I am ready for round two on the US PGA Tour.
It’s an unbelievable feeling to know I’m going back. I’ve been working really hard on my game, especially my weaknesses. The biggest chink in the armour used to be my driving, but I’ve dedicated time to getting the ball in play regularly and it’s paying big dividends.
I started the Korn Ferry Tour season with some solid results, which gave me some confidence, and I used that to earn a fourth place recently before I won the BMW Charity Pro-Am. Those two hot weeks tipped me over the edge on the moneylist.
It’s the first time I’ve been in this position; knowing I have a PGA Tour card locked up halfway through the year. I guess it could be easy to take your foot off the accelerator, but I won’t be doing that. Although I have the freedom to kind of free-wheel it, I want to keep the foot down and keep playing well because there are huge advantages for climbing higher on the moneylist. The higher I am on the moneylist through the finals, the more PGA Tour starts I’ll receive next season when I’m playing in the ultra-competitive graduates reshuffle. It’s a pool of players, usually a little more than 50, who are re-ranked five times throughout the season based on their results. When they fill PGA Tour fields, they dip in to our reshuffle pool. If you’re really high in the reshuffle, you’ll get a lot of opportunities to keep your card.
Locking up my PGA Tour card early also allowed me to take a few more weeks off on the Korn Ferry Tour when I needed to, rather than have to keep playing. I wanted to be fresh for that last stretch before the 2019-2020 PGA Tour season and its September to November run, when I know I will have to get off to a hot start.
It’s funny; my first year on the US PGA Tour was 2016-2017. As a rookie, you’re really thrown in the deep end. You’re playing against veterans who have played the tournament courses for more than 20 years and know them like their home course.
I also didn’t get a whole heap of playing opportunities; I got 17 events that year from my status. It was difficult to expect to play well and finish top-125 on the FedEx Cup against guys who are playing 30 or more events. I’m not blaming anyone but myself, and it was an eye-opener how well you have to play. Knowing what I know now, it will be smoother. I know what to expect and I’m not going to be a deer in the headlights.
I know what to expect and I’m not going to be a deer in the headlights. – Rhein Gibson
Playing on the Korn Ferry Tour (formerly Web.com and formerly Nationwide, Buy.com, Nike and Hogan) certainly toughens you up as a tour player. But I have to admit, it will be nice to see cut lines nearer to even or one-under on the PGA Tour instead of four, five or even six-under every week.
That is the daunting thing about the Korn Ferry Tour. Especially on Thursdays if you’re teeing off in the afternoon and guys in the morning field have already posted eight or nine-under before you’ve even started. You already have that in the back of your mind. You don’t want to go out and get off to a rough start and have to dig yourself out of it. There can be a lot of pressure in that first round.
You have to toughen up and play well. Guys will either respond to that call, or they can struggle with that mentality and miss cuts. But they are the cards you’ve been dealt and you have to get on with it. We’re playing against the best golfers in the world; it shouldn’t be easy.
Going back to the US PGA Tour, I believe I’m a more rounded player and certainly better from tee-to-green. I’m a better driver of the ball, which has allowed me to use my strength – my iron play – more often. Long courses don’t daunt me because I’m as confident with a 6-iron as I am a 9-iron.
I’m also confident in my ability to go low when I’m playing well. It’s funny, it always gets mentioned that I hold the Guinness World Record for the lowest round. [Gibson shot a 16-under par 55 at the par-71 River Oaks Golf Club in Oklahoma in May 2012]. I’ve said this numerous times: I feel I’m a momentum player. If I am confident and rolling with it, I can go low. During my BMW Charity Pro-Am victory, I shot rounds of six, seven and eight-under (before the event was shortened to 54 holes due to rain). If I’m confident in everything I’m doing, I feel I can get up PGA Tour leaderboards with a good chance.
I need to maintain my strengths, which are iron play and the short game. But I also need to continue to improve my driving. As we see on tour, driving is so important. Look at guys such as Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson – a powerful driver makes them hard to beat.
I feel I’m a different player this time around. I’m ready for another crack.
Rhein Gibson spoke with Evin Priest