Q&A with Roberto Diaz on veteran knowledge, Ancer's inspiration, soccer and more
February 25, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Mexico's Roberto Diaz draws inspiration from his good friend Abraham Ancer as he eyes a PGA TOUR return. (Kevin Prise/PGA TOUR)
Roberto Diaz is no stranger to playing big tournaments in his home country.
This week at the El Bosque Mexico Championship by INNOVA will be another one of those big events as he looks to return to the PGA TOUR.
Diaz, who earned status on the TOUR in 2018 and 2019, returned to the Korn Ferry Tour for 2020 after failing to re-earn TOUR status via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last fall.
However, the 33-year-old is approaching the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season with a renewed perspective and a mature outlook on the opportunity to get better and get back to the biggest stage in the sport.
It has worked so far, as Diaz sits No. 7 on The 25, thanks in large part to a runner-up result at the Panama Championship.
Diaz spent a few minutes with PGA TOUR Digital chatting about what it’s like to play in front of his home-country fans, his friendship with Presidents Cup team member Abraham Ancer, and how his matured approach to golf has benefitted him well so far in 2020.
What is it like, like this week, to play events in Mexico?
Luckily it’s not my first one. I’ve played a lot at Mayakoba. I played in Leon. This is my fifth year playing El Bosque. This is a good place for me, though. I like it. My first year on the Korn Ferry Tour, I got an exemption into Mexico, and that propelled me to play the rest of the season. (In 2014 Diaz finished T13). I’m obviously very thankful for all the people that organize the tournament. It’s the one that got me to play on the Korn Ferry Tour and that propelled my career to play four years out here and two years on the PGA TOUR and back on the Korn Ferry Tour now. That was my first-ever tournament as a member. I had played the REX Hospital Open (in 2012), but I had to qualify for that one. It was great. Mexico has always been great to me.
When you played the WGC-Mexico, did you feel like there was more pressure on you, or did you just try to enjoy the moment?
It was a different kind of pressure. I felt more pressure about trying to perform well. The whole country was supporting me. I had great energy and great people supporting me. The crowds were unbelievable to me. It’s an experience I want to experience again. I can’t say that I’m not mad about not playing … it’s the bread-and-butter (golf event) of the country. Every aspect of the tournament and all the companies involved have put a great event together. It’s a bummer I’m not able to play. It’s one of the goals for the years upcoming.
What are some of the biggest things you learned about yourself in the two seasons you got to play on the PGA TOUR?
My first year … I wasn’t ready. I played great on the Korn Ferry Tour to get on it, but I wasn’t ready. I struggled a lot with the way the courses are. I struggled with a lot of things on the golf course – how big the tournaments were, how difficult the courses were, and all the logistics. It was too big for me. It was a little bigger than I expected. I couldn’t put one and one together. It was a whole different level. At the end of the first year, I had some personal issues outside the golf course that I had to deal with, and that set me back a lot on my development as a player. I had to take care of things outside the golf course. Once I fixed the problems outside, I felt like I could play with a clear mind at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and I got my card back.
The second year was different. I wasn’t a rookie. I knew the places to go, I knew the courses and how they played, what was different on the weekend – like how dried-out things were – just perspective. One of my best friends came to caddie for me in the middle of my first year (on the PGA TOUR) and he’s still on the bag. He’s my best friend and he’s helped me a lot. That year I got engaged and I was more settled outside the golf course and a bit calmer outside the golf course so I could play better. I felt like I had a great season. I made a lot of cuts. I had the lead a couple of times. I felt like it was a great year and now reflecting back, I feel like I learned a lot. When I lost my card and didn’t get back in the (Korn Ferry Tour Finals), I thought it was a horrible year (laughs), but going back, I thought it was a great year. I learned a lot about myself and that’s where you want to be. You come back to the Korn Ferry Tour to try to get better and go up to the PGA TOUR again.
Roberto Diaz is so popular this week, the mayor wants his autograph. 🖊 pic.twitter.com/2bmkD6x6R9— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) March 2, 2017
How would you assess things so far in 2020? A very solid start to this point.
