Friday, May 27, 2005

Hearn's PGA game just not up to par: Step up to big league hasn't been easy for Canadian

Today's golf column in the National Post:

Hearn's PGA game just not up to par: Step up to big league hasn't been easy for Canadian
Robert Thompson
Column: On Golf
Source: National Post
For David Hearn, this golf season was supposed to be unlike any other he'd experienced.
After a remarkable 2004 year that saw him win on the Nationwide Tour, and narrowly slip through the PGA Tour's difficult Q-School, there were high hopes for Hearn when he hit golf's big time. His face was plastered on the cover of nearly every Canadian golf magazine and his rapid rise led to the typical golf writer hyperbole. "The next Mike Weir," anyone?
All of which has made the first half of 2005 such a disappointment to Brantford's favourite son.
While he managed to get into the Buick Invitational at the end of January and two further events in February, he missed the cut in all three. He didn't play in all of March, and has played only three further events -- making the cut in every one -- since then. That's six events in total and earnings of a woeful US$33,647.
But Hearn, 26, says the situation is looking up. The good news is that he finished third two weeks ago. The bad news was the event was Rheem Classic, a Nationwide Tour stop.
"I got off to a slow start, for whatever reason," Hearn says from a hotel room following his showing at the Rheem Classic. "And since it all comes down to how you play in those early events, it just meant I couldn't get into some tournaments."
Like many new pros, the quality of play isn't Hearn's only problem. Often PGA Tour stops are full up, keeping young upstarts like Hearn from many of the fields in the first half of the year. Hearn has gone to great lengths to keep his game in shape, including playing a Canadian Tour outing.
"Golf is one of those games where you have to play a lot, regardless of where you are," says Hearn.
While some players strategize endlessly about their schedules, Hearn has largely played as often as he could since turning pro in 2001. Early on, those tournaments were largely scattered around the Canadian Tour. Last year in his breakout season, he continued to find a way to play regularly, regardless of where that desire might take him. He started on the Asian Tour before returning home to Canada. In the midst of a busy year, he pulled off a win at the Alberta Classic, a Nationwide Tour stop, even though he had no status on that tour. From there it was only a short, six round tournament called Q-School in which he needed to hole a 40-foot birdie putt on the final hole to grab his PGA Tour card.
Though he's used to playing in golf's minor leagues, Hearn denies there have been any problems adjusting to the courtesy car lifestyle of the PGA Tour. It is mainly the "routines and environment" of the tour which have been occasionally been of issue, but they have not kept him from focusing on his golf game.
"A lot of things take getting used to. There are a lot more people and activity on the PGA Tour than I am used to. It can be distracting."
Not that Hearn is blaming the distractions for his spotty play. He hasn't pinned down any specific problems with his game, and his recent finish on the Nationwide Tour could be an indication that a stretch of strong play could be in the offing.
Despite the slow start, Hearn says he's been witness to signs his game is coming about. He's also aware that he only has a limited time to make at least US$600,000 (and likely more) to keep his status on the PGA Tour.
"I'm not going to put any more pressure on myself than usual," Hearn explains. "It only takes one good event to turn around a year."
That event doesn't look like it is coming this week where Hearn is teeing it up in the St. Jude Classic. He shot 75 in yesterday's opening round, putting him well down the leaderboard.
Still, Hearn is hardly dismayed at his prospects. Every golf season he expects something more from himself, and this year isn't any different. The only problem is that he has yet to deliver, but he's convinced that a breakthrough is near.
"Every year I continue to improve," he says. "I think there was a little bit of an adjustment this year, but I think I know I can play at this level on these courses."

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