Takeaways from The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic
January 11, 2017
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- Kyle Thompson finished his week at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic with zero 3-putts. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)
Kyle Thompson was exhausted after what he called a “super long week.”
But the smile wasn’t leaving his face anytime soon.
The 37-year-old veteran captured his fifth Web.com Tour title Wednesday at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay after finishing as the lone golfer under-par for the week.
He nearly left golf behind 18 months ago, but committed himself to the sport once again. And now, he’s a champion again on the Web.com Tour.
“It’s been a wild ride. People probably wonder why I keep playing the game. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to just walk away from it and do something that’s ‘easier’ and at times make more money, but I really feel like I’m playing the best golf of my life right now,” he said. “Some people peak when they’re 20, 25, or 30. For me, it’s 37.”
Thompson went the whole week without a three-putt, and just managed to stay steady, with three rounds of 70 after an opening round 76 (where at one point he was 6 over through six holes). On Sunday, after his opening round, he told a friend that he thought 10-over-par might have won the tournament.
“I was hanging on for dear life,” he said of that opening round. “You (have to) laugh a little bit too. Some of the shots, today, were insane. I had 122 yards to a back pin and I hit 6-iron. How often do you practice a shot like that? Never. If it’s that windy, I’m usually sitting at home watching out the window.”
Thompson, who finished runner-up at last year’s season-opener, said he would have bet anything that he couldn’t have topped the start he had in 2016. But, that’s golf.
“I can’t even put into words what it means to my family and I to get the year going like this. It just gives us more stability in our lives,” he explained. “It’s a real tough grind. People think that pro golf is something that’s glamorous, and it is for some, but guys like us, we’re grinding it out. We’re pinching pennies. It’s just a tough gig but I think the guys that never give up, the guys that keep working hard at it and get better at what they do, end up doing well in the long run.”
Andrew Yun re-discovers himself
By his own admission Andrew Yun tried in 2016 to be someone he wasn’t.
He wanted his swing to “look prettier.” He wanted to bomb it like Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. And he tried hard to re-adjust something that was tried and true.
But after this off-season, a little soul-searching, and a plethora of support, he’s back with some swagger. And, he started the year on a high note, after his 3-under-par 69 resulted in a tie for second.
“It’s pretty big,” he said of starting the year off so well. “Last year I didn’t do that, but it just helps you relax for the rest of the season. You don’t want to get too relaxed but it was a byproduct of the support system that I have and it’s just been great.”
Yun said that despite the fact that last year was so difficult – he had to return to Q-School after missing 15 cuts – it was a good experience.
“I learned a lot about how to play, what to do. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Once I figured out who I was, I kept to that and I started getting better,” he explained. “I can’t do some of the things that the other guys do, I don’t have that body type. I’m just going to do what I do.”
A very happy Clemson Tiger
It was a fine finish for D.J. Trahan, who came in tied for 25th, but despite a stumble in the final round (he shot a 6-over-par 78) you couldn’t wipe the smile off the face of the Clemson alum, who was still basking in the glory of his alma mater’s college football National Championship victory from a few days ago.
“That didn’t affect my play at all. I was just very excited that we won. It was nice to see Alabama take a loss for a change, and for us to be on the good end of that was tremendous. The game was unbelievable,” said Trahan. “I stayed up to the watch the whole thing, which was tough. I couldn’t be happier for those guys, that’s for certain.”
Trahan, who wore a Clemson Tigers hat during the latter portion of the tournament, was 194th on the FedExCup standings in 2016, which resulted in him having to go to the Web.com Tour Finals. He withdrew from the first two events and missed the cut at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, meaning he’s returned to the Web.com Tour for the first time since 2015.
He said he played well this week but struggled on the greens.
“I literally made two putts on the week over 8 feet. I couldn’t buy a putt,” he admitted. “In these conditions, you have to get a few things going your way. I’m pleased with the way I played, but it was so difficult. It could have been better, but it could have been worse too.”
Nate Lashley continues his late-2016 momentum
Although it was an up-and-down year for Nate Lashley, he managed to scorch PGA TOUR Latinoamerica for three wins (and a playoff loss) from September until the end of the season.
“I had a lot of momentum and confidence after that. I’ve been playing well, I’ve been putting well, so out here (on the Web.com Tour), I’ve just been trying to keep it in play and make some putts and see what happens. I ended up playing pretty well,” said Lashley of his tie for fifth.
After finishing on top of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Order of Merit in 2016, Lashley earned full status on the Web.com Tour for this year, which he said was ‘huge.’
“You don’t have to be so worried about the reshuffle and playing well. Starting off the year with full status and knowing I’ll be in every event is huge,” he explained.
He was also able to parlay some of his recent experience playing in the Caribbean – he was part of the winning Aruba Cup team – into success this week.
“The last two events I’ve played has been in just howling wind, so that helped a lot,” he explained. “Hit a lot of punch shots (this week) which was not a huge change for me.”
Conners with a strong debut
After Canadian Corey Conners had a chance to reflect on the week-that-was, he thought he had played in some windy conditions before, having spent most of last season on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica.
But he never had. This was a week for the ages.
That said, Conners, who finished tied for fifth despite opening with a 79, is happy with his Web.com Tour debut. And as he’s not exempt for the whole season, a finish like the one he had will go a long way for his status.
“There are definitely areas I could have tightened up on, but I think everyone is going to have that from this week because it was so difficult,” he said. “I struggled with the speed of the greens this week, but I’m super happy with the start I had to the season. There was a little bit of pressure to have a good first few events, not being exempt for the full season.”
Conners explains the key to his success this week was to stay patient. If he makes a mistake, he gets over it quickly and gets on with his round.
“I feel like the flight of my golf ball is good for the wind and I can hit it really low if I want. I can minimize what the wind is going to do to affect the ball, and that was a fairly big key as well. When I look at my game, I want the conditions to be as tough as possible, and they were that this week,” he explained with a laugh.
A record-setting week
Given the conditions the golfers faced this week, it’s no surprise that there were a few record-setting numbers on the Sandals Emerald Bay Course in Great Exuma.
- Winner Kyle Thompson (somehow) went all week without recording a three-putt
- It was the first time in a 72-hole Web.com Tour event that the leader wasn’t under par after 54 holes
- The cut was 11 over, the highest in Web.com Tour history
- First time in Web.com Tour history that more than one person shot in the 90s (three: Greg Eason, Byron Smith, Bryan Bigley)
- The par-4 12th had the toughest scoring average of any single hole in the history of the Web.com Tour (5.008)
Kyle Thompson wins the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic