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Molder Coming off 'High'
Though he had already secured his PGA Tour card for 2012 thanks to five top-10 finishes in 25 starts this year, Bryce Molder still packed the dubious label of never winning a Tour title - after 10 years as a touring professional - until last weekend.
On Sunday, the 32-year-old finally broke through with his first victory, but it wasn't easy. He had to survive six sudden-death playoff holes against another long-time winless player, Briny Baird, but birdied the final hole to win the Frys.com Open in San Martin, Calif.
Besides being worth $900,000, the victory guaranteed a Tour card for Molder through the 2013 season. "Looking back, it was a fun week," said the four-time All-American golfer at Georgia Tech. "You never know when it's going to - everything is going to come together like it did, and you just hope that you're ready when it does come together, and fortunately this time I was ready for it."
Molder is in Sea Island, Ga., for this week's McGladrey Classic, the third event in the four-tournament Fall Series. Who knows? Good things sometime come in bunches and Molder might notch another title a week after his long-awaited first one.
Here's what Molder had to say about his big victory and his chances to repeat this week during a Q&A with reporters.
MODERATOR: Bryce Molder joins us here at the McGladrey Classic, fresh off of his first career PGA Tour win last at the Frys.com Open. Look back for us. It's been a couple days and you've had a chance to reflect on your first win. Give us your thoughts.
BRYCE MOLDER: Yeah, I'm still kind of coming off that high. I hope I don't ever come off of it really, but it's a lot of fun. I got a couple of days to reflect with my wife, Kelly, and answered a lot of text messages, a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls. Looking back, it was a fun week. You never know when it's going to -- everything is going to come together like it did, and you just hope that you're ready when it does come together, and fortunately this time I was ready for it.
MODERATOR: Take us through that six-hole playoff with Briny, another player who was desperately looking for his first Tour win.
BRYCE MOLDER: Yeah, there were a lot of opportunities for it to go both ways starting with -- he chips in on 17, and then I make a putt on 18 to send it into a playoff, and then a culmination of putts that we missed and opportunities, I hit it in the hazard once, got a good break to have a chance to play it out of there, and he got a poor break one time and hit the flag and it came back on that same exact hole, and he got a couple of opportunities, I got some, and finally I capitalized on one.
It's all -- it was all kind of a blur at the end. I played 17 four times that day, so it was a strange day to say the least, and I -- I didn't know Briny Baird very well before the week began. We actually talked a little bit on Saturday when we were watching some college football waiting to tee off again, and he spent a little bit of time at Georgia Tech, so we were talking about that. It was great, on Monday, of all the messages I got, the one that probably hit me the most was one from him. I won't tell you exactly what it said, but he had to hunt down my number and just say congratulations, pretty much, sorry I slipped out of there pretty quickly when that stuff came up. It showed the person he is. And certainly looking back on it, that thing could have gone either way, and hopefully I would have reacted the same way as he did. But it certainly showed his character and why he's so well liked out here on Tour, as well.
Q. I'm sure they mentioned it when you were in the interview room, but that was the 17th playoff this year, and that's a record on the Tour. Is that a product of the balance from top to bottom on the Tour do you think? Is there any other reason you might think of for so many playoffs this year?
BRYCE MOLDER: You know, I'd love to come up with one reason. I think when you have a lot of first-time winners, I think you find a lot of guys that have a hard time really punching through down the stretch, as we both played well down the stretch. But maybe. I'm kind of searching. I think a lot of it just kind of happened that way. It seems like playoffs come in bunches, rain delays come in bunches, and I think it's just one of those things. It's good for golf, it's good for television, as long as they can keep showing it.
Q. What's the hardest thing about coming into this week off of the win last week? Is it sort of difficult to focus on this or get sort of back up? And then secondly, can you kind of expand on that text message that Briny sent you?
BRYCE MOLDER: First of all, the hardest part is just your energy level, and it's not that you don't want it just as bad, not that you're not just as excited to be here playing, it's just that physically it's just -- when you come off that euphoric high, there's kind of an energy let-down, and it'll either happen this week or happen next week when I go home. Hopefully I put it off until next week. But I feel good. I think the fact that I took yesterday off and just spent it with my wife, and we drove over to Carmel, and we love that area, I think that helped a lot, to just kind of let everything sink in a little bit and let the whirlwind kind of slow down just a little bit. But that's the toughest part is you're pulled in a lot of different directions while at the same time you're trying to get some energy back. Yeah, I'm not going to expand any more on the text message other than it was pretty much him saying congratulations, sorry I didn't get a chance to talk to you much afterward.
