Rodgers tries to follow Spieth’s path

Last year, Jordan Spieth showed young golfers coming out of college, like Patrick Rodgers, that it is not impossible to go straight to the PGA Tour, even though new rules are making it more difficult.

Rodgers leads the next wave, and he turns pro this week in the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour after his junior season at Stanford. Spieth said recently that Rodgers, the No. 1 player in the world amateur and college rankings, is more prepared than he was last year.

“Patrick was leading the (John Deere Classic, which Spieth eventually won), last year, and he was still in college, and you just don’t see that very often,” said the 20-year-old Spieth, who left the University of Texas at the start of 2013 with no playing status and wound up as the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year.

“Pat and I were teammates on the Walker Cup team. We actually played alternate-shot together. … He’s obviously talented enough to compete out here.

Once you set certain goals and you accomplish them and you get to play out on Tour as an amateur, you’re able to compete and kind of finish it off even when you feel the heat, I think that’s when you know you’re ready.

“That’s when I knew I was ready. … Patrick has done that. It’s just up to (him).”

The 21-year-old Rodgers, who tied Tiger Woods’ school record with 11 career victories at Stanford, has played five pro events and last year. He finished in a tie for 15th in the John Deere with scores of 67-69-65-69, five shots behind Spieth after leading early in the tournament.

A native of Avon, Ind., Rodgers sought advice from several sources, including former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who left The Farm after his redshirt junior season and became a star with the Indianapolis Colts.

In the end, he simply thought it was time.

“Seeing the success of so many of the guys I played with on the Walker Cup team and played college golf against weighed a lot into my decision,” said Rodgers, who earned the Hogan, Nicklaus and Haskins awards this year as the best college golfer. “After seeing their success, I really feel like I’m ready to go out there and succeed. …

“Each (pro) tournament, I’ve felt more and more comfortable. You have to kind of get your feet under you. I felt like my game has gotten better and better each time. I have a much better understanding of what it takes to go out there and compete, succeed and eventually win.”

Stanford is the school that gave us Woods, Tom Watson, Lawson Little and Bob Rosburg, among others, including Notah Begay III.

Begay, a member of Stanford’s 1994 NCAA Championship team who has four wins on the PGA Tour, spends much of his time these days as an on-course analyst for the Golf Channel. He saw Rodgers up close and personal when they played together in the first two rounds of the 2012 Travelers.

“I think the two most striking things I noticed were his maturity and creativity of shots around the greens,” said Begay, who was impressed even though Rodgers shot 72-73–145 and missed the cut in his first PGA Tour event. “Tee to green, he was solid. But I really liked the variety in his short-game arsenal.

“He really has the composure to excel and separate himself. I think he can play golf for a living for as long as he’d like to. He’s a very grounded kid.”

Rodgers can play in up to seven PGA Tour events the rest of this season, unless he gets hot the way Spieth did a year ago and earns special temporary membership or a full playing card.

Following the Travelers, he has the John Deere, the Greenbrier Classic, the Reno-Tahoe Open, the Wyndham Championship and possibly the RBC Canadian Open on his schedule. He also might play in The Final Four on the Tour, where PGA Tour spots are available now that Q-school offers only playing cards for the Triple-A circuit.

“(Spieth) sets a great example for all of us of the framework you need to have to go out there and have success,” said Rodgers, who won six times this season and was a three-time All-American at Stanford.

“I’m excited to compete every time I get the opportunity. I know (sponsors’ exemptions) are very hard to come by, and there’s a lot of great players that are fighting for those spots. But every time I tee it up, I’ll be ready to play.”

And like Spieth, perhaps contend.


Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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