BOB WEST ON GOLF — Stroud boosts PGA card hopes with T5 in RSM

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Don’t write off Chris Stroud authoring an against-the-odds rally to salvage his PGA Tour playing card just yet.

Seemingly down for the count after a couple of injury-plagued years and fighting serious putting woes while a medical exemption ticked down, Stroud altered the gloomy outlook with a strong performance last week in Sea Island, Georgia. A tie for 5th in the RSM Classic revived hope in a major way.

Following his best result since the John Deere Classic in July of 2019, the Port Neches-Groves ex still faces a steep climb in the two remaining starts on his medical. But, based on his solid and sometimes spectacular play in frigid conditions last week, retaining the playing card is not a pipe dream.

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Unfortunately, coming off a confidence-building effort, he won’t be able to play competitively again for nearly two months. The RSM was the final event of the 2022 portion of the new PGA schedule. He won’t tee it up again until Jan. 19 at the American Express Classic in Palm Springs.

“Obviously, I wish I could play again this week,” Stroud said. “My overall game is at its best point in a long time. My ball striking has been as good as ever for months, but putting was killing me. That part got a lot better last week, after some changes. The good thing about the layoff is I am going to have time to continue working on the changes.”

Stroud’s challenge to retain his card is to reach the 328.04 Fed Ex points that was good to finish 125th in the 2021-22 season. After picking up 90 points for his T5 at the RSM, he is up to 151. He must accumulate 177.04 points in the final two starts on his medical to regain full status.

To put that in perspective, a tournament win is worth 500 points. Second is 300, third is 190, fourth is 135, fifth is 115 and on down in decreasing increments. Chris can reclaim his card with an outright third, a sixth and a seventh or various other combinations adding up to 177.04.

Another week like he delivered in Sea Island would get the job done and extend a continuous presence with a PGA Tour card that dates back to 2007.

Interestingly enough, following missed cuts in Bermuda and Houston, Stroud’s start at Sea Island could not have been much worse. He was three over through his first three holes and looking at another weekend back home

Over the next 69 holes, however, he was a sizzling 18-under-par. He rallied on Thursday to post two-under 70 on the Plantation Course, then followed with rounds of 66-66-65 on the par 70 Seaside course. At times on the final day, which he started tied for 17th, Stroud got as high as T3 and within a shot of a lead.

“I thought I could win and I had chances,” he said. “Looking back, I missed four putts in the 3-to-4-foot range on Friday and Saturday that were costly. But I putted so much better. My team and I put in a lot of work on that after Houston and the changes paid off.

“What I am really proud of is how well I held it together while in contention on Sunday. It had been a long time since I was in that position. On top of that, because of the situation with my playing card, pressure is the highest it’s been in my career. I kept hitting good shots.”

Stroud’s loyal Southeast Texas following hasn’t seen anything like it since a 2019 season when he authored four top 10s. He started that run with a T7 in early March in Phoenix, followed with a T10 at Pebble Beach the next week, placed T2 in Puerto Rico in late March and added a T4 at the John Deere in July.

In the latter two he finished 17-under-par. The 15-under at Sea Island was his lowest to par since. It earned him $270,000.

“Again, it was just a matter of making some putts and regaining confidence in my putter,” he said. “My ball striking has been incredible. To give you an example of how much difference putting makes, one of the days in Houston, I hit 16 greens, putted for two eagles and shot 74.

“I had gotten really messed up with my mechanics. I kept pulling everything. We worked about 10 hours on it before the RSM. I have gone back to a putter than swings more open and closed. It’s better but I still have some flaws to work out.”

Regrettably, he has plenty of time to work on them.

CHIP SHOTS: Had the PGA Tour instituted a one-day award for the high school with the lowest two-man total in the RSM, Port Neches-Groves would have won it going away. While Stroud was posting a 66 on Friday, Andrew Landry unleashed a smoking 63 that was the second low score of the week.

A 66 and a 63 added up to 129 for PNG. Throw in Lamar ex MJ Daffue’s 68 on Friday and Southeast Texas would have won a three-man tournament.

Neither Landry nor Daffue did well on the weekend. Landry, after an opening 75, needed the 63 to make the cut. He added rounds of 72-71 to finish T67. Daffue shot 70-75 on the weekend and placed 69th.

Weather limited senior competitions to a Friday 2 ball last week at Babe Zaharias. The team of James Cady, James Vercher and David English scored a sweep with plus 1 on the front and plus 3 on the back.

Closest to the pin winners were Bob Luttrull (No. 7) and Rufus Reyes (No. 2)

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