Back 9: Newly healthy Kendall reflects on his win

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Kendall won the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship with a birdie on the 72nd hole.
February 29, 2012
Anne Szeker, PGATOUR.COM producer

At the season-opening Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship, Skip Kendall held off Andrew Svoboba and Andres Gonzales for his fourth Nationwide Tour win and his first in five years. Before the start of the second event of the year, we talked to Kendall about his win and his road back to the top after thumb surgery in 2011.

1. Talk about the 25-footer you had to win on 18 in Bogota. When I was on 17 I heard a loud roar on 18 green. I saw Andres Gonzales was at 8, so I knew that was probably him going to 9-under. I knew I needed to birdie one of the last holes. I just missed a birdie putt on 17, but Andrew and I were tied as well coming down 18.

It was one of those putts that I knew was makeable. It was one of those putts that you could get a really good read on it. I had a really good feeling it could go in. I felt great over it. The best opportunity was to get it on that line and see what happens and about half way there I knew it was on the right line. And wow it was pretty special when I saw it going right in the center of the hole.

Round 4 Recap: 2012 Pacific Rubiales

In the final round of the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship presented by Samsung, Skip Kendall sank a 25-foot birdie putt to claim his first victory since 2007.

2. You're the third veteran in a row to win at Country Club de Bogota. Is there something about the course that gives experienced players an edge?? It's a very old-fashioned, tree-lined golf course, where placement is key. On most golf courses today the power game has taken over, especially with modern architecture. Bogota isn't like that. Course management is very important. It's kind of a throw back golf course. That's why veterans are winning.

3. You've won four times now on the Nationwide Tour -- your first win was in 1994. Does this one feel any different?? I don't even remember the one back in 1994! I'm just kidding. I think it is, going through what I've gone through, I think this one is a little more special than the rest. Obviously I'm getting a little older and to compete at a real high level with the guys who are out there, is just good. It feels really good to get a win against a strong field, on a great course and in the first tournament of the year. I'm off to a great start. It only helps my confidence.

4. Was coming back from your thumb surgery in April 2011 harder than you expected?? I would say yes. I didn't realize the extent of my injury and I think when the doctor gives you a time -- anywhere from 3 months to a year -- it's kind of an open-ended deal, you're not quite sure exactly when it's going to feel good again. At three months I was able to play golf. It still hurt a lot. Right now I'm getting to the point where there's not much pain. I'm able to go ahead and swing the club without having to think about the injury.

5. You were playing with a modified grip before surgery. Was it hard to get back to your regular grip? Yes -- all digits are on the grip! For about a year and a half I played without my left thumb off the grip. When I came back, it felt like starting over again. It was quite different. After doing something for a year and a half straight, to go back is not easy. That's the thing about golfers, you pretty much adapt to what you're able to do at the time because of injury or whatever. You find ways to compensate. You compensate for the pain. That was the only way to play.

6. What made you finally decide to have the surgery?? Realizing that it wasn't getting any better. I was told at first there was a possibility that the ligament would repair itself. I played at Bay Hill [in 2011], I made the cut but I felt like I was spinning my wheels. It felt like I was playing at 70 percent. I wasn't healthy, it wasn't getting better. I knew I couldn't go on.

7. With your injury just now starting to feel better, did you come down to Colombia thinking "I can win this thing"?? Yeah, I did. I really have been working hard over the off season with my coach Brian Mogg. I changed things up a bit. I started playing a lot more than practicing. And I think that really helped me get ready for this year. I think before, one of the things lacking was play because I didn't play that much. So I felt like I need to play and get into competition. I was actually ready to play the first event. As far as Bogota was concerned, though I'd never really had any success there, I knew I could potentially play well there.

8. Did you know you're the third Wisconsin pro to win so far this year?? [Laughs.] Yeah. Mark is one of my little brothers on TOUR and of course I knew Steve won right off the bat. Stricker, J.P. Hayes, Jerry Kelly... we all grew up playing each other in Wisconsin. Mark was behind us about 10 years, but I certainly knew Mark when he was starting to come up and then when he got on TOUR, he was one of my little brothers. I'm very happy for him. Hopefully the other Wisconsin guys will come on and win soon too.

9. Now that you've won -- what's the goal for the rest of the season?? The goal is certainly to finish top 25 and to secure PGA TOUR status for next year. I'd like to play out there full time. Winning the first event, you change your goals a little. I'd love to be Player of the Year. I'd love to finish first on the money list. There's a long way to go. You never know what's going to happen, but I feel like if I can keep doing what I'm doing and continue to progress, there's no reason I can't accomplish those goals. The old cliche is one shot at a time.