Stroud looking for big rebound season on PGA Tour

Published 10:54 am Thursday, October 4, 2018

By Bob West

Golf Writer

With the sun perhaps starting to set on what has been a solid if not spectacular PGA Tour career, former PN-G and Lamar University standout Chris Stroud is approaching the 2018-19 season with a sense of urgency that acknowledges the reality of his situation.

“It is time to get really serious,” said Stroud, on the eve of the new season’s opening event — the Safeway Open in Napa, California. “I need to get off to a fast start. I don’t have a free year anymore.”

Stroud was referring to the fact he is in the final year of full exemptions created by his victory in the 2017 Barracuda Championship. If he doesn’t finish in the top 125 in FedEx Cup points this season, he’ll be somewhat on the outside looking in after he turns 37.

The Port Neches-Groves ex is coming off what was his second least productive season in 12 full years on the PGA Tour. He made “only” $565,466, had just one top 10 and two top 25s and was No. 157 on the FedEx Cup points list. He has tumbled to 209 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

Only in 2008, with $482,405 in earnings, and in 2016, with a single top 10, has he fared worse.

Stroud, who is always outwardly upbeat, insists mental and physical adjustments made over his seven week off-season have him prepared to hit the ground running. It all starts with a concession he must work harder to keep his body in shape.

“I learned a lesson the hard way that I need to have a full-time trainer,” he explained. “Seventy percent of guys on the tour have one. I had been trying to do it on my own and it didn’t work. I had some nagging injuries that caused me to withdraw a few times. So I hired a fitness guy.”

Also in the game plan are no more tinkering with equipment during the season, sticking with his long putter and leaning more heavily on performance coach Kevin Kirk, who works out of The Woodlands. Kirk got Chris’ attention recently by suggesting he has underperformed based on his talent level.

“Kevin has been on my team a couple of years. He’s the guy who helped turn Patrick Reed into a great player,” Stroud said. “He is going to keep me accountable and make sure I am doing all the right stuff when I am not out on the tour. He has me super motivated.

“The equipment situation is really important. This will be the first time in three or four years, I have it completely right with the driver, the wedges and the golf ball. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders. Plus, I left home this week for the first time with only one putter. I am going to do my darnedest to stick with it.”

Though he has played little since his last PGA Tour start in August, Stroud contends his swing is in a better place than it has been for a good while.

“Honestly, I feel like my swing is as good as it has ever looked,” he declared. “I am also putting well. I do expect to be somewhat rusty with the delicate shots, the half shots. But I will be giving that part a lot of attention.”

Stroud’s plan is to play at least four and possibly five of the fall tournaments. After the Safeway, he’ll have two weeks off while the PGA Tour goes overseas, then will play events in Jackson, Mississippi, Las Vegas and Mexico. Depending on how he fares, he may also play the final fall tourney at Sea Island, Georgia.

“My goal is to earn $1 million and get high on the FedEx points list in the fall tournaments,” he said. “If I make the million before Sea Island, I won’t play there. If not, then I will.”

Stroud, who has banked $11.5 million in official earnings the past 12 seasons, has a long range goal to play well enough to log eight more years as a full time PGA Tour player. It would give him a rare 20-year career.

If that is to become reality, the 2018-19 season needs to be one of his best.