Wagner, Gainey putting recent struggles behind them at The Greenbrier
Gainey interview after Round 1 of The Greenbrier Classic
Following an opening-round 62, Tommy Gainey reflects on his play in The Greenbrier Classic with Tom Werme from PGA TOUR Radio on PGATOUR.COM and SiriusXM.July 04, 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Johnson Wagner knew he hadn't exactly been much fun to be around lately.
Not that he'd resorted to kicking the dog or anything. But Wagner hadn't cashed a check in his last seven PGA TOUR starts and the three-time champ was very, very frustrated.
"Nobody likes to be bad at what they do, especially golfers," Wagner explained.
Tommy Gainey knows how he feels.
Like Wagner, he's missed more cuts this year than he's made -- at one point midway through the year failing to play the weekend nine times in 10 starts. Gainey was forcing the issue instead of having fun playing the game that took him away from that job on the assembly line at a South Carolina water heater factory.
So what are these two doing in the lead after the first round of The Greenbrier Classic?
Well, Wagner got back to basics at what he called "boot camp" with his instructor two weeks ago. And Gainey's family and agent recently staged an intervention of sorts that helped him with a much-needed attitude adjustment.
Neither had a bogey in their rounds of 62 at The Old White TPC on Thursday. Gainey made eight birdies, including four straight as he made the turn, while Wagner had six birdies and an eagle as he threatened the coveted 59 on the par-70 layout.
"Confidence for me can turn around real quickly," Wagner admitted.
Wagner's coach, Bobby Heins, had been in his gallery at the Travelers Championship as the three-time PGA TOUR champ posted disappointing rounds of 75 and 79. So Heins suggested Wagner come to Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., and hit the range.
After several days of intensive work, Wagner felt he was playing the kind of golf he did at the start of last season when he tied for ninth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, won the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for second at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation to win Player of the Month honors.
"It's all set up for me with driving the golf ball," Wagner explained. "I've been driving it short and crooked this year. My fairway percentage is way down, my driving distance is way down, and I've never been that long anyway to be good enough to miss fairways and coming into these greens with 5-irons. It's amazing, I think I gained 15 yards with my driver and I'm hitting it straighter.
Interview: Johnson Wagner
Following an opening-round 62, Johnson Wagner reflects on his play in The Greenbrier Classic with Mark Immelman from PGA TOUR Radio.
"It's nice, it's nice to feel like I know what I'm doing again."
Wagner's round of 8 under on a course he used to play as a student at Virginia Tech was just his sixth sub-70 round of the year in 17 starts. He hit 11 of 14 fairways and all but three greens in regulation. The putter was cooperative, too, as Wagner used just 25 putts.
Wagner made the turn in 29 -- a first for him in competition on the PGA TOUR -- and he acknowledged his mind wandered. When he birdied the 11th hole and chipped in for eagle at No. 12, the holy grail of a 59 loomed even larger but six consecutive pars brought him back down to earth.
"I've been disappointed with 72s and 79s in the last month, so I'm very happy to be disappointed with a 62 today," Wagner said with a smile.
Where Wagner concentrated on the fundamentals, Gainey made an equipment change this week, adding Callaway's new Optiforce driver to his bag. He only missed one fairway on Thursday and the man who came in ranked 150th on TOUR in driving accuracy was clearly chuffed at the turnaround.
Equally important, though, was the skull session he had recently with his wife Erin, her sister Loren and husband David Robinson and his agent, Paul Graham. His inner circle was tired of watching Gainey, who had picked up his first PGA TOUR win last fall with a final-round 60 at The McGladrey Classic, struggle with his own rising expectations.
“Ever since last year I feel like I should be playing more consistently, playing a lot better, contending more, and that wasn't the case," Gainey said candidly. "I was just putting so much pressure on myself and they noticed it and they had a talk with me and we sat down and tried to iron it out.
Now I'm just trying to have fun again because that's what this game is to me, it's a lot of fun. I really don't want to go back into a factory, even AO Smith, working on an assembly line because I love what I'm doing right now."