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