KORN FERRY TOUR INSIDER
Griffin's resurgence fueled by Todd's perspective
April 01, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- J.T. Griffin has recorded three top-10 finishes in four Korn Ferry Tour starts this season. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
As J.T Griffin got older, his chosen career path narrowed to two options: athlete or rock star.
One has worked out pretty well. The other, he’s still in the process.
After starting the year with conditional Korn Ferry Tour status via a T41 at Final Stage of Q-School, Griffin has parlayed results of T10-T36-T7-T9 into essentially a full-time opportunity for the balance of the season.
You could say he also has conditional status as a musician. He jumps on stage occasionally with his friend Cody Marlowe, an Atlanta-based rocker cut from the likes of Tom Petty. During the last few weeks, he’s been trying to improve his piano- and guitar-playing skills.
“I haven’t been as bored as people have been in the quarantine,” he said with a laugh.
But while he has grown as a musician, the Georgia Tech alum hasn’t quite pushed through to the next level in his pro golf development. At 32, he admits he is an elder statesman on the Korn Ferry Tour, but he doesn’t feel like one.
Griffin didn’t graduate from college until age 24 after having some rotator cuff issues (“I have a couple of screws in there that hold me in place”) and said he feels like, career-wise, he’s only in his late 20s.
“It doesn’t say that on my birth certificate, but that’s where I kind of feel like I am,” said Griffin, who had wrist surgery in 2016 and was essentially out that year too.
“I don’t feel as old as I am. Being a little bit older, I have a better perspective on things. I learned by failing. I’ve always been a late bloomer, that’s always been my M.O. I wish I could figure out why, but I haven’t been able to do that just yet.”
J.T. Griffin's sister Sarah-Morgan died from leukemia at age 7.— Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) May 29, 2019
Griffin strives to #CrackCancer however he can ... and challenges his fellow @GTGolf alums to do the same.@ChessonHadley, @VinceWhaley, @PaulHaleyGolf ... you're up. #LiveUnderPar pic.twitter.com/AQDlqe83pa
Griffin said the camaraderie with his Georgia Tech teammates has been beneficial as he navigates professional golf as a bit of a journeyman. He has played only one PGA TOUR event since turning professional, and has played with limited status on the Korn Ferry Tour since 2011.
“A lot of it is more of a confidence like, ‘They’re doing it; I just need to get myself out there and I can do the same thing.’ That’s the big thing,” said Griffin. “You’re on a team that’s had success long before I got there and long after, too. You see guys out there that learned the same stuff you did, so it’s more of, ‘I know I’m going to get there.’”
The mental side has played a crucial role in Griffin’s early-season success.
Self-admittedly, he was burned out at the end of 2019, after playing the last eight Korn Ferry Tour events consecutively and then going through Q-School. That high level of competition kept him sharp, but it also wore him down.
“Q-School, I think, is one of the toughest tests in sports,” said Griffin. “I was playing good; I just kind of panicked at the end of the year.”
Griffin called up his friend Brendon Todd – who won back-to-back TOUR starts last fall – and asked what had changed for him. Todd said he had begun work with Ward Jarvis, a sports psychologist, about 18 months prior.
Jarvis has a stutter, and he relates social anxieties of stuttering to performance anxiety of golfers. That made sense to Griffin. He had worked with sports psychologists before, but they all told him not to think or not to care, and Griffin doesn’t have that in him.I've always been a late bloomer. That's always been my M.O. ... I learned by failing.
Instead they built a plan to help Griffin shift his attention. The essence: it’s OK to be anxious, but in those few seconds above the ball in ‘playing mode,’ he tries to distract himself with something else. He’s doing his best to shift his anxiousness.
“That’s been the biggest thing: being easier on myself and being in the right frame of mind,” said Griffin. “A lot of social anxiety is about what you think people are thinking of you. It’s been with me for a while, but I’ve done a better job of managing my thoughts this year.”
It’s almost as if Griffin has thrown it back to a time when he just knew he was going to be a pro golfer.
He grew up with multi-time TOUR winner Webb Simpson, and they played lots of golf together. Griffin said he’s always surrounded himself with people that he believed would be successful, and he never had a backup plan.
“I never thought I wouldn’t do it,” he said.