OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. – It doesn’t matter which side of the property the Olympia Fields Intercollegiate is played on. One thing remains the same: Patrick Rodgers is your champion.
Rodgers won the tournament for a second consecutive year, shooting a final-round 67 to turn a three-shot deficit into a five-shot win. Last year’s victory – in his Stanford debut – came on the North Course, site of Jim Furyk’s 2003 U.S. Open triumph. Rodgers won on the South Course this year.
The Stanford sophomore finished at 3-under 207 (72-68-67) to finish five shots ahead of Florida State’s Daniel Berger, Arkansas teammates Sebastian Cappelen and Austin Cook, Northwestern’s Nicholas Losole and Duke’s Brinson Paolini.
“This is as close to home as it gets in college golf,” said Rodgers, who hails from the Indianapolis suburb of Avon, a three-hour drive from Olympia Fields. “It doesn’t get any better than the weather today.”
The final round was played in cool, windy conditions that sent amber leaves blowing past players’ balls. It was a perfect day to tailgate at a Big Ten football game. This tournament was dominated by visitors from the Southeastern Conference, though.
Arkansas shot 14-over 854 (283-278-293) to win by 13 shots over conference rival Florida. Cappelen, the 36-hole leader, struggled to 75 Tuesday, but Cook matched Rodgers’ 67. Illinois’ Charlie Danielson also shot 3 under, matching the day’s low score.
Rodgers’ comfort in his native environs is underscored by his play here the past two years.
“I think just being back here, with the seasons changing, the bent grass and fast greens, he felt really comfortable here last year, and it carried over,” Stanford head coach Conrad Ray said. “He got a little bit better every day. That’s a fine round in those conditions.”
The same architect, Tom Bendelow, designed Olympia Fields’ South Course and Rodgers’ home course, the Country Club of Indianapolis. Olympia Fields’ South Course, which played 7,080 yards, is slightly shorter than the North, forcing players to make decisions off the tee and defending itself with trickier greens.
Rodgers made just one bogey over the final 36 holes. He hit sand wedge to 15 feet on the second hole for Tuesday’s first birdie. He sank an 8-footer for birdie on No. 6 that he had to play “pretty much sideways,” then wedged close to birdie the par-5 seventh hole. He made bogey on the ninth hole before rolling off eight consecutive pars. His round ended with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.
“I was struggling a little bit with my swing during the first round, but I struck it great these last two days,” Rodgers said. “I kept myself in it with my short game on the first day, which gave me the opportunity to play well these last two rounds.”
The victory was his third in 13 career collegiate starts. He was a first-team All-American last year after representing the United States at the 2011 Walker Cup. Rodgers returned home from the Walker Cup just two days before the start of last year’s Olympia Fields Intercollegiate, driving from Indianapolis to meet the team for his Cardinal debut in this Chicago suburb. He hadn’t set foot on Stanford’s campus as a student before that victory.
This season starts with high expectations after his freshman success. He considered attending Q-School because of the PGA Tour’s drastic changes to its qualifying structure, but decided to stay in school. He played three professional events this summer, missing the cut at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship (72-73) and John Deere Classic (67-74), as well as the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational (76-73).
Things started to turn around later in the summer. He was third in his title defense at the Porter Cup and advanced to the second round of the U.S. Amateur.
He said he struggled at the start of the summer as he tried to make swing changes at Stanford. This was the first time he didn’t have regular access to his coach, Kurt Schier, who lives in Indianapolis.
“I’m getting back to some older positions,” Rodgers said. “I kind of got away from a few things that had me hitting it well.” Those struggles had their benefits, though. They helped him improve his short game and game management. He has implemented a new tee shot – a low cut with the driver – that will help him hit fairways on tighter holes.
“This is testament to the hard work I’ve put in,” Rodgers said, “and I just have to keep going forward.”
His sophomore season is off to the right start.