Rob Labritz looks to harness momentum from another T4 finish at the U.S. Senior Open
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Written by Bob McClellan @ChampionsTour
Four seems to be a lucky number for second-year PGA TOUR Champions member Rob Labritz, who finished T4 last week at the U.S. Senior Open Championship.
In fact, he’s finished T4 three times in his two seasons on the Champions Tour, with two of them coming at the U.S. Senior Open and the other coming earlier this season at the Hoag Classic in March.
Last week at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Labritz finished at 2-under 282, five strokes back of winner Bernhard Langer. He had a spectacular weekend, highlighted by a 5-under 66 in the third round, which was the lowest score on Saturday by two shots. If not for a 76 on Thursday, Labritz could have been in the mix down the stretch.
“I played very well, hit the ball solid and some things really clicked on the weekend,” said the 52-year-old Labritz, who talked to PGATOUR.com from a beach bar in Mashpee, Massachusetts. “And to do it again at the U.S. Senior Open, it’s just really cool. I like hard golf courses and big crowds. It’s great when the people are out. It gets me pumped up.
“I went in on Thursday thinking I’d try to overpower the course and shot 76. By the weekend I was using hybrids off the tee and making sure I kept the ball in play, thinking hybrid, hybrid, wedge and try to make a birdie that way. That’s what makes Bernhard so freaking good. He was doing that off the tee all week.”
Labritz is still learning. A PGA club professional his entire career, Labritz earned his card for 2022 after earning medalist honors at Q-School. He didn’t finish inside the top 36 to secure his card for 2023, but his standing just outside that list has gotten him into 14 events so far. He stands 29th in the Charles Schwab Cup rankings after the U.S. Senior Open, and he’s looking forward to next week, when the schedule resumes with the fourth of five majors.
“I played well at the Kaulig Companies Championship last year,” Labritz said. “I was tied for 11th. Looking forward to getting back to Firestone (Country Club in Akron, Ohio) and hopefully keep this momentum going. I love that golf course.”
During Sunday’s telecast of the U.S. Senior Open, NBC announcer Dan Hicks apparently remembered the cheers for Labritz last year at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and dubbed him “Mr. U.S. Senior Open.”
Saucon Valley is only two hours from Labritz’s home course, GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York. Family, friends and members made the short trip and subsequently made it feel like a home game for Labritz, who couldn’t have enjoyed the support more.
But he laughed off the new nickname.
“That’s funny,” Labritz said with a chuckle “I finished fourth twice. Sure, forget all the guys who have won it multiple times. Still, that’s a nice compliment.”
Rob Labritz nearly holes eagle iron from fairway at the U.S. Senior Open
After the Kaulig, there are four more events on the schedule in which Labritz finished in the top 25 last season. He’s hoping that a similar charge over the latter half of the schedule will secure him a spot in the top 36 for next year.
Labritz said he spent some time with his swing coach, Tom Wilson, leading up to the American Family Insurance Championship in June in Madison, Wisconsin. They worked on his “starting line” off the tee. Labritz was having trouble cutting the ball like he wanted, and Wilson was able to solve the problem.
“I still need to improve my putting,” Labritz said. “I’m working on it. There’s so many parts of the game you need to work on, all the time.”
Fellow PGA TOUR Champions player Ken Duke suggested Labritz try out a Sacks Parente putter. Labritz had used only a Ping Odyssey putter since joining the Tour, but he used the Sacks Parente model during his practice rounds at SentryWorld and decided to use it during the tournament.
“It was basically a gametime decision,” Labritz said. “I had both putters in my bag. I said, ‘Let’s give it a try.’ I made some putts with it, and it felt really good.
“I have a few putters that I like, and right now this is the girl that I like the most that’s gonna be in the bag going forward. They’re gonna dial it in a little bit more for me. I made a 36-footer on the last hole (at the U.S. Senior Open) to save myself a bunch of money.”