Gay was born in Texas but grew up in Fort Rucker, Alabama – his dad was an officer in the U.S. Army – and he learned the game at the Fort Rucker golf course, on Bermudagrass.
Despite recent uneven results, then, he felt a natural level of comfort upon arrival in Bermuda.
“It’s in the back of your mind,” said Gay when asked whether he liked his chances even before teeing it up. “I had good feelings from last year, finishing tied for third, so I was looking forward to coming back. It’s not something you want to think about too much or have over-expectations, but just know that you’re in a good place and just do your thing and have a chance to play well.
“I love Bermuda greens. Living in Florida, the wind doesn’t bother me; I think it’s familiarity with the Bermudagrass. It’s not a long golf course. It’s a golf course where I get a lot of short clubs and you can’t really overpower a golf course. It keeps the shorter hitters in the game. Everybody has a chance here.”
In a week where 64-year-old Fred Funk made the cut averaging less than 245 yards off the tee, Gay’s 287.9-yard average (No. 38 in the field) was more than enough. Gay has historically ranked near the back of the pack in TOUR driving distance, but most always ranks near the top in accuracy – and has an inherent advantages on certain courses.
Port Royal GC draws comparison to seaside Harbour Town Golf Links, longtime host venue of the RBC Heritage – which Gay famously won by 10 strokes in 2009.
Gay has worked recently to increase distance off the tee, but knows he’ll never be one of the longer hitters in the game. He’s OK with that. His model still works when all facets of his game are clicking, as was displayed in Bermuda.
“I’ve always been a short hitter; short, straight, good short game,” Gay said. “The guys are young and hitting it really far, so I’ve tried to do some things in the gym and some stuff with my swing, to get some more distance to try to stay out here longer.
“I want to stay past turning 50. Right now, I still feel I want to play out here. Everyone asks me, ‘When are you going to PGA TOUR Champions?’ and I tried to just focus on the PGA TOUR until I decide to go over there. It’s pretty cool that it (victory) happened. Really unexpected.”
Golf could be in the midst of a revolution. Players are attaining record-setting ball speeds and distances, seemingly by the week. 500-yard par-4s have been reduced to driver-wedge. Fewer and fewer holes play as true par-5s.
Will a player of Gay’s ilk be able to compete in 10, 20 years’ time?
“I certainly hope so,” he said. “I think it’s better when everybody in the field can compete and have a chance to win. It’s phenomenal what guys are doing to change their game and try to find advantages somewhere on the golf course to try to beat people.
“Hats off to them for going and doing the work. It’s a tough game, and we’re all trying to do the best we can at it.”
This week, none better than Gay.
Source: PGA tour