CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Peter Malnati walked onto a stage outside the clubhouse at Quail Hollow on Friday and had the following exchange with a PGA Tour media official.
“Yeah. I don’t get to do this much. Do I need to talk into the microphone or can I …”
“… just talk straight to …”
“I’m just being silly.”
The exchange is part of a more-relaxed attitude that has Malnati on top of the leaderboard through 36 holes at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Following rounds of 67-68, Malnati leads Aaron Wise and Jason Day by one at Quail Hollow, where he leads the field in strokes gained: putting, having made almost 190 feet worth of putts.
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The 30-year-old won the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship but currently finds himself outside the FedExCup top 125, at 174th, in the final season of his exemption. He has made just 8 of 18 cuts this season, having missed six in a row from Mayakoba to Scottsdale.
The difference this week – according to the normally “high-strung,” anxiety-filled, but nonetheless cheerful Malnati – is in his attitude.
“Honestly, the biggest thing that’s different this week from kind of the last couple years for me is just I’m more relaxed,” he said. “I’m feeling good, I’m confident with what I’ve been doing, and I’m kind of letting it show on the course rather than letting it stress me out.”
That wasn’t the case last week, when Malnati wanted so badly to perform for his friend and partner, Billy Hurley, at the Zurich Classic. The tension became too much, and the twosome missed the cut.
Trying to learn his lesson – and borrowing from the Sam Hinkie playbook – Malnati has the word “process” written on his glove this week, a reminder to focus on what is immediately in front of him “and be at peace with the results.”
“I’ve been trying to kind of embrace just being a little more calm and relaxed on the golf course this week,” he said. “It will be a good test tomorrow to see how I feel walking to that first tee. I’m sure there will be some nerves, but I’ll definitely be excited and I’ll be able to hang on to some of this calm that I felt these first two days.”