Q&A: Blair on architecture and returning to the TOUR
January 07, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Zac Blair’s impressive approach on No. 18 at Sony Open
Few PGA TOUR players are more passionate about golf-course architecture than Zac Blair. He’s back on TOUR this season after spending a year on the Korn Ferry Tour, which means he can re-visit several of his favorite layouts. Waialae Country Club, which hosts this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, is high on that list. Waialae was built by Seth Raynor nearly a century ago during an era known as the Golden Age of architecture. Blair’s affinity for the course is shown in his performances in Honolulu. He finished T6 in his Sony debut five years ago, then followed with a career-best third in 2016.
This week will be his first Sony start in three years. After failing to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs in 2017 and 2018, he had to return to the Korn Ferry Tour last year. He won the second-to-last event of the Regular Season to regain his TOUR card and is off to a good start this season. He finished T4 at the Safeway Open and T14 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic to sit 51st in the FedExCup standings.
Blair recently spoke to PGATOUR.COM about Waialae, losing (and regaining) his TOUR card and the status of The Buck Club, the course he dreams of bringing to his native Utah.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s your best memory from Waialae?
Zac Blair: Probably that 3-wood I hit on 18 (in 2016). That was something you never forget, hitting that good of a shot in that situation. … I figured if I made eagle, I would have a chance to win. I hit it exactly how I wanted to. I needed to hit a really good one. I hit it perfect and it came off with that perfect ball flight. I knew if it got the hop, it could be really good. (Note: Blair, who had 275 yards remaining for his second shot to the par-5 18th, missed his 15-foot eagle putt and finished one shot out of a playoff won by Fabian Gomez.)
PGATOUR.COM: What do you love about playing there?
Zac Blair: It’s a cool spot. Any of those par-70s where you get that Bermudagrass, where there’s a real premium on hitting it in the fairway, it’s obviously really nice. I’ve played it a few times where it’s been really firm and I can get it out as far as those longer hitters because they may be hitting hybrid off the tee. The course is fun. It’s a cool way to start the year. I’m excited to get back and see what Tom Doak has done with the restoration. Most of the big changes have taken place the last two or three years since I last played there.
PGATOUR.COM: What do you like about Raynor courses?
Zac Blair: I just find them enjoyable. I really enjoy some of those template holes and green complexes in general. I feel like they offer a large selection of pin positions. You can make the course play a lot different day-to-day. A hole can play completely different just by moving the hole 10-12 steps.
PGATOUR.COM: Do you feel like you gained anything from having to go back to the Korn Ferry Tour?
Zac Blair: For sure. Not that I took it for granted, but you realize how good you have it on the big tour. From the courses we play, the food we eat to how they take care of you. It’s nice to get back for a lot of those reasons, and obviously you play for a lot more money, which is never a bad thing.
PGATOUR.COM: Is your game any different than the last time you were on TOUR?
Zac Blair: I don’t think so. I’m still short. I just have to make the putts. I just went back to a lot of stuff I did growing up or stuff I did right when I got out on TOUR. When I first got on TOUR, I just went out and felt it out. Then I was trying so hard to make my putting stroke more fundamentally sound or trying to change it because you would hear people say, ‘You’ll have to change your putting if you want to be more consistent.’ But I was always one of the best putters I knew, so it was silly to change it to make it look better. I went back to putting the way I putt. That’s the biggest difference.
PGATOUR.COM: Was there a time when you worried about getting back on TOUR?
Zac Blair: The year after I finished 126th (in the FedExCup), I still had a lot of opportunities. I got in like 20 events, so I got in enough where if I’d played well I could get back in that top 125. I may have gotten a little ‘woe is me’ that year, like, ‘I can’t believe I finished 126th.’ Last year, I told myself that if I just dedicated myself to grinding it out and not complaining about being on the Korn Ferry Tour, not having a ‘woe is me’ attitude, I could play solid and get my card. I just did a good job of staying focused and realizing that sometimes you have to go through situations like that to get back to where you want to be, or where you know you’re going to be. But there are always those times where you have bad weeks and you don’t know.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s the status of The Buck Club?
Zac Blair: I think it’s in a good spot. We’re still looking for some money to build the course but I think we’re pretty OK with where we’re at right now, with being a golf club without a course. We’re hoping to get it built in the near future, but we’re not in any rush to go do something drastic without the proper means to make it something that will last and be here for a long time. I wanted it to be this private club in Utah for my friends and golf junkies around the world, and it’s kind of turned into something bigger than that without trying. We do a lot of stuff for junior golf, raising money for things like that with the tournaments that we host. It’s been really cool to see all the people support it from all over the world. It’s crazy how much support we’ve gotten.