With five victories, Jonathan Byrd had such a productive PGA Tour career that spending any time on the developmental Web.com Tour never crossed his mind. His only stop in the minor leagues was in 2001, so long ago that it then was known as the Buy.com Tour.
A year after his playoff victory in the 2011 Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, however, Byrd had wrist surgery. He missed three months to start 2013, and his game and confidence slowly eroded to the point that he was trying to make cuts, make money and keep his job.
”You stop trying to bring your best and you’re trying just to stay out here, and that’s no way to play,” Byrd said last month at the RSM Classic. ”The tighter you hang on, the farther you get away from what you’re doing.”
With nothing but past champion status that would offer him limited starts, his best option to regain a full PGA Tour card was to spend a year on the Web.com Tour. That can be a tough pill for someone who had never come close to losing his PGA Tour card before the injury.
Byrd, who turns 39 in January, brought with him an attitude that is worth emulating for anyone who winds up in that spot.
”It was humbling,” Byrd said. ”To go back to the Web was difficult. There’s so many reminders every week that you’re not where you want to be. But I tried to embrace it. … I didn’t want to be the grumpy old tour player talking about how great it is on tour and how bad it is out here and how good I used to be. I made friends out there. I enjoyed it. I focused on enjoying the competition.”
Byrd event turned down a half-dozen exemptions to PGA Tour events last year. He finished 48th on the money list (the top 25 get PGA cards) and he didn’t earn one of the 25 additional spots from the four-tournament series at the end of the year.
Even so, he was upbeat about his progress. Besides, being around a bunch of kids in their early 20s has helped.
”You’ve got to play good to beat these guys,” he said. ”But what I’ve learned from being out here so long is that I’ve got what it takes. Guys who have won five times on the PGA Tour, it’s a short list. I’ve got something in there that’s good enough. And I still think it’s good enough.”
OH, BROTHER: Jordan Spieth is headed to Rhode Island this week to watch Brown host Maine in college basketball. His younger brother, Steven, is a senior who is averaging 15.4 points a game for the Bears.
The former Masters and U.S. Open champion is doing everything he can to prepare, because this apparently involves more than sitting in the stands to cheer on little brother. Spieth suggested that there might be a little contest Thursday morning before the Brown game.
”I’m not sure. He kind of set up something,” Spieth said. ”We might be playing horse, and it might be videoed. At the moment, I’m starting my grind in the gym, shooting a thousand shots a day so I don’t embarrass myself.”
Asked if he knew where the public might see this video, Spieth said: ”Even if I knew, I certainly would not be announcing that. I think it’s through ESPN. I’m not sure.”
However it turns out, perhaps Steven might consider coming out to Augusta National early for a putting contest.
POWER MEMORIES: Jim Furyk is used to players smashing it by him off the tee. One of the shorter hitters in golf, he still has managed to win 17 times, including the U.S. Open. But there was something about the 2009 Cadillac Championship at Doral that he still remembers clearly.
”I was paired with Adam Scott and Rory (McIlroy) the first two days, and I was hitting it real short,” Furyk said. ”I’m already short anyway, but I had a driver that I was hitting straight but real short. We’re playing Doral. You know, Adam and Rory are hitting it 30 (yards) by me all day and I’m like, ‘I need to get a new driver.”’
It got worse. The next day, he was paired with a 23-year-old named Dustin Johnson, who was in his second year on tour. Furyk didn’t know anything about him.
”He’s hitting it like 50 by me,” Furyk said. ”I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ We got paired later in the year at Boston, and he had a good event. He’s always been impressive.”
By the way, Furyk played that fourth round with a tall Spaniard in a straw hat named Alvaro Quiros, one of longest players on the European Tour.
”Didn’t know anything about him,” Furyk said. ”And he’s trying to drive the second green.”
MIGUEL’S MEMORIES: Miguel Tabuena sure had a memorable year for not having won a tournament.
The 22-year-old Filipino shot 64-68 at Lake Merced and Olympic to win his sectional qualifier and play in his first U.S. Open. He qualified for the Rio Olympics. He made it to his first World Golf Championships events at the HSBC Champions. He contended alongside Jordan Spieth in Singapore. During back-to-back weeks in Asia, he played with Ernie Els in Malaysia and Dustin Johnson in Shanghai.
”This is my best year so far,” he said.
Tabuena was only 4 when the only other Filipino made it to a World Golf Championship – Frankie Minoza, who lost in the opening round to Nick Price in the inaugural Match Play Championship at La Costa.
”He’s a living legend back home, someone I look up to,” Tabuena said. ”Hopefully, I can have the half the success he’s had in his career. I like where I am now at 22. The sky is the limit if I keep improving.”
Tabuena, who turned pro when he was 16, certainly got the attention of Johnson in Shanghai.
”He’s real young, but he’s got some game,” Johnson said. ”He’s not a real big guy but he hits it pretty far.”
DIVOTS: The Walker Cup will be played in Florida for the first time. The amateur matches are coming to Seminole Golf Club in 2021. The USGA also said the 2025 Walker Cup will be held at Cypress Point Club on the Monterey Peninsula, where it last was played in 1981. Next year’s matches will be on the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club. … Seventeen players were outside the top 100 in the world when they won on the PGA Tour this year. … Patrick Reed (No. 8) and Bubba Watson (No. 10) are the only players from the top 10 in the world who did not have multiple victories this year. Hideki Matsuyama (No. 6) had the most with five victories worldwide. … Thongchai Jaidee is playing an Asian Development Tour event this week in Thailand, needing a victory to get into the top 50 and assure a spot at the Masters next year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Only two PGA Tour events in 2016 were won by the No. 1 player in the world – Jordan Spieth at the Tournament of Champions and Jason Day at The Players Championship.
FINAL WORD: ”That’s a very, very difficult hole that he made look very, very easy.” – Jordan Spieth on Dustin Johnson’s birdie on the 18th hole at Oakmont.