“As good as he wants to be.” That’s the double-edged endorsement given by Tiger Woods’ former coach Sean Foley as Lucas Herbert prepares to make his debut as a member of the PGA Tour at this week’s Fortinet Championship at the Silverado Resort & Spa in California.
Currently ranked 51st in the world, Herbert has played 14 events aligned with the PGA Tour since playing his first World Golf Championships event in Mexico in February 2020 and has spent the majority of this year based in the US.
A top-five finish at the first event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last month effectively sealed his elevation to PGA Tour member status for the coming season and he will take to the North course at Silverado eager to make an early impression on the FedEx Cup.
A two-time winner on the European Tour – including the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in July – Herbert has suddenly positioned himself as a potential top-10 player in the world.
Speaking on this week’s episode of the Inside The Ropes podcast, Herbert’s long-time coach Dominic Azzopardi spoke of the discipline needed for the 25-year-old to take his game to another level again, something Foley believes he is more than capable of.
“I spent a fair bit of time with Sean Foley, Tiger’s old coach, when I was over there in the US in February/March and ‘Foles’ said it himself. He said, ‘This kid can be as good as he wants to be,’” Azzopardi said.
“And I absolutely agree with that. When I say that, ‘Herbie’ knows his sleep patterns aren’t where they probably could be. He knows he can eat better, but there’s a lot of discipline involved in being that elite.
“To get him into the top 10 in the world there’s a lot of choices that he’s got to make. And he’s the only one that can make those choices and decisions. He can be as good as he chooses but as we know with Herbie, he’s really big on having a great balance in his life and as his coach who knows him as well as anyone, I want to allow him to have that balance.
“If that means he hovers around that 30-50 mark in the world but he’s really happy in his life and content, that’s the most important thing for me rather than pushing him really hard to be a top-10 player in the world and be miserable doing that.”
Tied for 45th at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship only two weeks ago, Herbert and Azzopardi have had little time to reflect on their journey from Ballarat Golf Club to be within touching distance of a spot at Augusta National next April.
Planning to concentrate his efforts on the PGA Tour before rounding out the calendar year back on the European Tour for the DP World Tour Championship, Herbert can secure a coveted invite to the Masters by moving into the top 50 in the world as of December 31.
“Those things take care of themselves. We do the work and we pick the right schedule,” Azzopardi said of a possible Masters debut in 2022.
“Yes it would be nice to play at Augusta and play the Masters but he’s 25. That sort of thing will happen if we keep going on the journey that we have and the way we’re progressing and always improving. I’ve always said to him since he was 12 or 13, my goal with Herbie was to see him continually improve and if that happens he’ll play Augusta 10 or 15 times.
“He’s business as usual. He’s really dedicated and wants to achieve. He said to me the other day, it’s the PGA Tour now, it’s the next level up. He knows he’s got to work harder and do a better job in some areas about sleep patterns and his eating and these things.
“The thing that I love the most is that he’s wanting to step into that space at the moment and work at being a better player.”