Abraham Ancer is no stranger to the spotlight. The 29-year-old — the 21st ranked golfer in the world — has already played on a Presidents Cup team and has multiple professional wins to his name. But every golfer has to start somewhere.
On this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar, Ancer explained to hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz about his (unfortunate) first experience on the PGA Tour — and how Rory McIlroy, unknowingly, inspired him to be confident in his game.
As Ancer explained, his first event on the PGA Tour after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour was at the Safeway Open, in Napa, Calif. Ancer was hitting balls and warming up — everything seemed totally fine.
“It [was] like I’m in Disneyland,” Ancer said.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy set up next to Ancer (it was the only time in McIlroy’s career he suited up for the Safeway Open).
Ancer’s instant reaction?
“I’m like, f**k,” he said.
“I’m hitting balls, and I’m thinning it … it’s cold,” Ancer continued. “And [McIllroy’s] 5-irons are just taking off, and flying 215 [yards]. It really intimated me — I don’t know if I have what it takes to be out here.”
After seeing McIlroy’s stellar warm-up performance, Ancer instantly began trying to overcorrect his shot. Mainly, he focused on trying to hit the ball higher and farther, and decided to change his shafts right before the event. The change didn’t go well.
However, even as Ancer played “terrible golf” in the months following that event — largely due to these unnecessary changes — he was still able to find a silver lining from the occurrence: it made him realize that he didn’t actually need to change anything at all.
“I just had to play my game, and get better at what I’m already decent at, and go from there.” Ancer explained. “So I went back to the basics, played all the clubs I played that got me there in the first place, went back to the Korn Ferry Tour, and played great.”
Ancer, now back from the Korn Terry Tour and an up-and-coming star on Tour, has found solace in the way he plays, and isn’t worried about molding his game around anyone else’s play style.
Check out the entire episode below.