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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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PGA Tour Pro and Parkland Alum Nick Thompson is Part of the Solution

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The tragic shooting of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida moved the entire nation in a deep and profound way. The tragic events touched many lives, including PGA Tour Professional Nick Thompson, who attended Stoneman Douglas for four years and was born and raised just minutes from there.

On our 19th Hole podcast, Thompson described in detail just how connected he is to the area and to Douglas High School.

“That’s my alma mater. I graduated in ’01. My wife Christen and I graduated in ’01. I was born and raised in Parkland…actually Coral Springs, which is a neighboring city. Stoneman Douglas actually is just barely in Parkland but it’s pretty much right on the border. I would probably guess there are more kids from Coral Springs that go to Stoneman Douglas than in Parkland. So I spent 29 years in Coral Springs before moving to Palm Beach Gardens where I live now, but I was born and raised there. I spent four years of high school there and it’s near and dear to my heart.”

Thompson’s siblings, LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and Web.com pro Curtis, did not attend Douglas High School.

His reaction to the news was immediate and visceral.

“I was in shock,” said Thompson. “I just really couldn’t believe it because Coral Springs and Parkland are both wonderful communities that are middle to upper class and literally, like boring suburbia. There’s not much going on in either city and it’s kind of hard to believe that it could happen there. It makes you think almost if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. I think that’s one of the reasons why it has really gotten to a lot of people.”

Thompson knew personally some of the names that have become familiar to the nation as a result of the shooting, including Coach Aaron Feis, who died trying to save the lives of students.

“I went to high school with Aaron Feis,” said Thompson. “He was two years older than me, and I knew of him…we had a fair amount of mutual friends.”

And while the events have provoked much conversation on many sides, Thompson was moved to action.

“We started by my wife and I, the night that it happened, after we put our kids to bed, we decided that we needed to do something,” Thompson said. “The first thing we decided was we were going to do ribbons for the players, caddies, and wives. We did a double ribbon of maroon and silver, the school colors, pin them together and wrote MSD on the maroon section. We had the media official put them out on the first tee, so all the players were wearing them. It’s been great.”

“I got together with the media guys and Ken Kennerly, the tournament director of The Honda Classic and they have been amazing. The amount of players that had the ribbons on, I was just watching the coverage to see, is incredible. I actually spoke to Tiger today and thanked him for wearing the ribbon. We really appreciate it, told him I went to high school there. I mean the only thing he could say was that he was sorry, it’s an unfortunate scenario and he was happy to wear the ribbon, do whatever he could.”

Thompson is quick to note the help that he has received in his efforts.

“It’s not just me. My wife has been just as instrumental in getting this done as me. I just, fortunately, have the connection with the PGA Tour to move it in the right direction even faster. I have the luxury of having a larger platform that can get my words out and everything we’re trying to do faster than most people. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart so it was just literally perfect with The Honda Classic coming in town.”

Thompson has also been involved in fundraising that goes to help the survivors and victims’ families. GoFundMe accounts supported by Thompson and the PGA Tour have raised in excess of 2.1 million dollars in just a week.

“One of the most important uses for this money is counseling for victims, for these kids who witnessed this horrific event, or have one degree of separation,” Thompson said. “Counseling for kids who lost a friend or a classmate, who need counseling and to help them with their PTSD essentially. I think that’s one of the most important things is helping all these kids deal with what has happened.”

Thompson acknowledged the fact that the entire Parkland family is activated to help in the healing. As for his efforts, it’s the product of his recognition of just how fortunate his life has been and a heart for service.

“Golf has given so much to me that it was the perfect time to give back even more than I already have. It’s the best we can do. We’re just trying to make a difference. ”

Listen to the entire interview on a special edition of The 19th Hole with Michael Williams on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Tiger changes driver-weight settings, shoots even-par 70 at Honda Classic

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After missing the cut by four strokes at the 2018 Genesis Open last week, Tiger Woods is back at it again this week at the Honda Classic; it’s the first time he’s played in back-to-back PGA Tour events since 2015.

Opting for something other than driver off the tee much of the day, Woods made one double bogey, one bogey, and three birdies en route to an even-par 70.

It’s no secret that Woods has been struggling off the tee of late, especially with the driver. He’s hitting just 35 percent of fairways on the year, and he has already made one driver shaft change (going from a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70TX to a Matrix Ozik TP6HDe ahead of the Genesis Open). According to photos on Thursday, it appears Woods has also changed the weight settings in his TaylorMade M3 for a bit more forgiveness and fade-bias (as pictured above). At the Genesis Open and the Farmers Insurance Open, Woods had the M3 driver weights in the forward position, which moves CG (center of gravity) forward and tends to lower spin.

On Thursday, however, Woods hit a slew of long irons and fairway woods off the tee instead of drivers at the 7,100-yard par-70 PGA National… an approach that seemed to work. Well, he hit just 50 percent of the fairways on the day, but that means he’s trending upward.

One of the shots Woods hit with the driver was so far right it was literally laughable… but he managed to make par anyway.

Actually, his double-bogey 7 on the par-5 third hole (his 12th of the day) came after hitting the fairway; he was fumbling on and around the green after hitting his third into a greenside bunker. That blunder aside, three birdies and an even-par round at the always-difficult PGA National leaves Woods currently in T19, obviously well inside the cutline.

Do you think Woods will make the cut? Do you think he can contend to win the tournament?

See the clubs Tiger Woods has in his bag this week at the 2018 Honda Classic.

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 Honda Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National’s Champion course (par 70: 7,110 yards) in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

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The field this week is stacked at the top, and it includes defending-champion Rickie Fowler, 2017 FedEx Champion Justin Thomas, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia, who’s making his first PGA Tour start of 2018. Also in the field is Tiger Woods, who committed to play in the event just last week. Woods is coming off a disappointing missed cut at the 2018 Genesis Open.

Last year, Fowler won by four shots over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland, despite playing his final round in 1-over par.

Check out our photos from the 2018 Honda Classic below!

Wednesday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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