Rodgers heads to Stanford after breakout summer
Monday, September 12, 2011
Patrick Rodgers didn’t become Golfweek’s top-ranked incoming freshman with a splashy debut on the PGA Tour, or with a punishing offseason regimen, or even with a decorated junior career. No, the key to the Stanford freshman’s rapid ascent in the amateur ranks began four years ago . . . with a few Microsoft Excel files.
That’s when he realized consistency was his new metric.
“This is really just the continuation of my process,” Rodgers, 19, said recently. “I needed to keep improving, and this year it has just kind of shown more.”
Well, this year it certainly has been appreciated more.
After a breakout season during which he posted top-5 finishes in seven elite amateur events and earned a spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team, Rodgers is now the unsung headliner of a sensational freshman class.
So, how did we arrive here? How did a player who won only one AJGA event transform into the most consistent amateur this side of Patrick Cantlay?
The answer, it seems, lies deep in those Excel files. That’s where you will find Rodgers’ progress, meticulously charted for the past four years. After every event, he writes a journal entry, fills out a hole-by-hole stat sheet and analyzes where he threw away shots and lessons to be learned:
Jones Cup: Feels like my game stacks up.
Players Amateur: Know how your body will react.
Porter Cup: I have the confidence to pull off the necessary shots.
That last one is invaluable.
“He kind of doubted himself a little bit, wondering, ‘Can I get this done?’ ” said Alabama freshman Justin Thomas, one of Rodgers’ best friends. “I just told him that if he keeps putting himself in position, he’s going to get it done. He’s too good a player not to have it happen.”
Though, admittedly, it took some refining. During the offseason, near his home in Avon, Ind., Rodgers went to work with trainer Chad Odaffer and swing coach Kurt Schier.
Rodgers wanted to match his ballstriking with his putting prowess. He wanted to miss more fairways to the right. (Strange, yes, but that’s part of incorporating a fade into his repertoire.) He wanted to test himself only in amateur events because, he says, “I wanted to feel more comfortable playing against the best players, sort of ease the transition into college.”
Instead, he begins his first semester in Palo Alto with soaring expectations, especially after his rousing, come-from-behind victory in July at the Porter Cup.
“There’s a learning curve no matter what level you’re on,” said Rodgers, No. 4 in the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Rankings. “Every step, you have to re-learn how to win.”
It’s only fitting, then, that his first amateur title was quickly rewarded. On Aug. 7, a week after his Porter Cup victory, Rodgers received a call from Steve Smyers, chairman of the U.S. Golf Association’s International Team Selection Committee.
“Of course I want to be on the Walker Cup team,” Rodgers remembers saying.
Five minutes later, he phoned his friend and fellow freshman.
“I was 50 times more excited than he was,” Thomas, 18, said. “I was the one yelling, and he was the one perfectly quiet. But that really says a lot about him. He set a goal, that’s what he wanted to do and he accomplished it.”
Only now are we beginning to take notice.