The Reclamation Of Robert Garrigus
Continued (page 3 of 3)
"The amazing thing was that the guy I knew, he had a relapse. I never really spoke to him again. Ami's friend, she didn't keep in touch with her, either. But Ami and I hit it off," Garrigus says. "That's when you know things are spooky cool."
Garrigus uses the word "cool" frequently. But once clean, his game started warming up as he returned to the Nationwide Tour in 2004 and competed in his first U.S. Open, and then he qualified for the PGA Tour in 2006. However, only once in his first four seasons did he retain his card as he struggled with his concentration and consistency.
That's how he ended up in Memphis last June having made only seven starts because of his conditional status and having to rely on sponsor's exemptions. He was ranked 366th in the world. The benefit of almost winning seemed obliterated by the manner in which he lost. All of a three-stroke lead evaporated when he triple-bogeyed the 18th at TPC Southwind. Lee Westwood eventually won the three-man playoff over Garrigus and Robert Karlsson.
Not since Jean Van de Velde's meltdown at the 1999 British Open had golf witnessed such a thoroughly gut-churning conclusion to a professional tournament. Garrigus returned to Arizona a changed golfer, but he was not a changed man.
"I knew it was only a matter of time before he bounced back," says Ami, who wanted to go watch her husband, but was pregnant at the time and worried about saving money; Robert's season earnings were $80,455 before the tournament. "He came home, and he was so excited. Sure, he was disappointed, too, but he never once complained about losing. Robert is such a positive person that he looked at it more as a learning experience."
Garrigus can still picture how the nightmare at Memphis unfolded, how his legs quit on his tee shot, sending the ball left, and then how each successive shot he got faster with his thinking, with his routine, with his swing, until it added up to triple bogey. Then he bogeyed the same hole, the 18th, in the playoff.
"You want to know the truth? It didn't feel that bad," Garrigus says. "You've got to get there to blow it. Granted, I blew it, but I was whipping Lee Westwood's butt up and down the course all day, and then I gave it away on one hole.
"You have to learn from your mistakes. If you don't, you're stupid," he adds. "That's how Memphis helped me win Disney."
Garrigus arrived at Walt Disney World Resort last November as a new dad. His son, Robert, was born in September. He also arrived wielding a new wedge game, courtesy of some pointers he received from former tour player Jim Ahern. Garrigus trailed Roland Thatcher by five strokes with 18 holes to play but pounded the Magnolia Course into submission with an eight-under 64. He won by three. He made par at the last.
In addition to his performance at Congressional, Garrigus had another close call at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Jonathan Byrd beat him in a playoff. Otherwise, he hasn't been in contention often, and one of his chances was scuttled by a health scare. He trailed by five after 54 holes at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when he withdrew because of heart palpitations caused by dehydration.
"That was disappointing because I was playing great, and I don't give myself as many chances as I should," Garrigus says. "I still struggle with my concentration, staying in a round. It's something I'll probably always struggle with."
He was referring to the ADD. But at least it's his only demon now. "I look at what I've overcome, and I know that going through rehab and changing who I was is a lot harder than anything I'll ever encounter on the golf course," he says. "Most guys out here, they're groomed to be out here. I wasn't groomed for anything. I pretty much figured it out on my own, and that's pretty cool. When I play my best, I truly believe I'm as good as anyone."
And, as Garrigus can tell you, it's all about what you believe anyway. And the choices you make.