Champ cards torrid front-nine 28 at Rocket Mortgage Classic
June 28, 2019
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
Cameron Champ gets up-and-down for birdie at Rocket Mortgage
DETROIT – Absorbed in its entirety, Cameron Champ’s round of 7-under 65 Friday morning would provide ample explanation for his 36-hole lead at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
But upon further review, you could look at the torrid 8-under 28 going out on Detroit Golf Club’s front nine, then measure it against the inward 1-over 37 and wonder, why such a stark contrast in performance?
Champ could, in turn, smile, and suggest you widen the lens if you want to really study the roller-coaster of this, his rookie season. To wit: In his first seven tournaments there was a win, four other top-15 finishes, and 592 FedExCup points, but since the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, Champ has missed eight cuts, withdrawn once, had a best finish of T-28, and earned a mere 39 FEC points.
All of which – the 28-37 in Round 2, the fact that he went four months on the PGA TOUR without breaking 70 with Thursday’s opening 66, and a return to contention after months of early exits – he is most happy to explain.
“You know, I’m still young,” said Champ, who signed his card and headed home at 13-under 131, at the time two better than Ryan Armour (69) with the entire afternoon wave on the golf course. “I just turned 24, so I had a lot coming at me and distractions. I had to just really adjust and prioritize.”
As explosive as Champ’s power is, it is another commodity he possesses that likely will maintain the much-needed balance in his game. “He’s a good kid, a gentle soul,” said Jeff Camp, Cameron’s father, who walked Friday’s round as his son put up back-to-back scores in the 60s for the first time since the Sony Open in Hawaii, way back in January.
“He knows he has to just grind.”
On his first nine Friday, though, it was not a grind. It was Champ at his very best, flashing the sort of incomparable power that would make you wonder how anyone can beat him. He hit six of seven fairways, reached both par-5s in two, was on in regulation at all nine greens, and required but 12 putts. For a sampling of the unmatched power Champ can unleash, consider the par-5 seventh, set up at 545 yards. J.B. Holmes, hardly a singles hitter, was dead center, out there a robust 327 yards.
Yet, Champ was 38 yards beyond him, and provided with the opportunity to hit just a 177-yard second shot to 8 feet. He made that eagle, which coming on the heels of five birdies in a row went a long reason in explaining the sprint to the turn in 28. “One of those nines, kind of everything went my way,” said Champ, who also drove it 368 yards at the 635-yard, par-5 fourth and reached in two to set up a two-putt birdie.
True enough, that, because a ticklish 15-footer straight downhill at the par-4 wasn’t one he expected to make but did. And at the par-3 ninth, his 20-footer found the hole, too.
But Cameron Champ lets those words of his greatest mentor in life – his grandfather, Mack Champ – constantly echo in his head. “It’s not where you start that matters, it is where you finish.”
So, the six birdies and one eagle on his first nine didn’t matter; it was the bogey on the par-4 13th and the bogey at the par-4 18th that offset the only inward birdie, at the par-5 17th, that Cameron Champ digested after his round and will use as motivation for Saturday’s third round.
It’s not dissimilar to how he maintained composure these past few months. “Just embracing failure,” he said. In other words, he has put the early-season success behind him and learned much from that stretch where he failed to play on the weekend of six straight tournaments.
“I think it has, personally,” said Champ, when asked if the rough stretch was in some ways better for his career than the win at Sanderson Farms last October and the string of high finishes that stopped at the Sony.
“At times, I can definitely be tough on myself. But I’m learning, especially the last month-and-a-half (has been good for me). It’s sent me back to the drawing board and to think back to how I play good golf, how I think around the course.”