Time for analysis
October 11, 2020
By Jorge Fernández Valdés, PGATOURLA.COM
As he continues to traverse the state of Florida as the LOCALiQ Series winds down, Argentine Jorge Fernández Valdés examines the first seven events of the LOCALiQ Series, how he’s played, what the Series has meant to him and how the three-time PGA TOUR Latinoamérica winner will prepare for the LOCAiQ Series Championship outside Atlanta that brings together the top-78 points earners from the season.
MIAMI, Florida—In the blink of an eye, we finished all seven 54-hole LOCALiQ Series tournaments, traveling here, in Georgia and Alabama. They were intense weeks, many car trips and of course a lot of golf. It was a unique experience. I will definitely remember 2020 as the year of COVID-19 but also as the year in which I did not sit still in the face of adversity. Yes, I had to leave my family and friends in Argentina to come to the United States, but I did so to fulfill my dream of playing this beautiful sport on a professional level.
The Classic at The Club at Weston Hills in Fort Lauderdale was the last full-field LOCALiQ Series event. I think it was a positive week for me. I played quite well from the tee, and the greens at Weston Hills were as good as we have played this year. The birdie opportunities were not lacking. I remember on Friday I was 4-under for the day at the 12th hole and within a stroke of the lead. I felt I would be there in the end, in contention.
If you hit a good drive on that par-5, you will likely have a good birdie chance. It was not the case for me, and I ended up making a par. I felt that hole gave me confidence all week, so the par left me a little deflated. I then followed that disappointing par with two bogeys in a row that knocked me out of the title fight. Ultimately, I tied for 18th.
As I noted, it was a positive week, but there are still things to improve. I am No. 15 on the points list, and I qualified the LOCALiQ Series Championship. That tournament at TPC Sugarloaf is a limited-field event where we will be playing 72 holes, with no cut. I’m glad I qualified, and now it’s time to take stock of what has been my time on this Tour that the PGA TOUR created to give competition those of us who are members of the International Tours.
The level of play is very high. I have been playing for several years on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, and I feel that every year the level of play increases. Many very good U.S. college players come to our Tour to play, and that means that every year we have to prepare more if we want to finish in high positions of the Order of Merit. When I qualified to play the LOCALiQ Series, I thought the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica players were going to have an advantage, but I was wrong.
It never crossed my mind that the Mackenzie Tour players were that good. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we were playing with golfers who all play at impressive levels. The proof is that the vast majority of LOCALiQ Series tournaments were won by players from the Mackenzie Tour. In fact, nine of the top-10 players on the points list were members of the Mackenzie Tour. We don’t have as many PGA TOUR Series-China players out here, but the few I have played with have also been impressive. The LOCALiQ Series Championship remains, and I hope to be the second PGA TOUR Latinoamérica player to win this season.
You cannot neglect in a 54-hole tournament. In three rounds of play, you can’t afford to have a couple of bad holes. In a moment you can go from fighting for a title to not being in the top-10. As I wrote, in Weston I was close to the top with six holes to go and a couple of bad shots cost me not only the tournament but a place in the top 10.
Even though I finished second at The Challenge at Harbor Hills the previous week, the same thing happened to me. I got to the 18th hole looking to win or force a playoff, and I couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to birdie and make it more difficult for Toni Hakula, who ended up winning. I played the final round at 5-under par and did not bogey any of my final 28 holes. Unfortunately, I didn’t play 18 as well as I would have liked, and the victory slipped from my hands. Conclusion: In 54-hole tournaments, nothing is forgiven.
I found a rhythm of competition. Although I came to the United States with the goal of winning tournaments in the LOCALiQ Series, I have to accept that I am happy just to be playing again. I spent four months without hitting balls in Argentina due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this Tour presented itself as a light in the middle of the fog.
It was not easy to find the rhythm of my game. It took weeks for me to start feeling good. Today I look back at it and feel that everything has been worth it. It makes me nostalgic to leave my family and friends in Argentina, but it was something I had to do. I had to come to compete and to stay active. Today, weeks later, I feel good physically and mentally for the remainder of the year. The LOCALiQ Series Championship at TPC Sugarloaf and the two 2020 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica events just announced are coming.
I still need to have a good final round. In several tournaments, I was high on the leaderboard, but I didn’t play my final 18 holes the way I needed to win. I feel like I get very anxious and attack more than necessary. Last week in Weston, that happened to me. I was aggressive with my putting and started to overdo it. One of the great keys to golf is being able to remain patient. It sounds easy but putting it into practice is another story. I need to keep working on that and start playing hole by hole—not getting ahead of myself or putting pressure on myself. I hope that at TPC Sugarloaf I have some progress in that regard.
I have many more thoughts, but these are my four biggest conclusions I’ve made during these seven LOCALiQ Series tournaments. During this break, I will be in Miami at the house of my friend Rafa Guerrero, and next week I will move to the Doral area where I will be able to practice a little more. In addition to continuing to train hard during the next month, I also need to relax a little and recharge for the remainder of the year. I will be absent for a while, but before the LOCALiQ Series Championship I will to return with a new entry explaining what I’ve been up to and what I expect in the Series’ final tournament.