Saxon's success related to his game maturing
November 22, 2016
By Laury Livsey, PGATOUR.COM
- November 22, 2016
- Charlie Saxon has improved his putting and chipping since his college days. (Kevin Lee/Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, China—As a collegiate golfer, Charlie Saxon admits he was a good player playing for the University of Oklahoma. He’s also quick to point out he wasn’t great. There were a few issues with his game. “I wasn’t a very good putter in college, and I’ve become a pretty darn good putter. I couldn’t chip it on the green in college, and now I think I’m a decent chipper,” Saxon explained.
It shows in Saxon’s record, chips landing close and putts falling. Lots of them.
In his first full season as a professional golfer, Saxon has won twice, been a runner-up two other times—on two separate Tours—and this week he’s preparing for his last few days in China as he gets ready for the final Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series tournament of the year, the Buick Open. It starts Thursday at Foison Golf Club.
Last week, Saxon took a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Zhuhai Hengqing Phoenix Tree Open and emerged with a four-stroke victory, giving him two wins on his season resume. Saxon won the Ping An Bank Open in Beijing in September. Add his runner-up finish on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, in Cordoba, Argentina, in mid-April, and five other PGA TOUR China top-10s to go with his victories, and it’s been a pretty productive season for the 23-year-old from Tulsa who calls Edmond, Okla., home.
Saxon will finish second on the PGA TOUR China Order of Merit, behind only China’s Zecheng Dou. With the one tournament remaining, Saxon has pocketed ￥871,395 (approximately U.S. $141,000) and an additional U.S. $11,486 in four tournaments on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica (he’s still 80th on that Tour’s Order of Merit). And his victory last week moved him from No. 398 on the Official World Golf Ranking to No. 282. He began the year as—are you ready?—the world’s 1,734th-ranked player.
So what’s changed? What switched for Saxon?
“I think a lot of it is my maturing as a player. It’s kind of vague, but it’s a process you go through, just learning to get the ball in the hole faster,” he said after his latest victory. “A lot of it is the maturation of my game. I’ve always been a bit of a late bloomer at each stage I get to. I’m just trying to get better each and every week, and I’m seeing the fruit of that this year.”
“I just love his game,” said Dou, who has seen the big Sooner enough times to understand why he’s No. 2 on the Order of Merit, why Saxon’s ascension has been so impressive. “He’s definitely the kind of player who can play against the best in the world. He has his distance. He hits his 2-iron as long as I hit my 3-wood. It makes the courses easy for him. His putting is good. I think all he needs is some short-game improvement.”
Saxon doesn’t disagree. “I feel professional golf forces you that your bad rounds can’t be bad, that your bad rounds have to be under-par. I’ve been able to progress and do that,” he explained. “And once you get it going, you can’t throw shots away. I’ve learned how to do that as well.”
But 18 months ago, Saxon wasn’t there yet.
Immediately after graduating from Oklahoma in 2015, he turned pro, playing a few mini-tour events that summer and fall. He then cast his lot with both PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, earning his card through the Qualifying Tournament. To hedge his bets, though, he had secured a Chinese visa and had signed up for PGA TOUR China Q-School, as well. In his third Latinoamerica event, Saxon tied for second at the 85 Abierto OSDE del Centro in Argentina. The rub? He had to split second-place money with five other players. Saxon says had he finished second alone or even tied for second with one other player, increasing his earnings that week, he likely would have tossed his PGA TOUR China card aside (he qualified in January) and remained in Latin America. So off to Zhengzhou he went, tying for sixth in the season-opening event—but tied with amateur Xuewen Luo, so Saxon kept all the money, earning just couple thousand dollars less than what he won for tying for second in Argentina.
Since then, it’s been an upward trajectory for Saxon, 12 PGA TOUR China tournaments behind him, one more to go, 2017 Web.com Tour membership assured and a ton of experiences that have shaped him along the way.
“I didn’t know what to expect. I was going to come over here and play as well as I could and see where it shook out,” Saxon continued. “It’s been a really good year for me. I’ve gotten a lot better. I’ve played some good golf and had a great time.”