Hardy earns Sony Open in Hawaii berth via Monday qualifier
January 13, 2021
By Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM
- January 13, 2021
- University of Illinois alum Nick Hardy stands No. 15 on the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour Points List. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Nick Hardy walked off the 18th green at Monday’s Sony Open in Hawaii qualifier with a gut feeling.
Hardy knew that normally the 4-under 68 he’d just posted probably wouldn’t be enough, but after pouring in birdies on three of his last four holes, he had a feeling it might just be enough this time to earn him some extra golf.
The University of Illinois alum just wasn’t sure whether that extra golf would come in the form of a playoff or a tee time Thursday at Waialae Country Club.
“I birdied three of the last four to have a chance, and when I finished, I figured at best I’d probably be in a playoff,” Hardy said. “So, I was hoping playoff, and I had the mindset that I’d be in a playoff, so I got some lunch and came out to the course. It turned out to be a 3-for-1 spot.”
It only took one hole to ensure that the last of four spots was his. After J.J. Killeen and Luke Schniederjans each missed their 10-foot birdie tries on the par-5 18th in the playoff, Hardy knocked in his 2-foot birdie to advance out of a PGA TOUR Monday qualifier for the first time in his career.
“I have Mondayed into a few Korn Ferry Tour events, but never into a PGA TOUR event. I did lose in a playoff to get into an event a couple years ago; I was in a 4-for-3 playoff at the 2019 Waste Management (Phoenix Open) and I missed out. I think that experience helped me yesterday. Having had that experience before, I knew what to expect, and learning from that experience. I learned how to handle my emotions before, and that certainly helped.”
Hardy, who made the cut at the 2015 U.S. Open as a 19-year-old with a T52 finish, is set to make his 11th career start on TOUR this week and first since the 2019 U.S. Open. After making five of his first six cuts, Hardy missed the cut in each of his four starts on TOUR in 2019, but it’s ultimately those missed cuts that led him to a breakout year on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020.
“I’m a much different golfer now than I was during those four events. I’ve learned a lot, had to learn a lot from missing those four cuts, missed three of them by one stroke, and those were huge for me,” Hardy said. “Learning how to handle myself better and handle my emotions and my thoughts. That’s what really helped me in the Korn Ferry Tour last year to play well.”Everyone has their own learning curve, but I feel like I'm ready.
In a normal season, his 2020 breakout year, which has him at 15th on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List heading into 2021, would have earned him his PGA TOUR card already. But the pandemic-shortened season caused the TOUR to move to a wraparound season, leaving Hardy to have to hold on to one of The 25 spots through August.
Nevertheless, the 2018 First Team All-American at Illinois feels like he’s ready for the jump and will be at ease when he joins Hank Lebioda and Doug Ghim for their 9:00 a.m. starting time on Thursday.
“I just feel like I’m ready (for the PGA TOUR). I really do believe I belong,” Hardy said. “It’s different for everyone coming up on the PGA TOUR and everyone has their own learning curve, but I feel like I’m ready.”
From a stylistic perspective, Waialae Country Club should be an excellent fit for his game. In addition to thinking of himself as a strong wind player, which always comes in handy in breezy Honolulu, Hardy’s strength is his iron play, currently ranking fifth on the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour in greens in regulation (74.92 percent).
“I like the way the course suits my game, because you have to be in the fairway and it’s a position golf course,” Hardy said. “You have a lot of mid- and short irons, and I feel like that really suits my game well. I usually hit a lot of greens. I think that’s a key stat this week because it’s tough to get it up-and-down from out of the rough around the greens.”