PALM HARBOR, Fla. – A fan who appeared to be in his mid-20s was hanging out by the practice green Friday afternoon at the Valspar Championship watching Wesley Bryan putt.
He called out to Bryan and asked for his autograph. He told him he’d been a big fan since the PGA Tour rookie appeared on the Golf Channel reality show, “The Big Break,” in 2015.
“Why don’t I give you a signed glove instead,” said Bryan, who walked over and gave the fan an autographed glove along with an enthusiastic handshake of the two-step variety.
Bryan doesn’t draw many fans on the range or practice greens yet, but he certainly makes a good first impression. And he’s making a very strong first impression in his Valspar Championship debut this week.
He shot 3-under 68 for the second day in a row on Friday to get to 6 under, making it three straight tournaments where he’s been in contention entering the weekend. That’s even more impressive considering this is the first time Bryan has played Copperhead – considered a veteran’s track – since the 2011 Southern Amateur.
“The biggest adjustment (as a rookie) is just getting to know the golf course,” Bryan said. “Unlike the Web.com Tour, you have veterans that have been out here years and years and years, with experience on these courses. I’m coming out for the most part in my first go-round. I’ve got to put in a lot of extra work in the practice rounds.”
The work has paid off lately, helping Bryan snap out of a funk after he missed four straight cuts from November to late January. He finished T-42 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (a tournament he said was a blast and that he’ll play in “until I hang up the game”), T-4 at the Genesis Open at Riviera and T-4 at the Honda Classic at PGA National.
He’s shot in the 60s in 10 of his last 14 rounds, never higher than 72, and says he thrives on tough courses like Riviera and Copperhead.
“My game tends to migrate to liking tougher courses,” Bryan said. “I’m just kind of a grinder at times, grinding out pars, and I usually have a pretty good short game. That kind of keeps you in the ball game a little bit longer as opposed to some of those shootout courses.”
Bryan finished first on the Web.com Tour money list last season and won three times, so he’s used to seeing his name at or near the top of the leaderboard. It’s relatively new for fans and broadcasters, who often mention his history as a trick-shot artist whose YouTube videos with brother, George, went viral.
“I don’t mind it at all,” Bryan said of the topic coming up whenever he’s in contention. “It differentiates me from your run-of-the-mill tour player. I don’t mind hearing it. But eventually we’ll turn the corner and they’ll start talking about me more as a golfer.”
With his personality and approachable nature, they’ll be talking about much more than that if he keeps playing like this.