Zack Fischer is fully exempt on the 2014 Web.com Tour by virtue of winning the Qualifying Tournament in December. Winning didn’t appear likely after a first-round 75, but from there the University of Texas-Arlington graduate shot rounds of 67-66-65-64-64 to win by two shots at 31 under. The 24-year-old talked about that torrid stretch, his newest hobby and playing on the PGA TOUR with a no-name club.
Q: You said after the first round at q-school that your thoughts were “negative, very negative.” How did you recover?
A: After the first day I was thinking to just try to get to the top 45. It just turned into one of the most amazing weeks of my life. I couldn’t believe it.
I’ve never gone that far under par in my whole life. My lowest round in competitive golf is 64 and I did it twice in a row. I don’t even know, people ask me how (the first round) happened. I didn’t play that bad when I shot 75, that (PGA West) Stadium course is hard. It doesn’t take much to shoot 75 really quickly. Things just started clicking, it just seemed like everything went really well.
Q: After playing that well would you have wanted the season to start right away? Or is the mental grind as tough as advertised and requiring time off?
A: I was so ready for time off. I didn’t pick up a golf club for a week. I wasn’t exhausted physically, it was just the mental side of it. It was the hardest golf thing I’ve ever had to do my whole life. Then they made us go to orientation the day after and that didn’t help.
Q: Orientation? What did they put you through? Training to deal with us media hacks, I imagine.
A: They had us do the life insurance, the drug policy, the media stuff. The media stuff was really good. But retirement? I just got here and you’re going to talk to me about retirement? (Laughs) It was just hard to focus after that many holes.
Q: Anything sticking out to you on the 2014 schedule? The Web.com Tour has a long-standing stop at the WNB Golf Classic in Midland.
A: (Chitimacha) Louisiana and Midland both. Those are the only two I’ve ever tried to qualify for and didn’t really come close, so it will be cool to play in those.
I’m really looking forward to Colombia. Ready for that first week to start. And going to Brazil, that’s been one of my dream places for sure. My golf teacher taught down there and said it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the world. We just had dinner the other night.
Q: What’s the dinner conversation between teacher and player these days? You’ve obviously been playing well.
A: Actually, uh, it’s more about guns (laughs). You’ve gotta remember, I’m in the south. Shooting is my second hobby now. I’ve gotten into buying some guns and learning how to shoot. It’s amazing how much and golf and shooting are similar. You’ve got to have the proper grip, stance, alignment, everything is so similar. I almost think it helps me become a better golfer. I don’t want to say that, but ever since I’ve started shooting I’ve been making more putts and my alignment has been better. Who knows, maybe it’s helping. It’s crazy.
Q: You have made a couple PGA TOUR starts. You played the HP Byron Nelson and shot 65 in the second round to make it to the weekend, was that an “a-ha” moment?
A: Honestly, I think the big moment I had was in the Zurich (Classic of New Orleans) a few weeks before. I got into the top 25 in the second round and I made three bogeys coming in, then I thought I had to birdie 18 to make the cut and I did, but Luke List birdied three of his last four holes and knocked me out. But just the fact that I didn’t play my best golf and still had a very good chance of making the cut really opened my eyes to what I could accomplish.
Q: Your other interesting career note to this point would have to be winning that 12-hole playoff in the U.S. Open qualifier over Ryan Palmer last year. What was the most surreal thing about that?
A: I made a 25-footer to stay in the playoff on the 10th playoff hole and I couldn’t make that again if I tried. It was a 1-in-100. My friends were there watching, and after the playoff was finished they grabbed my putter and tried to make it, one of them putted it off the green. Palmer just kind of got a ‘wow, I thought this thing was over’ look.
Talk about monotonous. I could tell you No. 10 and 18 at Lakewood Country Club like the back of my hand now. I saw everything – the left side, the right side, the fairway, everything.
Q: What was your major at UT-Arlington?
A: Interdisciplinary studies (laughs). I wanted to be a meteorologist but quickly realized math wasn’t my strong suit. So I changed it to interdisciplinary studies; you could basically call it a golf degree.
Q: Did you know the PGA TOUR has a full-time meteorologist?
A: I did. My goal was kind of to become that person, as a backup plan. I’ve always loved weather since I was young. The Weather Channel is on at my house right now.
Q: Being a Texan, you must enjoy the wind and the heat and the weird conditions down there.
A: I would love to tell you I absolutely love to play in bad weather, but to be honest with you I’m just like everybody else. But I really like the fact it makes par mean something, I always seem to play those courses pretty well – with the exception of Merion last year. (He shot 82-76 and missed the cut.) Even though I shot 31 under (at q-school), it’s not in my game plan to shoot those kind of numbers. I’m more of a ballstriker than a putter, so I like courses where it forces you to hit good shots.
Q: You’re a TaylorMade guy, are you the kind of player who likes to try the latest stuff they come up with as soon as it comes out, or do you stick with the old stuff in your bag?
A: I love to try things out, but I’m one of those that if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. That’s how I’ve always played, my family has always been that way. I wasn’t as well off as some people, so I haven’t always been able to get the latest and greatest equipment.
Q: What’s the oldest club in your bag at the moment?
A: It was my 5-wood, I absolutely loved it, but TaylorMade came out with a really, really nice SLDR 5-wood that I absolutely love, so I replaced it. But the 5-wood was in my bag for 10 years, it was a knockoff of one of those Callaway Steelheads. I loved it but now my swing speed’s changed and I can’t hit it as well as I used to.
Q: When was the last time you played a competitive round with the Callaway knockoff?
A: Second stage of q-school.
Q: Did you play the PGA TOUR events with a knockoff in your bag?
A: (Laughs) When I was playing in the Valero, they were doing the (Darrell) Surveys. The lady looked at it, looked at it a couple more times, started writing it down – it’s called a Turbo Power Steelflex – she started writing “Turbo Power” then just scratched it out and put “other.”
Q: Priceless. What’s the most confident club you hit at the moment?
A: That new 5-wood. It was probably one of the better clubs in my bag at q-school, I hit a lot of par 5s with it. It gave me some opportunities to make some eagles and easy birdies. If I hadn’t had that new 5-wood in the bag, there’s no way I would have finished as high as I did. It was a real blessing to find that the same week.
Q: One piece of advice for amateurs trying to improve?
A: Work on as much as you can from 100 yards and in. If you can get good from 100 yards and in, you’ll lower your score so much, it’s amazing. That’s probably the one thing I need to work on in my game.