Champion rewind: Martin Piller
Putting the difference maker for Martin Piller in Albertsons Boise Open victory
July 13, 2015
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Martin Piller set a new 72-hole tournament record with his 28-under-par 256 total in Boise. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Early last year, Martin Piller had lost strong status on the Web.com Tour, so he hit the road with wife Gerina, an LPGA Tour player, traveling to seven or eight LPGA events.
Piller enjoys traveling and being with his wife, but due to the circumstances, he was certainly not content with the situation.
“That means I’m not playing,” said Piller. “That means I’m not really doing anything. She was playing really well, has played well for a lot of the time … seeing her in contention, you think, ‘Man, get going. Go do something. Get better. Get better at golf. She’s doing it; you need to go do it too.’”
“Certainly, those weeks out there were very humbling.”
Motivation can come from a variety of places, and Piller used the time on the road with his wife to propel him into one of the best stretches of golf of his career.
The Dallas native nearly earned his PGA TOUR card late last season after winning the News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot; he fell short at last year’s Web.com Tour Finals, but he will have no such problems this time around.
Piller shot 28-under 256 at Hillcrest Country Club, one stroke off the all-time Web.com Tour scoring record, to win the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco by six strokes over Jorge Fernandez-Valdes. The 29-year-old moves to No. 4 on the money list, securing his return to the PGA TOUR for the first time since 2011.
Martin Piller’s commanding win at the Albertsons Boise Open
Piller arrived in Boise at No. 52 in earnings; he had played well in spurts but struggled to find consistency, missing seven of his first 14 cuts this season. His driver has been “right on point” for most of 2015, but he has struggled on the greens at times, including at the prior week’s Nova Scotia Open where he shot 70-72 and missed the cut by a shot.
Piller flew home to Fort Worth last Saturday and spent the weekend with his wife, who was preparing for last week’s U.S. Women’s Open. He arrived in Boise on Monday, needing to acclimate to just a one-hour time difference rather than a three-hour difference from Halifax, and immediately got to work on rectifying his putting.
“At the start of the week, I really made sure I was doing what I need to do to putt well,” said Piller. “I was going back to my checklist, like, ‘OK, am I doing this, am I doing that, am I making sure I’m doing everything right with the putting?’
“My putting was the difference from Nova Scotia to here (Boise).”
Throughout his Web.com Tour career, Piller has displayed a knack for closing the deal when he gets into contention, and last week was no different. The Texas A&M graduate held the 54-hole lead at last year’s News Sentinel Open before going on to victory, and in both his victories in 2010, he entered the final round just one stroke off the lead.Sometimes when you’re in those low spots, you think, ‘Man, am I ever going to compete again?’
So while “sitting around” Sunday morning, Piller thought back to his previous victories and how he was able to successfully navigate the challenges of contending in a final round. Then he started birdie-eagle at Hillcrest CC en route to a closing 67, as his lead was never seriously threatened.
“Usually if I get the lead, I can stick around on it pretty good,” said Piller on Sunday evening. “I certainly thought back to Knoxville and the thought that I was able to close that out. That certainly gave me a lot of confidence coming into today, and I thought about that this morning.”
Now a four-time Web.com Tour winner, Piller has certainly proven his worth as a closer. With two wins in the past 11 months and a return ticket to the TOUR now secure, it’s a far cry from where he was in 2012 and 2013, when he played 38 total events but failed to record a top-10 finish.
At the time, Piller was struggling around the greens, saying later that his short game “literally disappeared.” He found a key while on the road with Gerina last spring – “a sensation of throwing the wedge at the ball” – and his results have trended upward ever since.
“Sometimes when you’re in those low spots, you think, ‘Man, am I ever going to compete again?’” said Piller on Sunday. “I certainly thought that during those couple years.
“I think a lot of guys out here wonder, if they play well, is it going to be good enough. You don’t want to play really well and finish 20th; it’s like, ‘Dang, maybe I’m not that good.’ You want to know if your good is good enough, and I think this shows that if I do play well, I can get into contention.”
Piller’s lone season on TOUR came in 2011, when he made just seven of 23 cuts and finished No. 193 in the FedExCup standings.
Five seasons later, he will have the chance to make amends.
“It would be like someone putting a piece of cake in front of you and then you get one bite, and then that’s it,” said Piller last summer of his first stint on TOUR. “It leaves a taste in your mouth like, ‘Man, I want to get back.’ For me being out on the Web.com Tour, it just motivates me to work hard and get back out there, try to do it, give it another go.”
After a scintillating performance in Boise, he’ll have his second go.