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Brian Gay: The Everyman’s Champion

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Brian Gay fired a final-round 63 on Sunday to capture the Humana Challenge and his fourth career PGA Tour victory.

He overtook Charles Howell III with a birdie on the second playoff hole in addition to overcoming a six-stroke margin over third-round leader Scott Stallings, who going into the final round seemed unbeatable.

“The thoughts were, ‘Just be aggressive, shoot as low as you can,'” Gay said. “I knew Scott was five ahead. Even with a great round, a really low round, it would be tough to catch him, if at all. I played great on the front, just tried to stay aggressive and shoot low.”

Gay’s triumph in La Quinta will be extensively documented over the next few days as is the case with any Tour winner. But the most compelling thing about Gay’s victory wasn’t the win itself, but but the amount of struggle he endured to get it.  As Tour players go, he’s as close to a “Normal Joe” as you will find on Tour and the past year was a true testament to this. Gay, like many of us, sacrificed his confidence and probably his sanity for the all-elusive goal of hitting the ball a little farther.

After a relatively successful 2011 campaign where he had three top-10 finishes and finished 56th on the money list, Gay decided that his success depended too much on the length of the golf course and, like many weekend golf enthusiasts, he went on the hunt for an extra 15 yards. Keep in mind that the search for extra yardage for a Tour pro is far more complicated than it is for the rest of us. His equipment is already fine-tuned to maximize distance. He can’t go to his local golf shop and find that magic driver in the bucket that happens to fit him perfectly. For him, that process is already done. For Ga,y it was about mechanics and getting stronger. He enlisted the help of instructors Grant Waite and Joe Mayo and reformed his action to try to gain the yardage he would need to compete week in and week out.

“My whole game’s been about accuracy and short game,” Gay said. “I’ve always been a short hitter on the Tour and I felt like as I was getting older I’m only going to get shorter and shorter. …It was tough last year trying to play making those changes.”

Last year was an all-out struggle for Gay. He opened the season with tie for sixth at the Sony Open, but he saw his season fall apart from there. In the next 26 tournaments he played, he missed 10 cuts with his best finish being a T20 at The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The only real positive he was able to muster came at the final tournament of the year, The Children’s Miracle Network Classic, where the swing changes finally started to click. After a year of bottoms, he was able to see some light at the end of the tunnel, finishing fourth. That allowed Gay to go into the off-season with some confidence.

“It’s tough to go out and make changes and try to play on the Tour,” Gay said. “The Tour’s hard enough, when you go out and you’re trying to do new stuff and trusting it. So it’s easy to kind of get on that downward spiral, if you will. So it felt like a battle most of the year … I actually started out decent last year, but the summer was long and tough, and I think Disney helped me a bunch. I played really good at Disney to end the year on a good note. And I just felt recharged and refocused to get off and have a great year this year.”

On Sunday, after Gay rolled in his 5-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure victory, he completed one of the hardest things to do in sport: rise from the ashes. Coming into his 19th year as a professional and 15th on the Tour, it would be safe to say that Gay probably has everything he needs financially with over $16 million in life-time earnings, but this victory is a perfect example of just how tenacious he is. This trait can be traced all the way back to the military home where he grew up, going from place to place before finally settling in Alabama and then on to becoming a two-time All-American for Buddy Alexander at the University of Florida.

Gay has plotted along his whole life and now at 41 years old, he is armed with a new weapon in his bag (an extra 15 yards) and the confidence to know that he has the ability to lose his game and than find it again.

If you don’t think Gay like the rest of us check on GolfWRX out his WITB below, a which includes equipment from five different OEMs. Gay become the second Tour player in three weeks to win with the TaylorMade R1 driver, and the first to win in 2013 with the new Titleist Pro V1X golf ball.

DRIVER: Taylor Made R1 (9°) with an Oban Kiyoshi White shaft
FAIRWAY WOOD: Adams Speedline LS (13 degrees) with an Oban Kiyoshi White shaft
HYBRIDS: Taylormade Rocketballz Tour (16.5 degrees) and TaylorMade Rescue TP (19 degrees) with Aldila NV shafts
IRONS: TaylorMade RocketBladez (4), Mizuno MP-60 (5-8); Mizuno MP-32 (9, PW) with Project X 6.0 shafts
WEDGES: Titleist Vokey (56 and 60 degrees) with True Temper DG Spinner shafts
PUTTER: Bettinardi BBS Tour Prototype
BALL: 2013 Titleist Pro V1x

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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John Wunder was born in Seattle, Wash., and grew up playing at Rainier G&CC. He moved to Southern California when he had the rare opportunity of working in the Anaheim Angels clubhouse and has been living in Cali. ever since. He has a severe passion/addiction for the game and has been a member of GolfWRX since 2005. He now works as the Director of Development and Production for The Coalition Group in Los Angeles, Calif.