At the end of last year, my team and I – my agent, my coaches, my trainer – we all decided that I should go to Q-School to improve my status. I played well and shot 10-under, but I didn’t get the job done. It was just one of those deals where you play well, but nothing went your way and I didn’t get rewarded. I just didn’t get the job done. Starting the year I knew I had four starts, but limited to get my status better. I think now I’m playing smarter, I’m more cautious of things around me. I put more time into how I put work in, and I can go and do my business and relax, and you have to have that tunnel vision with you. It’s one of those deals where you can’t focus on what the guy next to you is doing because it might not work for you.
I talked to Abe Ancer and he pumped me up a little bit. He told me what he thought and how he approached things when he lost his card on the PGA TOUR. We had a good conversation. One of the things I’m doing this year is, I’m not really looking at which place I’m finishing. To be honest, it’s not that I don’t care, but if I give it my best and my best is to finish 10th or 50th that week, that’s all I have. That’s the way I’m approaching every week. I’ll go from No. 1 to No. 18 and give it 100 percent, then I do it again the second day and the third day … and if that’s second or 50th, I’m happy with it.
Do you feel like that’s some of your maturity shining through?
I’m starting to realize there is a life outside the golf course. For years I just played golf and I was too worried about a swing change, or I was too worried about going to the course and hitting balls. Now my week off, I’m doing something else that isn’t golf. There is more to golf and more ways to get ready. If you’re good outside the golf course, you’re going to be good inside the golf course. I’m not sure if it’s maturity or realizing at the end of the day it’s a business, it’s a job. You go to the course and you do your job, then you come home and you have a family and a life. Thankfully this is the best I’ve been outside the golf course. I have a lot of support from people I love and they love me, and I’m very appreciative of that. At the end of the day, that’s going to propel me to play the best I can.
Growing up, did you play other sports as well? When did you know you were going to try to play golf for a living?
When I was eight until 15, I did it all. Swimming … soccer… a little tennis. I knew that I was going to play golf probably my sophomore year in college. I didn’t really enjoy what I was studying and a couple of guys that I knew in Aiken (South Carolina) were playing mini-tour golf and it looked like they were having a good living and having fun. I look up to them and I decided to turn pro. It was rocket science (laughs) – you had to shoot low every time you went out.
#WebTourTravel with Abraham Ancer and Roberto Diaz
Tell me more about your friendship with Abe Ancer: A fellow Mexican on the PGA TOUR that has really been doing such great things on the golf course the last couple years. Has that been inspiring?
It’s amazing what he’s doing. I consider him one of my best friends. Obviously, we don’t have the same schedule and we don’t have the same tournament weeks, but we stay in contact. I don’t bother him much; I know he’s busy. He’s one of the best human beings I’ve been around. He has a big heart. He’s very straightforward. He’s great with people. I have a great friendship with him. I feel like I could come up to him and tell him my darkest secret and he won’t say anything. He’s one of the best guys I’ve known and I think that everything that’s happened to him is not a coincidence. He’s put in the work. He’s got a good head on him. He’s got a great team around him. Everything that’s happened to him the last three years is not a coincidence. He took the bull by the horns. When he lost his card, he had a plan and he decided to execute and it’s paying off. I have no question he’s going to do great things coming up. His game travels – he plays in the U.S., he finishes top-5. He plays in Saudi Arabia, he finishes top-5. If he goes to China, he finishes top-5. He’s owning that. He had a great Presidents Cup. To me, he was the MVP. It was great that he did what he did at the Presidents Cup. He’s going to be around for a while – you’re going to see Abe for a long time.
What does a perfect day look like for you?
During the offseason, I had a perfect day! It was a Saturday. I worked out at 7 a.m. and then at 8 a.m. I caught the Premier League game. Then there was another at 9. Another at 11. Then La Liga at 1. Another La Liga game at 3. Then the Mexican league was on, so I watched that at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Then there was a late MLS game at 9 p.m. I worked out in the morning and then my wife was nice enough to watch all the games with me. I watched soccer games from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. I think we ordered food. Sushi. We sat on the couch and watched soccer all day; it was perfect.