It's hard for any player paired with Jordan Spieth to steal the spotlight, let alone an amateur. Yet Lee McCoy, who was finishing up his senior season at the University of Georgia, attained this seemingly impossible task last year at the Valspar Championship, besting the then-No. 1 player in the world by four shots on Sunday at Innisbrook's Copperhead course thanks to a two-under 69. McCoy finished in fourth place, just three shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel. It was a performance that left the two-time major winner impressed.
"You would have thought he was out here for years, working the ball both ways," Spieth said of McCoy. "The way he was talking, couldn't sense any nerves or anything on his putting stroke, either. He's certainly really ready to be out here. It was really fun to watch."
McCoy did have home-field advantage, growing up in a subdivision off Innisbrook and playing the course hundreds of times during his youth. Nevertheless, after finishing sixth in the NCAA Championship and receiving first-team All-American honors, McCoy's future looked bright.
But after turning pro in June, McCoy missed his first eight cuts as a professional. He stopped the bleeding by earning his initial paycheck at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Yet on his way to the second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School in South Florida, McCoy was involved in a car accident. His right wrist crunched into the steering wheel, fracturing in two places. Sidelined for two months, the 23-year-old was forced to withdraw from Q-School, bringing ambiguity to his 2017 prospects. He now has to compete in Monday qualifiers, take sponsor's exemptions, or head to minor circuits like the Mackenzie Tour in Canada for play.
"If you've got a reset button laying around, I'd love to push it," McCoy said to Rodney Page of the Tampa Bay Times.
However, as mentioned above, McCoy knows Innisbrook better than anyone. Playing on a sponsor's exemption this week, a solid showing could bestow further tour appearances. An opportunity not lost on McCoy.
"It's nice just playing the pro-am and then knowing you're in," McCoy continued. "But I've got to play well here. I've got to top 10 or top five. But more than anything I'm going to enjoy the week."
It won't be an easy task. But as we saw last year, McCoy is up for the challenge.