Rodgers continues path to Tour at Greenbrier

Friday, July 4, 2014

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – It may have been the moment he put his golf clubs into his staff bag for the first time a few weeks ago that Patrick Rodgers knew the time had arrived. Then again, his arrival on the PGA Tour was just a matter of time anyway.

Rodgers, who recently completed his junior year at Stanford, will be making his third start in as many weeks when play gets underway at the Greenbrier Classic Thursday at Old White TPC.

“It’s been fun. Obviously it’s been something I have been planning and thinking about and preparing for, for a long time," Rodgers said. "It’s exciting that it’s finally here and my chance to get started."

In a small reception inside The Greenbrier hotel Tuesday evening, Rodgers was presented with the Fred Haskins Award for being voted the top player in college golf. He was later recognized by CBS commentator Jim Nantz at a larger party for the pro-am participants.

For the third year in a row, the Greenbrier Classic has granted a sponsor exemption to the winner of the Haskins Award. Alabama’s Justin Thomas, the 2012 winner, and California’s Michael Kim, who was named the award winner last year, each made the cut.

Rodgers hopes to continue the streak of Haskins Award winners playing the weekend at the Greenbrier Classic, and also make it three consecutive weeks played himself. In his first professional start, at the Travelers Championship, he tied for 46th after opening with rounds of 66-69. At last week's Quicken Loans National, he advanced to the weekend, highlighted by a second-round 69 at brawny Congressional Country Club, and went on to tie for 55th.

His earnings for those two starts total $31,616, but money earned is no longer the measurement used to determine a player’s status. The 2014 season is the first year the PGA Tour is strictly using FedEx Cup points to determine classifications.

Through two events, Rodgers has earned 35 FedEx Cup points. He needs to surpass the total number of FedEx Cup points of the player who finished No. 150 last year (278 points) to become eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of the season. However, that is not important to Rodgers because he already has seven sponsor exemptions lined up and will be making starts in the final four regular-season events – excluding majors – before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin in late August.

The ultimate goal for Rodgers in his next four starts would be to finish inside the top 125 in FedEx Cup points, which is currently 346 points. This would give him full status on the PGA Tour. If he were to finish 126-150, he would get conditional status on the PGA Tour and full membership on the Web.com Tour. He also can get status on the Web.com Tour with a 151-200 placing.

“I feel like I definitely didn’t play my best golf and I have a lot to learn from and improve on, but definitely take a lot of positives from the first two weeks and making it to the weekend and something to build on for the future,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers has brought on a familiar face to carry his bag. Tom Maples, Rodgers' golf coach at Avon (Ind.) High School, plans to be at his side.

He also understands what he needs to do to improve, and in his limited time in PGA Tour events he has noticed what it takes to be successful.

“I have to continue to sharpen up and develop as a player,” Rodgers said. “These guys have so much control of their game, whether it is controlling their tee ball, distance control with their irons or control from inside 6 feet with putting.”

After playing 35 events at Stanford and winning 11 times, Rodgers thinks the college game has prepared him well.

“At Stanford we play some of the stoutest tests in college golf, whether it's Southern Highlands or Olympia Fields or our national championship," he said. "They are set up like PGA Tour-caliber golf courses. Although Congressional was one of the more difficult golf courses in any PGA Tour event, including majors, it was something I felt like I was prepared for through United States Amateurs or more difficult collegiate events.

"The golf is not something I feel like I need to get used to. It’s just the stage and the players and the competition."

Who could argue that? Recently, we have seen many players make the transition from college golf to the PGA Tour and done very well early in their career. There is every reason to believe Rodgers will do the same. And maybe quicker than most.

“I have to continue to develop each aspect of my game,” Rodgers said. “One thing I have always prided myself on is that I am very consistent and very well rounded. Guys like Jordan Spieth have had a ton of success with that style of play and something I have always prided myself on and I need to continue build on that.”

Rodgers knows what he needs to do: “I have to focus on playing well each and every week, and that starts here at the Greenbrier.”