path decision.

Landry, meanwhile, is on the final season of a two-year exemption earned by winning the American Express Championship in early 2020. He would go on to win $1.5 million that season and finish 61st in Fed Ex Cup points.

It has been mostly downhill ever since, with the one-time PN-G star winning only a little over $1.1 million in the next two seasons combined. Last year, hampered at times by shoulder issues, he made just two cuts in 15 starts.

Ironically, both of those made cuts were top 10s in his first three tournaments of the year – a T4 at the Sanderson Farms and a T7 at Mayakoba. That earned him $498,000 and had him high on the Fed Ex charts. Unfortunately, he’d never cash another check and wound up 165th on the Fed Ex list.

Landry, then, is somewhat under under-the-gun starting in the Fortinet and he’s relishing the challenge.

“I’ve gotten my game back to where I can be competitive again,” he said Monday from Napa, California. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more enthused about the start of a season. I’m going to play most of the fall tournaments and I expect to do well.”

Then there’s Daffue. The former Lamar star will be playing the PGA Tour for the first time at age 33. He got there with a strong showing on the Korn Ferry Tour, posting two seconds, seven top 10s and winning $347,136. That’s a small fortune on the KFT.

Daffue, who made All-Southland Conference in 2011 and 2012 at Lamar, and was the SLC Player of the Year in 2011, should not be overwhelmed by playing at the next level. He Monday qualified his way into a handful of PGA Tour events in 2020, then qualified for the U.S. Open last year, led deep into the second round and finished T31.

The South Africa native’s calling card is his booming drives. He will be one of the PGA Tour’s big hitters.

“He’s good and he’s long,” said Landry. “I think he’s going to do very well out here. His game really suits a lot of the courses on tour.”

One thing that will make life easier for Daffue is the tour’s new policy guaranteeing all full card holders $500,000 and paying newcomers $1,000 expenses each week they miss a cut.

Also of note among upcoming tour changes is that the 2022-23 season is the last time fall tournament points count toward the Fed Ex playoffs.   Starting in January of 2024, the Fed Ex season will be January through August and only 70 players will qualify for the playoffs.

CHIP SHOTS: In the Monday Senior 50 Plus 2 ball at Babe Zaharias, the team of Brian Sweeney, Rusty Hicks, Steve Wisenbaker and Charlie Perez won the front with minus 5. There was a tie at minus 3 on the back between the team of Cap Hollier, Ted Freeman, Raymond Darbonne and Charlie Leard and the foursome of Dwayne Morvant, Rufus Reyes, Bob Byerly and Darrell Mouille.

Closest to the pin winners were Dwayne Benoit (No. 2, 10 feet, 1 inch), Mike Brown (No. 7, 8-7), Bob Luttrell (No. 12, 2-7) and Joe Gongora (No. 15, 3-6).

Friday’s Senior Game was played in a 9/9, 2 player format of best ball on the front and scramble on the back. Tying in First Flight with a 65 was the team of Ron LaSalle-Keith Mullins and James Vercher-Craig Geoffroy.

Second Flight also ended in a tie with the teams of Bobby Wactor-Earl Richard and Gary Fontenot-Freemn posting 70s. Ties were also the order of the day in Third Flight, as the duos of Eddie Delk-Ron Mistrot and Glenn Judice-Art Turner shot 71. Jeff Rinehart-Tommy Duhon claimed Fourth Flight with a 73.

Closest to the pin winners were Brian Grant (No. 2), Don MacNeil (No. 7), Tony Trevino (No. 12) and Danny Robbins (No. 15).

The Wednesday Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points count format. Placing first with 52 points was the team of Gary Whitfill, Charles Leard, Jess McPhillips and a ghost. Second with 50 was the foursome of Danny Robbins, Aubrey Ward, Ron Mistrot and Dan Flood.

Closest to the pin winners were Doug LeBlanc (No. 2, 5-3), Hollier (No. 7, 5-10), Dillard Darbonne (No. 12, 4-2) and Raymond Darbonne (No. 15, 6-5).

5 Under Golf Center in Beaumont has upcoming club fittings with Titleist and Srixon. Titleist is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15 while Srixon is set for noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 16.

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