PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Billy Andrade's game in shape for best year yet
April 03, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- April 03, 2019
- Andrade's solo third at the Rapiscan Systems Classic is his best to date this season. (Getty Images)
Billy Andrade was watching a replay of the final round of the PGA TOUR Champions Rapiscan Systems Classic late Monday night at his home in Atlanta.
Sure enough, as Andrade, then tied for the lead, was lining up his first putt on the 18th hole from some 50 feet, The Golf Channel flashed a graphic that said Andrade hadn’t three-putted all week.
He also hadn’t hit many approach shots that left him that far from the hole, in all fairness.
Andrade hit a 9-iron after a frank and thoughtful discussion with his caddie. They agreed on the club, and Andrade believed he had struck the ball well. He described the second shot at the par-4 18th at Fallen Oak as downhill, downwind to a green running down grain. He recalled Jay Haas telling him the first time he ever played there that it was nearly impossible to hit it short on 18 and to guard against going long.
“Marco Dawson made a comment, ‘I haven’t seen a ball hit the green and stop that quickly all week.’ The ball just hit and checked,” Andrade said. “It must have hit a soft spot.
“Now I have 50 feet up a hill and back down the hill. I thought I hit a pretty good putt, but it didn’t quite take off like I thought. It got over the rise and came up 9, 10 feet short. I hit a really nice putt to tie and didn’t get it.”
Andrade’s solo third, just missing a playoff with eventual champion Kevin Sutherland and Scott Parel, was his best finish in 2019 through five starts. It also was his fourth top 10 at Fallen Oak, where he twice has been runner-up.
“I don’t know what it is, something about that place,” Andrade said. “It’s one of the hardest courses that we play. It’s real challenging, and then at the time of year we play it there’s some volatile weather. I kind of like that. I like that set up.”
Andrade, 55, hasn’t won on PGA TOUR Champions since 2015 when he racked up three victories – individual titles at the Boeing Classic and season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship as well as the team event at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf with Joe Durant.
He said he enjoyed being in the hunt on Sunday and the butterflies that came with it. And even though he bogeyed two of the last three holes to miss out on an opportunity to win, he still felt good not only about his game but how he stood up to the chase.
“I really like the way I handled myself on Sunday,” Andrade said. “It was a really tough day – the course, the conditions. I was in the moment, wasn’t getting ahead of myself. I hadn’t been there in a little while and loved that feeling.
“To get over the hump you can’t make a whole lot of mistakes down the stretch, and I’ve got to do a better job of that. You have to get a little luck. If you give yourself enough opportunities to win, that’s all you want.”
Andrade, who won four times on the PGA TOUR, believes his game is right where it needs to be to have his best year on PGA TOUR Champions since his breakout 2015. He has ranked in the top 30 in the Schwab Cup standings in each of his five years, but he felt he was on the rise in the latter part of 2018.
And it’s true. Beginning with the Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex at the end of July, Andrade finished in the top 25 in nine of his final 10 events, including all three in the Schwab Cup playoffs. The run included four top 10s.
“I felt last year was my best year on the PGA TOUR Champions from tee to green,” Andrade said. “I was really consistent, hit the ball well and just didn’t get hot with the putter. That’s what you have to do to win and have chances to win.
“If I can get a little more consistent with putting. … This past week was really good. I’m headed in the right direction there. I think that that’s the biggest thing in golf is getting it up and down when you miss a green. The other parts of my game are fine.”
Andrade and his PGA TOUR Champions compatriots resume play at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia, on April 19. The Atlanta resident says he’ll be ready, none the worse for wear for watching the Rapiscan title slip through his grasp.
“I’ll tell you this,” Andrade said. “On the regular tour I think every player in my situation would just be devastated not to finish it out. I’m on the Champions Tour. You’re disappointed, but you know what? Life is pretty damn good. Life is gonna be all right. I’m gonna have a lot more chances. I feel like I’m gonna have a hell of a year.”