PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS INSIDER
Flesch peaking with four events left in 2020
September 30, 2020
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- September 30, 2020
- Steve Flesch is trending nicely as the season draws to a close. (Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
While the guy known as “Lefty” was making his PGA TOUR Champions debut and rediscovering what it felt like to win at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National in late August, another left-hander posted a final-round 9-under 62 and served notice that his surgically repaired right shoulder finally was open for business.
Steve Flesch understood the hubbub around Phil Mickelson. The Cincinnati native knows any appearance by his fellow southpaw is good for the PGA TOUR Champions, and the five-time major winner grabbed all of the headlines in Ridgedale, Missouri. Mickelson beat the brains out of his fellow competitors by shooting the lowest round of the day in both the first and second rounds en route to finishing 22 under, four shots ahead of Tim Petrovic and six clear of anyone else.
But five weeks later, Flesch’s 62, the lowest round of the final day at Ozarks National, ignited his 2020 post-COVID season. Flesch followed with a solo second at the Sanford International and posted a T6 at the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach to climb from the back of the pack to 22nd in the Charles Schwab Cup standings.
And now look at what he can say for himself:
• He has consecutive top 10s in individual events for the second time in his PGA TOUR Champions career.
• The 62 tied his career low on the PGA TOUR Champions.
• His scoring average over the past seven rounds, 66.71, is the best on tour – a whopping .72 ahead of second-place, rookie Ernie Els.
“I had been on a self-inflicted pitch count since the surgery in May,” Flesch said of the third surgery on his right shoulder. “Since we returned (at the Ally Challenge July 30-Aug. 2) I haven’t really practiced. I don’t hit balls after a round. I might do some putting. I’ve just been trying not to overdo it.
“I’m just feeling better and getting stronger, and I’ve been managing my game well.”
Flesch would have had the surgery sooner were it not for the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I had a torn bicep head and rotator cuff tendon called the Subscapularis in my right shoulder,” Flesch said. “I had surgery on May 11 but would have done it sooner if COVID allowed it. It was my third right shoulder surgery. I had a neck fusion two years ago as well, with a titanium plate. I'm brand new now!
“I just cut the bicep and has two sutures and anchors in the Subscap to reattach it to the humerus.”
Flesch took a while to get in the swing. He said the shoulder fatigued easily. He said he played only 12 holes during the long break forced by the local pandemic, from March to July 30.
His post-COVID results came along slowly – T58 at the Ally, T62 at the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship, T50 at the Charles Schwab Series at Bass Pro Shops Big Cedar Lodge. He appeared headed for another poor finish after two rounds at Ozarks National after rounds of 72 and 74 let him in 78th place.
“The putter was heating up and I was getting into a good rhythm,” Flesch said of his final round at Ozarks National. “So I went to South Dakota (for the Sanford International) thinking about keeping the same mindset.”
It worked. Flesch opened with a 66 and closed with a 63. A little better second round – he shot 68 – and maybe he beats Miguel Angel Jimenez for his second PGA TOUR Champions victory.
“I got off to a really good start in that final round and was pressing and playing like I had nothing to lose,” Flesch said. “Sometimes I get too conservative. In South Dakota, I was putting so well my mindset was just get it on the green kinda anywhere and that day I made a lot of good putts. I got a couple of good breaks on drives, drove it on the trees but had open shots … and sometimes it takes breaks like that and I had that happen a couple of times that week.”
Flesch, 53, noted something else about the event in South Dakota. It was the one and only tournament on PGA TOUR Champions post-pandemic in which a limited amount of fans were allowed to attend.
“It was really fun to have fans back out there,” Flesch said. “It was more like a normal tournament. Every day has felt like practice-round days. Sometimes you kind of thrive off the fans, and to me it was nice to hear them clap after a birdie. You get some feedback after good shots. I think it’s more fun to play golf like that. That was helping me out in South Dakota.”
Now it’s up to Flesch and his fellow veterans on the PGA TOUR Champions to slow this vaunted rookie class over the final four events. They already have seen Jim Furyk win both of his starts and Mickelson win his lone start. Both are expected to play at the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix Nov. 6-8.
“I was saying last week somebody has to step up and beat Furyk.” Flesch said. “We can‘t let his head get so big that every time he tees it up out here he thinks he’s gonna win. One of us older guys needs to take these rookies down. But it’s only helping exposure for our tour having Phil and Jim and Ernie (Els). They’re Hall of Famers for a reason. Jim will be soon. When they’re all playing well and winning tournaments, it makes it everybody better. Anything that gives us attention is a good thing.”
Flesch hopes to grab more attention for himself. He said he’s sorry there are only four more events to go in this the COVID-shortened 2020 season before it gets wrapped into 2021 because he’s finally feeling stronger and in a groove.
“Everybody on our Tour is just excited we’re playing golf again.” Flesch said. “We lost maybe a dozen tournaments. …
“I like the fact we’re making our playoff events full-field events for the rest of the year and rolling it all into next year. I like playing tournaments. I’m not looking forward to another offseason.”