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1 Comment

  1. Troy Vayanos

    Jan 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Quite amazing for a touring professional who finished 56th on the money list to not have one manufacturer providing all of his equipment.

    I imagine this is the way Brian Gay likes it and doesn’t want to part with a number of his favourite clubs?

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WATCH: Phil Mickelson purposely hits the ball while moving at the U.S. Open (updated with Phil’s response)

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Update: In a post-round interview, Phil had this to say: “I took the penalty, no disrespect to the game, I didn’t feel like going back and forth and I’ve always wanted to take the two-shot penalty, and I finally did… It’s meant to take advantage of the rules the best you can. I’d gladly take the two shots over continuing that display.”

—–

You don’t see Phil Mickelson lose his cool very often, but that’s seemingly what happened on Saturday — his 48th birthday — at the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

After blowing his bogey putt by the hole on No. 13, Phil ran after his ball and decided to hit it while it was still moving. Phil finished out the hole in 8 shots; adding in the two-stroke penalty for hitting the golf ball while moving, and it was a 10 on the scorecard.

Check out the bizarre scene that Phil Mickelson put on at the 13th hole below:

Phil was four-over par in the round going into the 13th hole, and exited the 13th hole at 10-over par after the fiasco. He is currently continuing his third round as regularly scheduled.

Wow.

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WATCH: Ian Poulter, sitting 1 back of the lead, completely butchered his 17th hole

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The majorless Ian Poulter was coming off birdies on hole nos. 4, 5 and 7 — his 13, 14 and 16th holes of the second round of the 2018 U.S. Open — when he came to the 8th hole (his 17th hole) sitting at 3-under and just one shot back of leader Dustin Johnson (4-under).

Then, he bladed one from the greenside bunker, soaring the ball into the fescue over the green.

Yikes. But not a disaster. He drew a great lie… just get it on the green, make the putt and take your bogey — or make double at the very worst. But then he laid the sod over his fourth shot, sending it into the real thick stuff. Three shots later, Ian Poulter made a triple-bogey 7, and back to even par for the event.

Watch it unfold below (or click here if the Twitter embed doesn’t work for you).

 

 

Poulter then finished his round with a closing bogey, and currently sits at 1-over through 36 holes (T4). By no means is Ian Poulter out of this tournament, but finishing triple-bogey, bogey was definitely not what Ian Poulter had in mind sitting in the greenside bunker on his 17th hole just a stroke off the lead.

Can Poulter get back on track and win his first? Will Dustin Johnson run away with his second U.S. Open victory? Or will Stenson, Rose, Koepka or Fowler (each sitting at 1-over par) make a run? Regardless, the champion will need to avoid late-tournament triple bogeys and costly mistakes that can happen so easily at the penal Shinnecock setup.

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GolfWRX Morning 9: US Open strikes back | Pro shoots 92 | Marquee carnage

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Good morning, GolfWRX members. As most of you are signed up for our newsletters, you likely already know that I’ve been sending this little Morning 9 roundup of nine items of note to start your day.

In case you’ve missed it, or you prefer to read on site rather than in your email, we’re including it here. Check out today’s Morning 9 below. Feedback is always welcome–send everything from news tips to complaints (hopefully more tips than complaints)!

If you’re not signed up for our newsletters, you can subscribe here.

