Late chip-in lifts Austin Smotherman to victory at Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation
May 09, 2021
By Zach Dirlam, PGATOUR.COM
- May 09, 2021
Austin Smotherman interview after Round 3 of the Simmons Bank Open
COLLEGE GROVE, Tenn. – Two delays, rainy weather and windy conditions did not faze Austin Smotherman Sunday afternoon, with his trusty yardage book yet again providing the perfect words to calm his nerves. Sunday’s inscription was all about repetition, and Smotherman carded a third consecutive 3-under 69 to close out a three-stroke victory at the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation.
Smotherman wrote himself notes in his yardage book all week. Sunday’s read: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. Happy Mother’s Day.
“I was just trying to focus on keeping it in the routine no matter what was going on,” Smotherman said. “The emotion was definitely high on that back nine trying to not get too far ahead of myself. I knew I was playing well and up and around the lead all day. The delays did not make it any easier. Luckily, I have my wife here. We grabbed some food; we were able to talk and hang out.
“It’s emotional. It’s awesome. It’s everything we’ve worked for, and to have it happen on Mother’s Day is pretty special, too.”
No matter what happened to Smotherman in the final round, it was on to the next shot.
There was no better example Sunday than the par-4 10th. The Loomis, California native hooked his ball into the heather; he played it out short of the green, got up and down for par, and walked away holding a three-stroke lead.
Smotherman’s repetition Sunday was not all positive, though. His dialed-in approaches set up quality scoring looks time and time again, but those birdie putts missed by mere inches and kept him in neutral. Just as they had on several occasions throughout the week. After stuffing a tee shot to 10 feet at the par-3 15th, Smotherman thought he missed another one, and he walked toward the cup for what he figured would be a frustrating tap-in par once his ball stopped rolling. This time, however, the birdie putt fell right in the heart.
As rallies by Carl Yuan and Paul Haley II fizzled down the closing stretch, Smotherman left the door open with a three-putt bogey at the par-4 16th. Then his approach at the par-4 17th landed in a collection area left of the green.
Smotherman chipped it in for birdie, regained his three-stroke lead, and headed to the par-5 18th tee full of adrenaline.
“I even told my caddie… why not put it in?” Smotherman said. “Lie was kind of sketchy. One hop and just dunked it. Fed off that and walked up to No. 18 with a little bit of swagger, pumped one down the middle, and knew I was going to be laying up the whole time. I’ve hit better wedge shots in my life, but when you only have to get down in three, I’m happy with that.”
Smotherman’s first victory of his three-year Korn Ferry Tour career projects to move him from 55th to 20th in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour points standings, putting him firmly in the mix to earn his first PGA TOUR card come season’s end.
While Smotherman had not won on the Korn Ferry Tour prior to Sunday, with his best finish in 50 starts being a T3 at the 2019 Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, he drew on the winning experience he collected on PGA Tour Latinoamérica. Smotherman earned Korn Ferry Tour status for the first time in 2019 after finishing fourth in the 2018 PGA Tour Latinoamérica’s Order of Merit, largely off the strength of his win at the 59 Abierto Mexicano de Golf.
“Just having the foundation of knowing that I can dive into something that’s so repetitive that when scenarios change… you don’t have to change anything. You just keep doing what you’re doing,” Smotherman said. “I’ve experienced that in the past where I do change. I speed up, I slow down, overthink it, overwork it, which is terrible for golfers. And it was just so simple. My caddie kept me in a great frame of mind all week. Shout-out to him.”
Smotherman’s incredible accuracy carried him to victory this week. It’s been that way ever since college. Smotherman always hit first in practice rounds at Southern Methodist University, where he was teammates with fellow Korn Ferry Tour winners Harry Higgs and Bryson DeChambeau. The team always had Smotherman show them how to find the fairway, and the best spot to attack the green from.
This week, Smotherman led the field in greens in regulation (59 of 72) and was tied for second in fairway accuracy percentage (49 of 56).
Fairways and greens, over and over again. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
“The whole week was special,” Smotherman said. “It was so nice to see all the spectators, having some fans even with the weather bearing it out there with me. Walking the cart paths was so special. The smiles I got from everybody, whoever you looked at all week, was awesome and that put me in a great mood.”