SEPTEMBER 19 — It’s been a great year. It kind of feels like I’ve taken a lot of steps this season, contending in more major championships, I finally won a big tournament in the US — Jack Nicklaus’ event at The Memorial — and honestly after that, I felt like I’ve gotten so much better and it was very pleasing to see.
The last couple of weeks have obviously superseded that. It’s been surreal. You dream about it but these things happen when you don’t expect them to, so it’s just awesome to be sitting here with the FedExCup. There are a lot of big names on the trophy, and it’s hard to win the FedExCup if you haven’t had a great season and you beat the best players. It means a lot to be a part of that group that have won.
With my six-shot lead going into the final round, the game plan was to play as boring golf as possible, just like Tiger Woods back in the day when he would post the 69 or a 70 in a major championship and walk away with a victory.
It was sweet to make birdie on the first hole and a clutch par save on No. 2. After that, I felt really in control of my game. But even being 4-under through six holes, Xander Schauffele just kept pouring it on and suddenly after missing a couple of short birdie putts early on the back nine, the lead was at three, and if I had missed the par putt on 14, it’s suddenly two. What Xander was doing was very special and it certainly made the final day a lot more stressful than I felt like it should have been after the start that I had.
This season, I think I’ve exuded more overall confidence, and I think more peace. It helps being able to chip the ball too. My all-round game feels more complete and I think I’ve amassed good experiences over the last year or so, being in contention, failing in contention, being in contention and succeeding in contention. I think that’s been cool to try to learn from any experience, whether it’s not finishing well on a Sunday or what went wrong and what I can learn from it. I feel like I’ve used those opportunities to get better.
When my short game started to come around, I began to believe I have all the shots in my bag. I saw the shots I was able to pull off in tournaments and in highly stressful situations. I coupled that with the course management stuff and the attitude, just handling bad bounces, handling bogeys, handling bad shots. Those three aspects combined, when I started to see that, I wasn’t stressed when I showed up to a golf tournament. It was like whatever happen happens. I might play bad and that’s okay.
Norway's Viktor Hovland started the Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship, two back of leader Scottie Scheffler in the staggered scoring format before romping to a five-stroke victory to complete a stunning season which featured three wins and six other top-10s. — Action Images via Reuters
If you want to get to the next level, you have to look introspectively. When I’m in these moments and things are not going my way, I’m maybe reacting a little bit too much to it. Obviously if I hit it in the water, that’s a bad scenario. But you have a choice of whether you want to react to that shot and make it affect the next shot or the next few holes, or you can use that motivation or energy into something better and you can say let’s get past this, let’s see if we can get this round back together or basically prevent the round from going off the rails.
When you try to be honest with yourself and ask yourself, how can I get better, I basically have to force myself to change a couple of these mindset things. To some people, it comes naturally but it hasn’t been natural to me, at least to that extent, so that’s something I’ve been working on.
It’s a lot of cash we’re playing for. It’s in the back of your mind. But I live in Stillwater, Oklahoma and money goes a long way over there. It’s not like I’m spending money out the wazoo every week. I don’t need a lot to be happy. I don’t need a lot to live within my means. It’s nice for my family to have that protection and my, you know, eventual kids, that I’ll have in the future. It’s nice to have that, but it’s not something that drives me, it’s not something that gives me meaning. I find meaning in other places.
* History was made at East Lake Golf Club when Viktor Hovland became the first Norwegian to hoist the FedExCup, the PGA TOUR’s ultimate prize, at the conclusion of the 2022-23 Season. The 25-year-old started the Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship, two back of leader Scottie Scheffler in the staggered scoring format before romping to a five-stroke victory to complete a stunning season which featured three wins and six other top-10s.
* Fans can watch the PGA TOUR Live and Exclusive on Astro Golf Channel. PGA TOUR Fall begins with the Fortinet Championship on Sept 14.
** This is the personal opinion of the columnist.