‘If my flights got canceled to a tournament … I would have been happy’: Pro opens up
Amidst a round of 10 birdies, and six birdies in a row at one point, and a nine-under 63, and his lowest score in about a year, and a first-round, Fortinet Championship lead, Lucas Herbert hit a wayward drive, and he missed a putt. And that’s part of maybe the biggest story of his Thursday in beautiful Napa, California.
On the 409-yard, par-4 6th at Silverado Resort, Herbert dumped his tee shot into the mess right. He recovered. He pitched on. He had 13 feet to save par. He missed. He bogeyed.
He went to 7.
“Yeah, I wasn’t — again, feeling like I’m in a better place,” Herbert said, “was able to deal with that a lot better and just able to move on to the next hole and not play the situation any differently.
“Just play the shot that was in front of me.”
Over eight years as a pro, Herbert has been solid. He’s won once on the PGA Tour, at the 2021 Bermuda Championship. He’s won three times internationally. But he got in a funk. Golf and life can do that. After the Open Championship in July, Herbert stopped playing. This week, he returned. He shot the 63.
How? What happened? That’s his business. But Herbert shared. He didn’t have to. He revealed that there were times he would have been OK if flights to tournaments were canceled.
That he played some guitar.
That he’d “become probably a bitter and spiteful person.”
That he picked up the clubs again a couple weeks ago.
We’ll use questions from reporters in Napa to guide this story.
“We were a little curious about that break because you haven’t played since the Open Championship. We’re not aware of any injury that you had; 152nd in the FedExCup points and you took two months off.”
“Yeah, 152nd in the FedExCup. Golf’s been getting me down pretty hard this year. It was just a tough stretch there where I had a lot going on both in my life and on the golf course as well. Yeah, I missed the cut at the Open. I didn’t really want to think about golf or talk about golf for about a good month there. Just needed to get away from the game and refresh everything. Yeah, it sucked. I’d love to be here or up on the FedExCup standings as we speak, but hopefully taking that good break, refreshing, have a little reset gives me a better chance to play well in the fall season and get some better results and get into the bigger events again next year.”
“Was your break planned or did it just kind of come about? How did that materialize?
“It was planned for a couple of weeks. I felt like heading to Europe for the Scottish and the Open. If I wasn’t probably inside the top 100 after those two events, I wasn’t going to try and bother chasing the playoffs. I just knew that I needed that mental reset. Yeah, from the outside, it doesn’t look like the greatest decision to make, but I really needed the reset. Yeah, I was just able to get away from golf for a while. It was nice. I went and spent some time around people where I wasn’t the main focus of everyone’s life for the day. I was able to go and be a part of other people’s lives, which is something we don’t get to do as golfers. I feel like coming here this week, I was ready to play again. I think for a while there, it felt like if my flights got canceled to a tournament and there was no other way to get there, I would have been happy to go home, like, oh, good, a week off. I feel like if that happened this week, I would have been upset; I was ready to go. That sort of tells me I was back in a good frame of mind to be able to come out here and just deal with adversity when it comes on the golf course.”
“Was it your golf that was getting you down?”
“It was a lot of stuff. I just think a lot’s happened for me this year. I’ve had to deal with a lot off the golf course, and it felt like I was kind of idling at 80 percent when I did get on the course. Just didn’t have any space for things to go wrong, I didn’t have any space to deal with that. Yeah, it was good just to get away from the game a bit, take care of some of that stuff in my life and feel like I was able to bring that back maybe a little lower so I was able to function a little easier.”
“If you’re not playing golf, what were you doing?”
“So I hadn’t met most of my girlfriend’s family and friends and whatnot. She’s from up in Maine, so I sort of went up and spent a lot of time with her family and friends. I’ve never been to Maine, just spent some time up there. Yeah, kind of anything just getting away from the game. A kind of like music so I played a little bit of music. I’m not really that good at it.
“Guitar. And I bought a house earlier in the year as well, so just there’s always jobs to do around the house as well, so I was getting a lot of that kind of sorted. I played so much that it felt like I’d be home for a week and I couldn’t get anything done. You spend two days on the couch and then you’re practicing for the rest of the week. Jobs here and there just couldn’t get done and things couldn’t get organized, so it was nice actually to kind of cross a few of those projects off, too.
“When did you pick the clubs up again?”
“What’s today, Thursday? So it must have been — it was two weeks ago tomorrow, two weeks ago tomorrow. Yeah, Friday two weeks ago.”
“Lucas, it sounds like to me you feel like you’re a more well-rounded person than you were now before the break. I’m wondering how does that help you on the golf course, perspective, things of that nature?”
“Yeah, I mean thank you. I’ll take it as a compliment. Yeah, I think I’d become probably a bitter and spiteful person. Not over the top, but I didn’t like the version of myself I look back on and see at the Open Championship. I think I was wound up pretty tight and kind of lashed out at people around me too quickly, too easily. I think, yeah, the break was a good chance for me to be able to get away and reset, just get away from this life. I just think you’re under the pump so much, so much pressure on you externally and internally to play well. Yeah, to be able to get away from that, you’re sort of able to kind of find yourself a little bit again. I was speaking to one of the rules officials earlier in the week, I felt like if I could just come out here and be like a better person, the golf game’s kind of the next thing, but like just being a better person I think to the people around me, my relationships, you know, family, friends, that only benefits. And yeah, that was sort of maybe all I cared about coming here this week. And it’s really nice to shoot 63, but I’m going to do my best to go out there with the same attitude tomorrow and that is the main focus of the week.”
“Were you just too hard on yourself?”
“Yeah. I mean, you come from winning twice in 2021, third start as a member I win on the PGA Tour straight away, you’re into the biggest events against the best players, I think it was just whether it’s pressure from external or there’s just expectations internally that you’re just going to keep going up, keep getting better and keep producing the same results against better fields. It doesn’t take much for you to be off out here. When you don’t get a few of those results, it just compounds and it compounds and you put more pressure on yourself, and it gets worse and very quickly you can go down a slippery slope. It’s pretty hard to take any time off in the middle of the season. Go and tell me to miss Memorial, I’m never going to do that; it’s such an amazing event, but it was probably what I needed at the time. I just didn’t have the ability to go and do that. It sort of got to a point, a sort of breaking point, I just had to do it. Didn’t really watch a lot of golf. I think I watched maybe the playoff hole when Lucas Glover won in Memphis and I think I watched the last two holes when Viktor [Hovland] won in Atlanta, and that was the only golf I watched for six weeks. It was just lovely to get away from the game, to be honest.”
After the 10-minute session, a reporter then had another question about the sequence on 6.
“Like you say, you were able to just shake it off and move forward. You obviously had a great back nine. In the past version of you, would that maybe have lingered a little bit longer?”
“Past version, you make it sound like I’m two different people. No, yeah, I think me two months ago, I probably wouldn’t have shaken that off as much and I would have been a little harder on myself. It felt nice, it felt free to just not sit there and just beat myself up for that.”