Q. Were you surprised that you got a text from him?
BRYCE MOLDER: I was, not so much -- more so that he didn't have my number, and so he had to ask somebody, and it would have been -- it could have been just as much as somebody who was on his flight, and he said, hey, do you have Bryce's number. But just the fact that he reached out is -- he's as liked as any guy out here, and it's not a surprise now.
Q. You know there's no formula or no -- everybody goes at their own pace. Sometimes it takes you a while to win, and sometimes you have some immediate success. But the guys coming out of college, you know, Russell Henley and Harris English, had some success on the Nationwide Tour, Patrick Cantlay has played well, and now you've got Bud Cauley coming out of Alabama and playing pretty well. Is college golf getting better, or like with the playoff thing, is it just one of those things where we've just got a streak of guys coming out of college or still in college and playing pretty well at this level?
BRYCE MOLDER: You know, I think what you're seeing right now you're going to see from now on really. I attribute that really -- it happened about the time, summer between right before I came out and the last five years, the exposure players are getting earlier, and Tiger started all of that, I think. And then you had Ty Tryon, you had all these guys at a young age were getting into professional events. I played two professional events before I turned pro, and one I -- no, three, and two of them I had to qualify for. Now I think guys at 14 and 15 are now starting to play in amateur events and not junior events, and then at 17 and 18 they're trying to qualify for U.S. Opens and they're trying to win U.S. Amateurs instead of when I was 17 and 18, me and Charles Howell and the guys that were right there, it's like, okay, now we move on from junior golf to amateur golf. That's just kind of how it went. And now it's just guys are doing it two or three years earlier, and I think that exposure is why you're starting to see that.
They're just a little more polished, a little bit more ready than we were at that age, maybe not physically, but just mentally I think it's put in their mind a couple years earlier. I said this a couple times this year: I don't think it's fair they're playing against us. They don't know how hard the game is yet. Until they've had to go through a couple years of struggling, they shouldn't be allowed to play out here. But you mentioned at the first part of that that you never know how things are going to happen, and I certainly had hoped that I wouldn't have gone ten years out here without winning on the PGA Tour, especially with how I started. But I'm certainly grateful for those ten years and how much I learned, and I think I'm a lot better equipped to appreciate it now and be ready to deal with everything else that comes with it.
Q. I wonder if you could use your finger to show your confidence level over the last ten years from when you left tech to now.
BRYCE MOLDER: Well, it started up here, and I'm still working to get back up there. So it was pretty much -- and then it's just been working its way back up. It probably will never get back up to here, and that's because, like I said, it's kind of like everybody says, yeah, when you're ten, you always make 15-footers because you hit them with five feet past the hole speed because you don't ever worry about the one coming back. Well, until you miss those five-footers coming back enough times and you start thinking about it, you never realize how hard the game is, and that's what I mean. You know, I'm better in a lot of respects, and I also know how to guard my confidence a lot better now, and that doesn't mean that it doesn't ever waver, because it wavered some this year. But it'll never be like it was when I was 20 and I thought the game was pretty easy, or when I came out in my first event as a professional, finished third at the Reno-Tahoe Open was in the final group the last day, and I thought, these guys aren't that great, this game isn't that hard, and a couple years later I didn't know how to find the golf ball. It's a crazy game, but I almost wouldn't have it any other way.
Q. This is probably a backhanded compliment along the lines of best-to-have-never-won-a-major kind of thing, but with all the amateurs having some good success this year, I heard from a number of players this year who mentioned you specifically as being can't miss. I never would have thought Bryce, he was so good coming out. I'd be curious from your perspective, when you saw someone doing well, whether it was Patrick Cantlay, whoever it may have been this year, and people referred to him as this guy is going to be a world beater and can't miss, what went through your head?
BRYCE MOLDER: You know, slow down, everybody. Almost give the kid a chance to surpass your expectations before your expectations outrun what he's actually capable -- what he's capable of. It's kind of like Rory McIlroy. He won a major, and now everybody is comparing him to Tiger, and it's like, no, just let him develop, let him be. Let's see -- once he gets to five or six, now let's start talking about it, but let's let him -- and not saying I don't think he will, just more, let's just see. An incredible talent. I got the chance to play with him at the PGA Championship this year on Saturday, and I haven't played with some of the young kids coming out, but there's so much more to the game than just being able to make birdies. Obviously these guys can hit shots and they can putt and they can chip and they can hit the ball and everything, but there's so much more to it, and I would say -- and I had a lot of veterans tell me don't worry, everybody goes through a really rough streak in their career, you'll be glad that you had it early. And we'll never really know until once each of those guys struggles a little bit to see -- there's certain players, Rickie Fowler, that I'm really impressed with because if you just watch his demeanor, it just looks like he can't struggle for very long because he has such a good short memory and he also has such a good perspective when he plays well. He's got a lot of attention, and people buying clothes just to look like him, and yet he seems like the same kid when I met him three or four years ago when he was just kind of starting out to be on the scene. It's interesting to see who will come out. But every time, like you said, when I hear that, can't miss or whatever, I kind of chuckle, because I'm like, how do we know?
