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Ken Tanigawa: embracing authentic joy and consistency

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Tour Insider

Ken Tanigawa: embracing authentic joy and consistency

    Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour

    Turns out a loose, relaxed Ken Tanigawa still is a dangerous player.

    After opening the 2023 season with his best finish since winning the 2019 Senior PGA Championship -- a tie for runner-up behind Steve Stricker at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai – Tanigawa, 55, has maintained his new positive mental outlook and stellar play.

    Through 10 events, Tanigawa has three top-10s and is currently 15th in the Schwab Cup standings. His worst finish this year is a T30 with eight top-25s. He has played as consistently as anyone.

    In fact, the only other players without a finish worse than T30 this year besides Tanigawa are Schwab Cup leader Stricker and defending Schwab Cup champion Steven Alker.

    “Wow, that’s a cool stat,” Tanigawa said. “It would be great to have that conversation after another 10 events.”

    Tanigawa said in January after his performance at Hualalai that he had spent the early years of his PGA TOUR Champions career being too results-oriented. A game he had played for fun as a top amateur his whole life had ceased to bring him joy as it became his job.

    He vowed not to let that happen anymore. Tanigawa was going to play from the heart, not for the wallet. So far it looks like a good way to fill both.

    “I’ve just been playing really well, especially driving the ball,” Tanigawa said Tuesday. “I happened to look at my statistics the other day, and I am first in total driving, which I thought was kind of shocking.

    “I’m not trying to hit it as hard. My ball flight is more left to right, and I’m trying to get it in play more, understanding I don’t need to hit it 320, don’t need to chase distance. I hit it far enough that it’s OK. As long as I can drive it like that, it helps me be more consistent when playing out of fairways more. You obviously hit more greens and it snowballs from there. And my putting stats are better. All my stats are pretty good after 10 events.”

    Ken Tanigawa's near albatross yields eagle at Mitsubishi

    Tanigawa ranks 13th in accuracy and 20th in distance. He was fifth in distance during his rookie season in 2018.

    His putting average is also a career-best 11th. He has never finished a season on PGA TOUR Champions inside the top 30 in putting average.

    “It’s true; I can’t even complain about my putting right now,” said Tanigawa, who put the AimPoint putting method into use at Hualalai and has had no reason to stray from it. “Putting, as we all know, often makes the difference out here. And I’m feeling comfortable over the ball.”

    Tanigawa arrives this week at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, New York, for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Open, a venue that he has come to enjoy over the years.

    He has played at En-Joie like he has played this season -- consistently well. He has made four starts there, all top 25s, with a best of T6 in 2022.

    “On paper you wouldn’t think it would suit me, but I like it,” Tanigawa said. “Everybody really seems to like the course. It’s fun. It’s tree-lined. Kinda narrow. You have to drive it well.

    “I like the par 3s. It’s kind of old school. It’s not very long, not like the big, new TPC yards. It’s a fun place to play.”

    Which is what Tanigawa is all about, a return to playing for the fun of the game.

    “A big yard would suit me on paper, but historically I guess that hasn’t been the case,” Tanigawa said. “The greens are great. They’re not crazy severe. There’s no humps and mounds and balls rolling everywhere.”

    There’s little doubt Tanigawa has enough game to win in New York. But he’s not going to put any pressure on himself to do so.

    “The year has been a success thus far, and it’s because I’m enjoying it more,” said Tanigawa, who added that with an empty nest at home his wife has spent more time traveling with him than at any other time since he turned 50. “My whole attitude, my whole goal was to say I had fun this week, I had fun during that round.

    “ … I wanna win just as much as anybody, but there’s no expectations of winning. I’m not going out there with that kind of a mindset. I’m just enjoying it. You need some breaks and things have to work out to win out here. I don’t expect it. I curbed all my expectations. Expect nothing, good or bad. Keep my head where my feet are and just go from there.”

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