PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Steve Flesch surging heading into playoffs
October 08, 2019
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- October 08, 2019
- Steve Flesch has finished inside the top 10 in four straight starts. (Getty Images)
Steve Flesch, unlike his favorite NFL team, is making a playoff push, and he’s heating up at the right time.
The Cincinnati native and Bengals fan has posted four consecutive top-10 finishes on PGA TOUR Champions and risen to 17th in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, a welcome turn after missing the playoffs last year to have surgery on two disks in his neck.
“A year ago I wasn’t playing any golf,” Flesch said Monday. “You don’t know how your body is going to react. I’m sitting there wondering if I’ll ever get back to 100%.
“So now I’m trying to keep it all in perspective. I’m staying healthy and I don't have any more nerve pain or bad neck pain.”
Flesch, 52, was able to return to play as 2019 opened, but without much real time to get ready. He understandably started slowly before popping a T5 at the Hoag Classic in March.
But since the calendar hit April the lean left-hander has played some of the the best golf of his PGA TOUR Champions career. He has been inside the top 30 in 15 of 16 events, with the only outlier being a missed cut at the U.S. Senior Open.
His last four finishes are solo third, T3, T5 and T9. He led by two entering the final round of the T9, and he didn’t feel like he played particularly well in either of the thirds.
Flesch said the difference has been his putting, an aspect of his game in which he has worked tirelessly.
“I’ve been putting really well for the past couple months, and when you're putting like that it just makes everything a lot easier,” Flesch said. “You don't feel like you have to be as sharp with your irons. You don’t feel like you have to hit every fairway.”
Flesch also believes when a player’s putting is right it brings the rest of the game along with it. He certainly feels like he has been driving the ball well of late. He’s ranked 14th in driving distance and 47th in driving accuracy for the season, numbers buoyed over the past two months.
What he hasn’t ironed out quite yet is, well, his irons. He feels they haven’t been up to par the past two months. He has two sets of irons, his gamers and his backups, and he often travels with both sets because if something goes awry, as he says he can’t “just walk into a sporting goods store and find left-handed clubs like the other guys can right-handed clubs.”
He said he has been so disappointed in his iron play that he will put the backups in play as the gamers this week at the SAS Championship, the final event before the Schwab Cup playoffs.
“It's funny. I haven't been happy with my irons in two months, but I've been playing well and having good finishes, so I keep using them,” Flesch said. “But I can't really say that they in any way, shape or form have been the reason for my recent play.
“During the two third-place finishes in a row I absolutely hated my irons, especially the 8, 9 and wedge. And, you know, those are scoring clubs. The 4, 5 and 6 were good, but the rest of them were trash.”
He can’t really complain, though. He obviously figured a way around his iron play to stay on the leaderboard. Now Flesch believes it’s time to notch his second win on PGA TOUR Champions. His first came at last year’s Mitsubishi Electric Classic, and he’ll admit his second probably should have come in the last event, the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach. He was well-positioned after rounds of 68 and 67, but he played the final nine holes in 5-over par.
After a bogey at 10, Flesch came to the short par-4 11th looking to get back on track.
“It’s a birdie hole – if I hit a decent drive I usually have pitching wedge in my hand -- but someone dropped a pair of plastic sunglasses on the cart path about 10 feet from the tee as I was on my downswing with my driver,” Flesch said. “It made a crash, not a crash, but a really distracting noise. It rattled me. My tee shot … I was lucky to find it in the rough.”
Flesch went on to bogey 11, and when he looked at the leaderboard Kirk Triplett had come from back in the pack to surge to the lead. The lefty never was able to get back on track after the unfortunate incident.
But this recent stretch has made the game fun again for Flesch. He sounded at ease, with golf and life.
“I'm looking forward to going into the next four weeks,” said Flesch, who skipped watching the Bengals drop to 0-5 on Sunday to take his son to play 18 for his 21st birthday. “I'm just enjoying playing, and I know that's kind of simplistic. But I’m putting well and I expect to play well.
“Our tour is fun. The guys are great. Last week stung because I was so close, but it was still an enjoyable week. I just want to keep playing.”