Notebook: Putnam's ace, players show true colors and a wet Dye's Valley

September 28, 2013
By Jeff Shain and Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM contributors

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Well, that’s one way to cancel out a double bogey.

Andrew Putnam was just starting to simmer down from Saturday’s costly splashdown at the Tour Championship as he stepped to the par-3 11th, launching a low 3-iron toward the green some 200 yards away.

The ball touched down little more than a yard in front of the pin, the soft surface from a week of rain slowing the velocity enough that it casually rolled into the cup for a hole-in-one.

“I quickly forgot about that [double bogey],” Putnam quipped.

On the scorecard, mark it down as a 6-1 sequence. “Even par for those two holes,” said Putnam, who for good measure followed with a birdie at the par-4 12th.

It was part of a roller-coaster 67 that left the Washington native two shots behind leader Scott Gardiner and in good position to join older brother Michael in the graduating class set to join the PGA TOUR in two weeks.

“It’s hard not to think ahead,” said Putnam, who came to the last stop of the Tour Finals at No. 70 in the qualifying standings.

“The ultimate goal is to get your PGA [TOUR] card. Somehow you’ve got to block that out and try to compete for the tournament. That’s the way you’re going to play the best.”

Michael Putnam already is guaranteed a fully exempt card for 2013-14 after leading the Tour in regular-season earnings. They would be the second set of brothers to earn PGA TOUR promotion in the same year – Deane and Brendan Pappas did it in 2001.

“I know I have to play pretty good,” Andrew Putnam said, “but I don’t have to win.”

Four birdies in his first seven holes got Putnam off to a strong start, before a bogey at No. 8 that was the start of his roller coaster. He parred No. 9, then flared his tee shot at the par-4 10the into the water that runs along the hole’s entire right side.

“The one thing you can’t do on that hole,” said Putnam, who had to grind for his double by getting up-and-down from greenside rough and draining 6-footer.

One swing later, the double bogey wasn’t quite so weighty.

“It kind of got me back settled,” Putnam said. “Whenever you hit it in the water and make a double after playing pretty good, it kind of rattles you. The hole-in-one quickly put things back in focus.”

QUAGMIRE: Jim Duncan, the Tour's vice president for rules, competition and administration, called Saturday's situation in the Tour Championship a "quagmire" when almost two inches of fell in the early morning hours on Dye's Valley, sending crews scrambling to get the golf course ready.

Groups of three finally went off some two-and-a-half hours later as greens had to be double-mowed and rolled, and lots of bunker work had to be done. The biggest challenge, Duncan said, was removal of casual water on Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 17.

SCHOOL SUPPORT: With Saturday being “College Game Day” at Dye’s Valley, many of the golfers did their part to wear school colors – especially if you attended LSU or Georgia like John Peterson, Andrew Loupe, Brendon Todd and Hudson Swafford.

Former LSU standouts Peterson and Loupe both donned in purple in support, then went from the scorer’s tent after their rounds looking for the fastest transportation off the course so they could get in front of a TV to watch the second half of the LSU-Georgia game.

“I don’t even know what position I’m in right now,” said Peterson with a smile. “I know I have to leave now. It’s all I could think about coming down the fairway.”

Both Peterson and Loupe were in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge one week ago on a rainy night for the Auburn-LSU game.

“I was dripping wet,” said Loupe, who came into the week at No. 116 on the Finals money list.  “John (Peterson) was in a suite. Let’s clarify that.”

Peterson, who has already locked up his PGA TOUR card, moved to 5 under with a 2-under 68 while Loupe’s roller-coaster round of 67 featured eight birdies, three bogeys and a double to put him at 6-under going into the final round.

Georgia product Swafford played with Loupe Saturday and had to endure a little ribbing about the big game against LSU.

“We were definitely giving each other a hard time about the game,” said Swafford, who is 4 under through three rounds.

“We were talking smack,” said Loupe. “It’s game day. I’ve known Hud probably half my life growing up playing junior golf together. You have to.”

Peterson said he had friends at the game, including Georgia product Harris English. “They’re in a box at the game right now – a much better situation than I’m in.”

LATE STUMBLE: For the better part of three rounds, Chesson Hadley managed to work around the swing flaws he’d been battling since just before the Tour Finals began.

There was no getting around his final two holes Saturday at Dye’s Valley.

A missed fairway led to bogey at the long par-4 17th – no shame there, considering the converted par-5 has ranked as the week’s second-toughest hole. But it only foreshadowed a disastrous double bogey at No. 18.

Teeing off with a 3-wood, Hadley’s drive wound up in the rough adjacent to a bunker right of the fairway. Then from an awkward stance, his second shot flared sharply left into the water on the way to a double bogey.

“I’m obviously not very happy right now,” said Hadley, who went from a two-shot lead over Scott Gardiner to one behind.

“I’m just not hitting it where I need to hit it. I’m not even hitting driver – I probably haven’t hit driver 10 times this week. I’m just not putting good swings on it, and I need to go find something on the range.”

For the record, Hadley hit nine of 14 fairways on Saturday – three more than his second-round 66 that gave him a two-shot lead. But with Saturday’s gusty winds, he often found himself in more difficult positions from which to save par.

Even when the Georgia Tech grad opened with a 65, he considered himself fortunate to get around in 5-under with less than his best.

“I need to go find something for tomorrow,” said Hadley, “because when you get under the gun, your flaws are going to be magnified. I wouldn’t say I was terribly nervous coming down the stretch there, but I need to figure out whatever it is that’s causing this ball to not go where I want it to.”

After finishing No. 3 on the Tour’s regular-season money list, Hadley got off to a slow start in the Finals until tying for fourth in Columbus.

FRIENDLY ROUND: For as many trips around the Stadium Course and Dye’s Valley that Bud Cauley and Jeff Klauk have made over the years, Saturday was their first competitive round playing together.

“It was nice,” said Cauley, whose 65 on Saturday put him into contention at 6 under. He could lock up his PGA TOUR card for the coming season with another good round on Sunday. 

“I was looking forward to playing with Jeff just because I know he’d have a lot of people out there and my family and friends would be out there too,” added Cauley. “He’s a great guy. I look forward to playing more with him.”

“We played a practice round at Torrey Pines earlier in the year with Billy Horschel. Obviously we have practiced together out here a lot," Klauk said. "We’ve got great support out here.”

WEEKEND WORK: When Wes Roach missed the cut Friday, he kept his hotel reservation in Ponte Vedra through Sunday and spent most of Saturday afternoon alone at the practice range.

Roach, a 2011 Duke University graduate, secured his PGA TOUR card by finishing No. 25 on the Tour regular-season money list, and will make his PGA TOUR debut at the Open in less than two weeks.

Roach admitted that many of his cohorts are probably watching football this weekend.

“I’ll watch a little football later this afternoon, but I wasn’t pleased with the way I played Thursday and Friday so I thought I’d get out there and get some practice time in," he said.

It’s a trend that developed at an early age. His father, who works as general manager of Willow Creek Golf Club in Knoxville, Tenn., taught him the game, and Roach often spent a lot of weekend time on the greens and the practice range.

Roach, who completed his second season on the Tour this year, shares the same coach (Brad Rose) with fellow PGA TOUR pro Scott Stallings in Knoxville.

With a week off before his first event at the, Roach is seizing the opportunity to get extra time in.

“I grew up at the golf course,” he said. “This is what I do. When I get out there on the PGA TOUR, I just hope to get into contention and have a chance of winning out there. I’m excited about the jump and the opportunity that comes with it.”