The former Mizzou Tiger, 29, sounds off on his stress-relieving victory and the pitfalls of blogging.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
This is kind of cliché and simple but my sports psychologist told me, “You don’t have to prove yourself to anybody.” I never knew what those words really meant until my rookie year on Tour. That’s all I felt all year, that I had something to prove, and that’s a hard way to play.
What was the toughest thing about being a Tour rookie?
If every rookie were honest with you, he would tell you the same thing: The hardest thing is the reshuffle and worrying about what events I would get in or not get in. Essentially, when you come to the PGA Tour out of the Web.com tour, you’re at the bottom of the pecking order. There are always more guys who want to play than there are spots, so every four to six events they reshuffle the order of priority based on your recent results. So if you’re not performing well, it’s even harder to get into an event. That’s another reason my win [at the Sanderson Farms Championship in November] was so big. That win jumped me way up, so I’ll be in almost any event I want to play now.
When did you realize, Hey, I’m good enough to play on Tour?
That moment never came [during] my rookie year [in 2014], that’s for sure. I didn’t keep my playing privileges, so during that first offseason, I really made a commitment that I was going to work on my game, my swing, like I never had before. For several months, I didn’t play any tournaments. I just worked on my game. It didn’t take me long to take the new stuff and put it to good use. I won the fourth event on the year on the Web.com tour. That was a breakthrough for me. I felt like the stuff I was working on was working.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want to have accomplished in the game?
I do have a wish list. It’d be a stretch this year, but by the end of 2017 I want to have played all four majors. Before my career is over I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say I want to win multiple majors, and I want to get on a good stretch for a decade or so where I play all the Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. Winning the U.S. Open would be my pinnacle.
You’ve been blogging about your life in professional golf since you turned pro. What made you start writing?
When I graduated [from Missouri in 2010], nine people chipped in a little money to help me try to play pro, and they all wanted to know how it was going. So I decided to blog. At first, I would just give tournament updates, but it evolved. I would share a little more about my rounds, and the more I wrote the more it became a powerful tool. When I’m struggling, it helps to magnify and engrain the good things going on by writing them down. It’s cathartic.
Why don’t more athletes use their platforms for intellectual debate or social activism?
It is a powerful platform to have, but I’m just now — having won for the first time — at the point where I have enough people who would read something I would put out there. I’m all in favor of standing up for what I think is right regardless of what happens. But when you have an issue that’s so controversial, if you’re not informed, having a platform comes with big risks. I feel pretty strongly about several issues, but I don’t think I’m as informed as I need to be to make public statements. If you’re just spewing opinions, you’re going to piss off half of your audience. It’d be worthwhile to see some informed athletes use their platforms for good, but it’s so dangerous.