Champion rewind: Malnati
The University of Missouri grad stays the course during victory at Brasil Champions presented by HSBC
March 16, 2015
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
The 2014 golf season was a struggle for Peter Malnati, to say the least. After earning a PGA TOUR card via the 2013 Web.com Tour Regular Season, Malnati made only five cuts in 18 TOUR starts in 2013-14, and then failed to retain his TOUR card via the Web.com Tour Finals.
Through the hard times, the 27-year-old University of Missouri graduate has displayed an uncanny knack for making the best of things -- preferring to focus on how lucky he is to play golf for a living, rather than staying disappointed for long when he struggles with his game.
"I love what I do, and I'm so lucky to get to do it," Malnati said during the Web.com Tour Finals last fall. "If you had told me 18 months ago that I would have full Web.com Tour status at the start of 2015, I would've said, 'You know what, that's all I need; I'll be ready to go.' I believe in my game, and I believe in the work that I put into it.
"I know there are going to be some struggles, and this year has been really frustrating overall. But I know that the results are going to turn around."
Things turned around for Malnati in a hurry at last week's Brasil Champions presented by HSBC, as he fired a four-day total of 22 under to earn a four-stroke victory over seven players. The New Castle, Indiana, native earned $153,000 for his efforts (the largest winner's check of the Web.com Tour Regular Season) and moves to No. 2 on the money list, behind only Patrick Rodgers.
Peter Malnati’s sub-70 rounds lead to a win at Brasil Champions
Malnati made 30 birdies for the week at Sao Paulo Golf Club (most in the field), including three consecutive birdies to close his final round. Perhaps more importantly, he limited his damage to just eight bogeys.
Compare that to the week prior at the Cartagena de Indias at Karibana Championship Presented by Prebuild, when Malnati made the cut but finished dead last of all 72-hole finishers at 19 over. In the third round at TPC Cartagena, Malnati made eight bogeys, a double and a triple en route to a 13-over 85.
Rather than wallow in the disappointment, however, Malnati was able to laugh it off -- dubbing himself 'Ochocinco' in reference to former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, who changed his name to Chad Ochocinco for five years and wore No. 85.
"I was kind of self-deprecating a little bit last week, and I started calling myself 'Ochocinco' because I shot 85 in the third round," Malnati said. "I was 'hashtag Ochocinco' early in this week, and it was good that I was able to laugh about last week, because my game has felt pretty good.
"It would be a lie to say that I played well and shot 85; no one can say that, but my game felt good. Even though it got kind of ugly, my game felt pretty good. So when we got to Brazil, the conditions were much more scoreable, and I was still able to let my game keep clicking."
In addition to a hot putter (which is obviously needed in order to shoot 22 under for four rounds), Malnati attributed his success at Sao Paulo Golf Club to a precise iron and wedge game.
On a course that measures less than 6,600 yards, players entered the week knowing that stringing birdies together would be necessary in order to contend. By flag-hunting all week with his irons, Malnati was able to do just that. In the final round, he made four consecutive birdies on holes 3-6, in addition to his three straight birdies at the finish.
"I hit a lot of iron and wedge shots really close to the hole, so that was important to me," Malnati said. "I felt like I was really in control of my irons, controlling my distance well; I was hitting them on the lines that I wanted to. I felt like I was going to have a lot of birdie putts, and I putted great. But the iron play was the big difference."
Malnati likes to write quick messages on his gloves at the start of each tournament, and prior to teeing it up in Brazil, he wrote something that he had not written in a while: "WIN."
Despite the struggles the week prior at TPC Cartagena, Malnati was feeling good about his game, and the Sao Paulo Golf Club layout suited his eye from the get-go. Although he had played his first 10 competitive rounds of 2015 in a combined 32 over, he truly believed he could win in Brazil if he put everything together.
Propelled by his unwaveringly positive attitude, and with the support of his wife Alicia as caddie --"I was a little bit nervy today (in the final round), but she stayed really calm" -- Malnati went out and executed.
"Golf is really hard," Malnati said after his final round, reflecting on how his attitude has helped him through the recent struggles. "The crazy thing is that it's the most rewarding and fulfilling game in the world, but it's also the most devastating, frustrating ... you can't use enough words to describe how miserable bad golf is.
"I had a pretty poor year last year on TOUR, but I knew that this was what I wanted to do, was play golf. I'm not going to give up, I'm not going to let it get me down, and that's the thing. Don't get me wrong; I get just as miserable when bad golf is going on as anyone else, but I just keep an eye to the future, and I know that I'm going to get it."
It matches up with what he said during last year's Web.com Tour Finals, when he missed three of four cuts but was able to maintain a broader view of his situation.
"I always talk about my long-term view of success, not about necessarily being on the PGA TOUR at the start of next year," Malnati said at the time. "It's about being able to earn a living playing this game. If I can someday support a family playing golf, that would be success for me. I've got a long-term view of that. It will be good."
His winner's check of $153,000 can go a long way toward that goal. It will go a long way in his efforts to return to the TOUR for the 2015-16 season, as well.
Peter Malnati interview after winning the Brasil Champions
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