By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)
Good Friday morning, golf fans.Yesterday, in discussing the PGA of America’s president’s DUI, I made an inappropriate remark about past president Ted Bishop based on rumor rather than established fact. it was a poor choice, and I retract my comment about his state of sobriety during the “lil girl” tweet.
1. Is this U.S. Open you were looking for?
Only four players broke par on a day when winds gusted as high as 32 mph, and the course dried out from the one-tenth of an inch of rain that fell on the property on Wednesday.
  • Players got around Shinnecock Hills in an average of 76.47 strokes during round one.
  • Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson, combined to shoot 25 over par.
  • The opening-round scoring average made this the toughest U.S. Open first round since the 1986 USO at Shinnecock.
  • Combined over par total for the World Top 10:.+52
2. Putting troubles continue for Tiger
One of the longest and strongest player-putter relationships has to be under some serious strain. Tiger Woods carded an opening-round 78 that saw him throwing away strokes on the green.
  • “It’s tough out there,” Woods said. “But, I mean, I shouldn’t make two doubles and a triple and a four-putt.”
  • The doubles in question can be traced directly to poor putting; obviously, so can the four-whack. Woods started his round with a triple bogey that saw him try to putt a ball from off the green that didn’t make it to the putting surface.
  • Woods: “So it was pretty evident nobody was making any birdies in the morning. Lots and lots of bogeys and higher in others. And so I — my game plan was not to make any others, and I made three of them. So didn’t do very well there.”
3. Carnage among the top class
Things didn’t exactly go well for the morning’s marquee group–which will doubtless give featured group truther, Rory McIlroy, more ammunition.
  • Kevin Van Valkenburg dug into the trio’s troubles: “McIlroy shot an 80, which at 10 over is the worst round of his career in relation to par at a major. Spieth shot a 78, a big chunk of that coming courtesy of a triple-bogey he made on his second hole of the day. Mickelson’s 77 was, improbably, the low round of their group, but it still likely means his quest to complete the career Grand Slam, barring a miracle, will have to wait another year. Together, they were a combined 25 over par.”
4. Hope lives for Mickelson
While Phil Mickelson didn’t speak with the media following his opening-round 77, Tim Rosaforte was apparently able to catch up with Lefty later…probably thanks in part to how bad the afternoon scores were.
  • “I played really well,” he said. “I hit 13 of 14 fairways. I didn’t make single double bogey, I’m going to go out tomorrow and try to do the same thing.”
  • “It was the highest score of Mickelson’s major championship career when hitting 13 fairways or more.”
  • “I’ve got no complaints,” he said. “If I play the next two rounds in par-par, I’m right back in it.”
5. The cruelty of No. 11
While all eyes were trained on No. 7 following 2004’s mishandled treatment of the hole, No. 11 actually merits further examination this time around (which isn’t to say it’s being mismanaged…just really hard).
  • Golf.com’s Alan Bastable writes: “Give a 15-handicapper a bucket of range balls from this tee – with the same 15-20 mph crosswinds the players battled in the first round – and he or she might not stop a single shot on the putting surface.
  • “Three-quarters of the hacker’s shots would be batted down by the wind and into one of the bunkers in front of the green, a handful would come in low and hot and run through the green into a collection area that leaves a petrifying clip-it-clean-or-else pitch, while the remaining swings would result in a motley collection of nervy tops, chunks and snap-hooks.”
6. 92!
Scott Gregory turned in an opening-round 92 at Shinnecock–the first opening round in the 90s in a U.S. open in 26 years. Since World War II, there have been 43 scores of 90 or higher in the championship. John Battini’s 96 in 1955 is the highest.
  • The previous highest opening round in a U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills was an 88 by amateur John Daly.
  • E. Michael Johnson points out: “Of course, all this pales in comparison to the all-time Open record for inefficacy, set by J.D. Tucker in 1898 at Myopia Hunt Club. Tucker took 157 blows in the first round before “rebounding” with a 100 in the second round. W. Collins, in the same event, shot 154 but had the decency to withdraw before his second go-around.”
7. Notable quotable
The USGA’s official remarks on the course in round one.
“The golf course is in excellent condition. We are extremely pleased with the agronomics and presentation. Today’s setup reflects the challenging wind conditions that have been forecast.  Green Speeds – With the heavy wind forecast, putting greens have been appropriately prepared from a speed and firmness perspective. We expect putting green speeds to be in the area of 11 feet 6 inches by midday.  Firmness – Damp conditions Wednesday resulted in a more receptive golf course for Round 1.”
CHARLES HOWELL III: I was most impressed with how the golf course was set up, to be honest. I thought this morning, with as hard as the wind was blowing, the balls would start kind of oscillating and moving by the middle of our round, and they didn’t. I think a lot of credit goes to the USGA and Mike Davis for what they’ve done today. I was here in ’04, my last competitive round here. I’ve still got some scar tissue from that. But they did a heck of a job today.
8. The Unfortunate Case of Johnny McDermott
Deviating from this U.S. Open in particular to U.S. Opens in general. Or, more specifically (confused yet?) the first American-born U.S. Open winner.
  • A longform piece well worth a read, especially if you’re unaware of McDermott’s story. Steve Eubanks profiles the great and troubled  McDermott for Global Golf Post.
9. Burmester
Playing in his first major, South African Dean Burmester stood on the 18th tee at seven over par. Burmester bypassed all trouble on the 18th, obliterating his drive 411 yards at the downwind 485-yard hole-he had but a finessed wedge left to the back left pin.
  • He finessed it right into the hole for an eagle two.
  • Q. What were you thinking? DEAN BURMESTER: Well, when it went in, I was relieved. I was having a long day, you know, 7-over. Ended up 5-over, not too bad. It was a lovely way to finish.
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