SILVIS, Ill. -- Robert Garrigus added 20 inches to his putter and shed 30 pounds from his waistline.
Voila! New man?
Known best perhaps for his length off the tee, his graciousness in the face of a crushing defeat at the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic and his ongoing willingness to discuss his early off-course life, the 35-year-old native of Nampa, Idaho, made a serious commitment in November both to getting fit and making putts.
The dividends showed early this year with a runner-up finish at the Humana Challenge and a playoff defeat at the Transitions Championship. They also showed Thursday with a morning round of 6-under 65 at the John Deere Classic that left Garrigus a shot off the early pace set by Ricky Barnes.
"Stopped drinking soda and eating fried foods," Garrigus offered as the simplest explanation for his slimmer, trimmer self.
At the conclusion of the season-ending Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic last fall, Garrigus said he decided fitness was a central difference between a good year -- he had three 2011 top-10 finishes, finished 53rd in the FedExCup standings and pocketed $1.5 million-plus -- and a great one.
"I was carrying around 210 pounds and sweating coming down Sunday, not making good swings, not thinking right, because my fitness wasn't right," he said. "My energy level wasn't there."
So, Garrigus changed his diet, hit the gym with a vengeance and benched the familiar 27-inch putter he had dubbed "Mini Me" in favor of 47-inch belly putter he refers to as "Dr. Evil." The doctor has not completely cured his evils on the greens, as Garrigus has gone from 166th in Strokes-Gained Putting a year ago to 142nd entering the JDC. But the fitness has factored.
Carrying 30 fewer pounds, Garrigus is finishing tournaments like he hadn't before and, with a half a year remaining, already has set a new career-best in earnings with $1.585 million.
"It's like when I decided to go to rehab," he said of his sudden decision to slim down and bulk up. "It was just one of those things. I said, 'Hey, you need to get your butt in the gym.'"
And out of the In-N-Out. He didn't need rehab to shake a long-standing affection for fast-food french fries, but his willpower has been tested. He said he recently had a handful of fries when he saw Camillo Villegas, the PGA TOUR poster boy for buff, quaffing a plateful.
"I figured if he can eat them, I can," said the gregarious Garrigus. "He doesn't have an ounce of fat on him."
If Garrigus can't quite yet be called buff, he certainly is getting there. He committed in the offseason to a fitness routine under the guidance of two-time world Tae Kwan Do champion Eric AH-Yuen and didn't waver. "I worked out morning and afternoon on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Christmas Eve," he said.
He arrived at the Humana Challenge in late January those 30 pounds lighter and, to his own surprise and the disappointment of his friends on the range, even a shade longer off the tee. Garrigus did have cause for pause when he stood 6 over eight holes into his opening round at the birdie-fest in Palm Springs, but he played the next 64 holes in 28 under.
"I am fully committed to staying with this fitness thing," he said in the wake of a bogey-free Thursday waltz around TPC Deere Run.
Thursday's round was highlighted by an eagle at the par-3 17th, one set up by a sweeping 287-yard 5-wood to 30 feet after his drive clipped a tree. "Dr. Evil" then delivered a putt that broke twice and found the hole. Garrigus parred the last to match his lowest round in seven trips around Deere Run, a 7,257-yard course that's easy to score on but no cakewalk to walk.
Now, he hopes his fitter self is set for a strong finish this week. He ranks 20th in Sunday scoring this year, up from 161st in 2011, and is 24th in Saturday scoring, up from 153rd.
Weekend scoring, he said, was a particular problem in years past and a problem defined by the triple bogey he suffered on the 72nd hole at the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic, where he led by three shots on the 18th tee but lost in a playoff to No. 2 Lee Westwood.
"I had food poisoning the whole week and I got on the 18th tee box and don't remember a thing," he said. "If I'd had my wits about me and been in shape, I would have won by five shots."
Ever the positive thinker, Garrigus said that experience in Memphis "jump started my career. I was beating the No. 2 player in the world pretty good."
Pretty good would describe a career that includes a victory at the 2010 Children's Miracle Network Classic and $7.8 million-plus in career PGA Tour earnings. But Garrigus expects more.
"I have played a lot of good golf in my career but also spent seven years on the Web.com Tour and been to Q-School six times," he said. "I want to play on Ryder Cup teams and in the Masters. I want to do all that stuff. I can win on any golf course on the PGA TOUR. I'm really looking forward to the next four or five years."