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      Insider: Storybook season for Garwood in 2014

    • Doug Garwood said he hasn't put extra pressure on himself this year, and that has helped. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images) Doug Garwood said he hasn't put extra pressure on himself this year, and that has helped. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

    Doug Garwood majored in English Lit at Fresno State, which explains the Shakespeare references. But his major just as easily could have been psychology or philosophy because there’s a good bit of those disciplines in his approach to life and golf.

    Garwood, a little-known professional who has lived and played on the periphery of golf’s big shows, is having a break-out season on the Champions Tour.

    He lost a playoff in June at the Principal Charity Classic to Tom Pernice, Jr. In his next start at the Encompass Championship, Garwood was fourth. Last week, at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, he was the first-round leader with 64 and eventually finished T15 for a third straight solid showing.

    A year ago, Garwood made five official starts on the Champions Tour. At the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach he tied for second after open-qualifying. In his Champions Tour debut at the 2013 Principal Charity Classic, he tied for seventh and also had a T24 at the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship as a qualifier.

    It was after the playoff at Wakonda Club, where he lost to Pernice on the 20th hole, that Garwood was asked to describe his journey. Not surprisingly, he said it resembled Love’s Labour’s Lost, one of William Shakespeare’s early comedies. Homer’s epic narrative, the Odyssey, would have worked, too, had Garwood’s major been Ancient Studies.

    Garwood doesn’t play golf with expectations. Too big a risk in that and too emotionally draining.

    “I have always believed that the lower the expectation, the easier it is to meet it,” Garwood said. “I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself. There’s enough pressure just being out here with all the hoopla. I just go out and try to shoot my best because I can’t think about winning the tournament or trying to shoot 64. It just kind of happens. One shot at a time is my motto.”

    At the same time, Garwood, 51, isn’t surprised by his mounting success. He has spent a lifetime preparing for the next opportunity. Name a tour, any tour, and chances are Garwood’s tried it.

    “I never played in a PGA TOUR event,” he said. “The most difficult part for me is just seeing the guys that I watched on TV for all those years. Seeing them in the locker room, someone says, ‘Hi, Doug.’ Oh, hi, Fred. And I've never met him but I know who he is. That part's probably more difficult. Once it's teeing it up and playing the golf, then it's just golf.”

    At the Principal Charity Classic, before Pernice reeled him in, Garwood had a 4-shot lead early in the final round.

    “I was thinking about winning then,” Garwood said. “I was thinking I would win by 10, but that didn't happen. The last couple holes really is the only time I think that I really think about winning because they always say you've got to get in contention for the back nine, like at Augusta kind of thing.

    “Winning is something that happens at the very end. I think every guy out here will say they're just trying to play each hole to the best of their ability, and then once they get to the end, then it becomes a little bit more like match play and you're trying to win and that kind of stuff.”

    Garwood is 24th on the Money List ($332,092) and 26th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list. He’s long off the tee (fourth with an average driving distance of 287.3 yards), third in the Par Breakers category and eighth in Putting Average (1.739).

    “The key for me is my driving has improved dramatically from say five, 10 years ago,” he said. “I used to aim straight down the middle and miss it left or right. I got a driver that I can't really miss left and so I hit three to four more fairways a round and that makes a big difference. So that's part of it, the driver, plus making every putt I look at. We all think we should make every putt.

    “My golf game, I feel like that definitely puts me out here if I can find a way to be exempt. The thing like the locker room stuff, seeing the guys I've seen on TV, that's just more of an awkward feeling when I see them but it doesn't really impact the golf course.”

    Between 2005 and his 50th birthday last year, Garwood played, “pretty much every mini-tour around the country.” But the Champions Tour remained only a distant thought.

    “People used to ask me when I was 48, ‘Hey, are you looking forward to the Champions Tour?’ and I really wasn't because I was like a baseball player, you're looking forward to the season two years from now? Not really, just the event you're playing in. Again, back to the same thing, staying in the now,” he said.

    Garwood’s adventures at last year’s Champions Tour Qualifying Tournament continued his epic journey and there were more twists and turns than Homer ever imagined. Garwood three-putted the 18th green in the final round to make bogey, relinquished the fifth fully-exempt spot and fell into a five-way playoff. Garwood finished eighth overall after hitting his drive out-of-bounds and making double-bogey on the second extra hole.

    Garwood figured he was “in really easy” before the weather turned cold in Scottsdale, and bad things started to happen, like hitting a cart path and having his ball cross a white stake.

    “I had a real nice ending to the year,” he said. “Thanks for bringing that up.”

    Garwood smiled. And why wouldn’t he? Things are going his way these days and he knows exactly what he has to do to keep it that way.

    “Mini-tours, guys will shoot low and they might back up a little bit,” he said. “Out here they go low, low, low, they just keep going low so you've got to keep going.”

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