PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
McCarron finding form while building for wraparound season
September 16, 2020
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- September 16, 2020
- Scott McCarron is rounding back into form as the PGA TOUR Champions season continues. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
It’s probably fair to say that Scott McCarron’s 2020 hasn’t gone according to plan.
Then again, whose has? Advance two spaces if you predicted a global pandemic to wreak havoc on human life, employment, education, business, etc. … not to mention putting a halt to sports in America from March until the PGA TOUR was the first to resume, in June.
McCarron entered 2020 after achieving a goal he never had hidden from: winning the Charles Schwab Cup. He had been grinding for it since turning 50, and he finally reached the mountain at 54, with three victories and a narrow escape over runner-up Jerry Kelly.
But he was tired when it was over. It’s taxing, physically and mentally. His teaching professional, E.A. Tischler, direction of instruction at Olympia Fields Country Club just outside Chicago, told him to take some time off and enjoy his victory.
McCarron and Tischler got together before McCarron turned 50. It has been a solid pairing as evidenced by McCarron’s rise to consistent force on PGA TOUR Champions. The California native has 11 PGA TOUR Champions victories – at least two in each of his full seasons.
“Last year, to finish off the Schwab Cup ... it was the biggest purse and trophy he has ever played for,” Tischler said. “Definitely that took a lot out of him. He needed to recuperate and enjoy himself. I said I was not even going to contact him for a month. You need to relax, get back to normal, feel right and ready.
“We never got back to our plan how we normally work in the offseason. The offseason work is what gets you back on track. Because we didn’t get the offseason work in, he didn’t feel like he was firing on all cylinders. Normally we had really good starts to the season because he was in a really good place. This year he didn’t feel as good physically and there’s some pressure because you were the best player last year. That creates a little frustration because you can be a little bit on edge. He just needs to get back to what we’ve done for the past six years.”
McCarron, 55, didn’t start out well this year, either. He looked out of sorts. He managed a T9 at the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, then went T17, T42, T40 before a mini-breakthrough at the Hoag Classic in his native California with a solo fifth. Then the pandemic hit and it was back to the drawing board.
“Golf is a funny game and you go through spurts where you don’t play well,” McCarron said. “I had a month where I just didn’t play that well. It’s tough when you play for a week and then are sitting for two weeks. And then five months off was one of longest I’ve ever had. I didn’t really do anything to prepare. I was enjoying my time being home.”
With a second chance to break from the gate when the PGA TOUR Champions resumed on July 31, McCarron stumbled again. His shoulder was bothering him. So was his back. “Just too much wake surfing,” McCarron joked.
He posted a T41 at the Ally Challenge in the first event post-pandemic. McCarron followed with a T28 then went to Ridgedale, Missouri, for two events added to the schedule courtesy of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris and his multicourse facility at Top of the Rock. There, McCarron finished T57 and T64, his worst back-to-back results since a T57 at the 3M Championship and a missed cut at the U.S. Senior Open in August 2016.
So McCarron called Tischler, and the teaching pro went to see his star pupil at his home in North Carolina. After three days of work, McCarron went to South Dakota for the Sanford International. He promptly posted his third top 10 of the season and his first since the return, a T8.
“A lot of it (McCarron’s troubles) is reverting to some old habits,” Tischler said. “Good posture and making a good transition are what he needs to work on the most. And most of what he needs work on he understands. He has a tendency to get outside or over the top and then he starts swinging too far left and swipes at it.
“As a younger player he didn’t want to hook it and so he found a way to swing left so he wouldn’t hook it. He reverts to that sometimes. He needs to get it in the slot. Once he’s there he feels confident. When you can start the ball in the right direction you can release the club and be aggressive.”
McCarron is in the midst of his longest stretch as a PGA TOUR Champions player without a win (23 events). But don’t tell him that.
“That means absolutely nothing to me,” McCarron said. “You’re trying to win and get yourself in position. Winning here is very difficult. These guys are good. There’s some good players coming out, too. Mickelson came out and won in his debut. So did Furyk. Els has a win. The players just keep getting better. You have to have good stuff to win.
“These guys are so good and it’s so fun to compete against them. I had fun last week competing and being in the hunt (at the Sanford). I just didn’t quite get it done. But it was fun having fans back and cheering us on. We really missed that.”
Tischler said he and McCarron talked about the winless streak and have framed it as an opportunity. Because of the pandemic limiting this year to 15 events, PGA TOUR Champions will not have a Scwhab Cup playoffs nor a Schwab Cup winner for 2020. These 15 events will be a precursor to next year’s full slate of 28 tournaments in one giant, wraparound, 43-event Schwab Cup race. So there still is plenty of time for McCarron to win a time or two.
“I think the expectations change in that this year is half a year,” McCarron said. “And it does go into next year. This isn’t a season. If you don’t win it doesn’t feel like you didn’t win this season. It’s a completely different year that we’ll probably never have again. It just gets rolled into next year. So I have 33 tournaments to go out there and win a couple. But it gets tougher and tougher. These guys are legends and Hall of Famers and I’m blessed to be out here.”
Tischler, 54, believes a breakthrough could be on the horizon.
“I told him I said it’s not the start we want but turn this into a blessing,” Tischler said. “Scott had been in a little bit of a funk, some mental and some physical, and you have to work yourself out of it. You don’t have to snap out of it. You work your way out of it. Keep trending in the right direction. Have a good week and stay on track, do better at Pebble (site of this week’s PURE Insurance Championship).
“I’m going to try to qualify at the SAS Championship (in Cary, North Carolina, Oct. 9-11), and we’ll get two days (of practice) in there. Finish this part of the season and get him to where he feels he can start off next year really well. He can get back to No. 1 by end of next year. If he just keeps working on the same things and keeps improving his weaknesses, he has the potential to be even better.”