Q. Do you think it would be tougher for someone -- I'll just leave names out, but who was a great college player and doesn't seem to get going for four or five years or someone like Rickie or actually Duval might be a better example, someone who had six or seven runner-ups for years without winning and got a lot of attention that way. Which do you think is tougher on the adversity meter?
BRYCE MOLDER: I mean, I think maybe to have a lot of success right away, just because you kind of set the bar so high that you can't get over it. You know, it would be nice to set the bar low enough that you could trip over it. That might be a little harder, but to be honest with you, it's -- the one thing I always knew when I was really struggling was I never doubted that I could play at that level because I had done it, and so if somebody never gets to that level before, then it's -- unless they have a deep-rooted confidence and the ability to kind of see past that, it would be hard to say, well, I know I can do it, if they haven't actually seen themselves do it before. There's pluses and minuses, there's 5 million different ways to do it, as you've seen guys succeed late and early and -- but yeah, it's hard to put your finger on which would be easier or which would be tougher.
Q. Is it still a big deal to win a tournament that Tiger is in?
BRYCE MOLDER: I was reminded of that a couple times from some friends. They're like, Tiger, Ernie were in that field, so -- and yeah, it is. Hot dog incident aside, you know, my family was laughing that the -- I think it was in USA Today that I got one paragraph and I think he got three or four, and I was like, you know, if you get one paragraph in the same story with him, you've done pretty well. I'm fine with that. And joking aside, he did a lot for that tournament. He did a lot for that tournament, and so I should be grateful that he played just because I think more and more people were watching and paying attention because he was there. Not I think; they were.
Q. When things weren't going so well for you, was it mostly about the putting?
BRYCE MOLDER: No, it was never about the putting. I got to a position or a point where I couldn't find the golf course. My swing got in a position and I think my psyche got in a position to where I was in a bad place, and the two were working against each other, and it took a long time to turn that to where they were working together. But it was -- yeah, I mean, I couldn't hit the ball on the face of the earth. The putting was usually all right, but usually I was putting for pars and bogeys.
Q. Do you remember a low point, and what was the turning point in kind of getting back to where you knew you were going to have a week like last week?
BRYCE MOLDER: I remember in 2003 playing in the Phoenix Open, and I was playing in a pro-am at Grayhawk, which is off-site just down the road, and I think on about the 12th or 13th hole, I somehow hit a 3-wood in the fairway and my group actually clapped, and it was -- a group of amateurs, and that was -- and I was playing that day -- I was playing that week, I had gotten a sponsor's invitation, and I didn't want to play. I didn't want to take whatever it was I had that was called a golf game out there and showcase it. And I actually withdrew the next week for the Bob Hope, and I felt terribly about it, but I tried to explain it to them, I don't have a game that can compete right now. So that was a -- what's funny is that's when I started trying to work on my golf swing, and I got a lot of questions as time went on about why are you changing your golf swing, then I'm like, you don't understand, I couldn't find the golf course. It wasn't like I was trying to hit it this much better, I was just trying to not have to hit a provisional on every other hole. That was a long road, and I'll credit Michael Beau, which is my current teacher. I think he was the first one that really pointed me down the right path. And we're still working on things we want to see, but pretty immediately I started seeing some improvement when I started working with him.
Q. Was there one major thing that you were doing wrong?
BRYCE MOLDER: I don't know if we have time. The first thing that he saw in his mind glaringly is that my swing path was -- my hands were too high and they were going to the right, and so I was swinging from the inside out. And it's really hard -- if you think about it that way, if you're trying to hit it here and your swing path is here, it's really hard to get a ball started here that's not hooking because you have to have the club face closed. And not only that, I was missing the ball to the right, and my way of missing it not to the right was actually making it worse, and he was explaining all that. And so that was the first thing we did was just get my arms and hands and the club swinging at least to where I could start the ball on my target line, and then from there, it's either I'm releasing the club okay or I'm not, and if I'm not, I'm at least getting the ball in play.
And that was a big deal for me because for a while I actually kind of lost my ability to think and to putt and to -- because my mind was so wrapped up in just getting the ball in play. And since then we're still working on a way to figure out how to not have the club so steep at the top, which is why I'm still a little bit flippy and a little bit dragging the club through and not as much power as I'd like to have. But at least now the bad days aren't as bad and the good days are good.
MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in. Play well this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.