The smart-and-simple strategy fueling one of golf's rising talents
Patrick Rodgers is one of those golfers whose best days always seem to be right around the corner. The former No. 1 amateur in the world, who won 11 times while at Stanford University, has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour since graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour in 2015.
Yet his talent ceiling always seems to be higher. Now, much to the delight of golf fans, he recently seems to be realizing his true potential.
Rodgers fired a seven-under 63 during his second round at the Cadence Bank Houston Open on Friday, which marked his 13th consecutive round under par in competition. He was at nine under after 36 holes, four shots back of leader Tony Finau.
"Me and my coach, [Golf Digest Best in State] Jeff Smith, had a good meeting after the playoffs and figured out where we needed to get better, where I'm falling short of the elite players," said Rodgers, who finished 86th in the FedEx Cup points race. "We're implementing that playing week after week, and it's showing up on the course."
Rodgers has notched four straight top-30 finshes, including a T-3 in Bermuda, and t the heart of his recent changes, he says, was a new approach off the tee that the rest of us can learn a lot from.
Rule #1: Only attack from the fairway
Rodgers said that when he took a good, hard look at his game, he keyed in on their long game. Specifically, the ability to put the ball far enough in play off the tee to leave an opportunity to attack the pin.
"The elite players in the world are incredible tee to green," he says. "Guys like J.T. [Justin Thomas] and Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm, the way they hit their approach shots and the way that they're able to attack from the fairway, it's a huge asset in their game."
He underlined the importance of hitting fairways, which, for a longer hitter like Rodgers, isn't something to be overlooked. He's been adopting an approach recently that prioritizes getting the ball safely in play off the tee, and only attacking pins after you do that. When you miss the fairway, attacking the pin is a non-starter, Rodgers says.
"It obviously starts with the tee shot," he says. "I stayed disciplined on my approach shots, but took advantage when I had opportunities to attack."
Rule #2: Go on defense from the rough
But when you miss the fairway? That's a test of your patience and discipline, Rodgers says. If being in the fairway opens the door to attacking the pin, driving your ball into the rough locks that door firmly shut.
"If you're in the rough even a few steps off the fairway, you're on defense," he says of his strategy this week. "I like the strategic challenge, I think it's fun for anyone to play regardless of skill level, and obviously it continues to hold up to the test for us."
While the rough is certainly more punishing in Houston this week, it's a simple approach that would do the rest of us a lot of good. Focus on getting your ball in play off the tee, and only consider chasing the pin if you're in the fairway. In the rough? Take your losses, get back into position, and move on.