I knew it. The results lately had not matched the feelings I was having in my game, but I could tell that things were starting to click. This past week in Brazil, it all came together. I drove the ball well, my iron play was fantastic, I controlled my wedges beautifully, and, after missing a three-foot putt on the first hole of the tournament, I putted extremely well. It all resulted in a 22-under-par total and a victory by four shots in the Web.com Tour's Brasil Championship!
The final margin of victory was four shots, but don't let that deceive you. Nothing about the last two days was easy. My second-round 62 gave me the 36-hole lead, but I never led the golf tournament by a comfortable margin until a birdie on the 71st hole pushed my lead to three. The weekend was an absolute blast, but it was stressful the whole time.
When play was stopped on Saturday, I was on the 13th hole of round three and was tied for the lead at 15 under par. We were back in position at 6:45 a.m. to resume play, and I had an adventurous time finishing my third round. I started the day by birdieing the par-5 13th, but then dropped a shot on 14 after very nearly driving the ball out of bounds. I followed that with one of the best shots of my life when I hit my three hybrid to about ten feet on the long par-3 15th hole. I converted that birdie putt and went on to birdie the next two holes as well. I stood confidently on the 18th tee but missed the fairway wide right with a three wood and ended up finishing my round with a disappointing bogey. Still, it was a third-round 68 (-3), and it sent me to the final round tied for the lead.
The tournament committee decided to re-group us for the final round, so after finishing my third round at 8:20, I had just more than two hours to think about things before my round-four tee time. I did a good job not thinking too much during that time, and I had a great warm up before heading to the tee to begin the final round. I actually was feeling very good on the tee, but my opening tee shot told a different story. I was simply hitting a little three hybrid up the fairway of the short first hole, but I pulled it badly into a bamboo forest and nearly out of bounds. I actually executed my next three shots really well, but my par putt lipped out, and my final round began with a lousy bogey. I told my trusty caddie (Alicia) that I was determined to stay relaxed, have fun, and play one shot at a time. After a par on number two, I made a nice putt for birdie on the par-5 third, and that got me rolling. I birdied holes three through six. I pulled a five iron into a bunker on the par-3 seventh and dropped a shot, but I made a great putt for birdie on the par-3 ninth to make the turn at three under par for the day. At that time, I didn't know how I stood in the tournament, but I knew that I had to keep my foot on the gas. I made frustratingly routine pars on holes ten and 11 and then a good par on the 12th hole after hitting the wrong club into a back bunker. On the par-5 13th hole, I drove it in the fairway, laid up to a perfect yardage, and then hit a sand wedge from 95 yards to one foot for a tap-in birdie. It was a great feeling to play that hole so well. Unfortunately, I made two of my poorest swings of the tournament on the next two holes. A pulled drive on the 14th and a pushed three-hybrid on the 15th both led to bogeys and an increased stress level. I mustered all the composure I had on the 16th tee and striped a three wood down the fairway to a nice wedge yardage on the short par four. From 111 yards, I hit a gap wedge to about eight feel below the hole. For the first time since early in the round, I snuck a peak at the scoreboard as I approached the green. I was tied for the lead at 19 under par. I told myself to stay committed to the one-shot-at-a-time approach, and I (somewhat) calmly rolled in the birdie putt. On the par-5 17th, I over-cut my tee shot just into a right fairway bunker. From their, the decision to lay up was an easy one, and I hit a great iron shot out of the bunker. I left myself 87 yards to a back hole location. I decided to play a little bit conservatively and take long out of play. I hit a lob wedge right at the hole but left it some 15 feel short. Before it was my turn to putt, I again checked the scoreboard. My nearest competitor had bogied the 18th hole. I knew better than to let myself relax at all. I went through my routine thoroughly, and I hit a great putt. I made it, and I walked to the 18th tee with a three shot lead. I told Alicia at least three more times that I wanted to continue playing one shot at a time on the final hole. I striped a tee shot, and with water looming short and right on the approach shot, I played a perfect nine iron off a slope to the left of the hole and gave myself a six foot putt for birdie. I rolled it right in the middle for a final-round 66 (-5) and a four-shot margin of victory.
It was thrilling! It was fun! It was stressful! But I handled it all with composure, and my game held up incredibly well through all of it. I am very pleased with the work that I have put into my golf game throughout my career, but I feel particularly proud of the commitment I made this offseason, and it is very rewarding to see that paying off already. I still feel like I have a long way to go, but this is one heck of a giant step in the right direction!
So, what does this victory mean? It takes care of one of my Outcome Goals for the year (Win a Web.com Tour event), and, because the Brasil Championship is the largest purse of the year on this tour, it darn near wraps up my number one Outcome Goal for this year (Earn my PGA Tour Card for the 2015-2016 season). More importantly, it means that my hard work is working and my game is good. It also means that I am one third of the way to the last of my three Outcome Goals for year (Win Three events on the Web.com Tour to earn a mid-year promotion to the PGA Tour). One thing I definitely learned this weekend is that winning is not easy, but I also learned that I am good enough to do it. This win means a lot of things to me, and I am definitely going to soak it in and enjoy it, but I am already motivated to keep getting better so I can do it again and again and again!
What a thrill this is! Thank you for believing in me and sticking with me through some struggles over that past year and a half. Golf will always have ups and downs, but I am definitely trending in the right direction right now. Keep it here to enjoy the ride with me!