Korn Ferry Tour graduates Rhein Gibson and Cameron Percy are determined to make an early impression in their return to the PGA TOUR, starting with this week’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
Monday qualifier Steve Allan has bolstered the Aussie contingent at the 2019-2020 season opener to nine including Presidents Cup representatives Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith with Kiwi Tim Wilkinson joining countryman Danny Lee in the field.
It’s been more than three years since Gibson last featured in a PGA TOUR event while Percy will this week make his 137th start in a PGA TOUR event, the last of which was the Wyndham Championship last August.
A wrist fracture in April threatened to spoil Percy’s planned return to the PGA TOUR but after coming through the Korn Ferry Tour finals with a conditional card is now determined to make a strong start to the season.
As a Korn Ferry Tour graduate Percy is all too aware that playing opportunities are hard to come by at golf’s biggest events so wants to make a fast start to build out his schedule for the remainder of the season.
“If I don’t start well, there’s a run in the schedule with a lot of big events where you might play one event in nine weeks. It’s really important to do well in the Fall Series,” Percy explained.
“After Pebble Beach it goes LA Open which Tiger has taken over and gone from a big field to a small field so I won’t get in that. Then it goes to Honda, Valspar, Tampa, and then Arnold’s event. I’ve never played Arnold’s event. I’ve been on the tour for nine years. Then there’s Jack’s event at Memorial so a lot of tournaments are going to smaller fields.
“You really need to play well in the Fall Series to get into these events later in the year.
A win at the BMW Charity Pro-Am secured Gibson a PGA TOUR card by the completion of the Korn Ferry Tour regular season but he too needs to start well in order to maximise playing opportunities.
The 33-year-old played 20 events in his rookie season in 2015-2016 and believes he is now much better equipped to compete.
“I’m a better driver of the ball which has allowed me to use my strength – my iron play – more often. Long courses don’t daunt me because I’m as confident with a 6-iron as I am a 9-iron.
“I feel I’m a different player this time around. I’m ready for another crack.
“As a rookie, you’re really thrown in the deep end. You’re playing against veterans who have played the tournament courses for more than 20 years and know them like their home course.
“Knowing what I know now, it will be smoother. I know what to expect and I’m not going to be a deer in the headlights.”
In seven years playing full-time on the PGA TOUR Percy never once finished inside the top-125 on the moneylist, providing the primary motivation as he rejoins the game’s toughest tour.
“I want to keep my card. I don’t want to go through all this again,” said Percy.
“I’ve never kept my card fully; I’ve always had to do it through the Web Tour or finals.
“It would be nice to keep my card and then I can set a schedule and really have a crack at it.
“It’s a lot of hard work but it’s also a lot of fun playing on the PGA TOUR.
“Being out of it I realised just how lucky I was and what a privilege it is to play the PGA TOUR.
“At this age a lot of my friends are retiring and not even playing anymore but I’m still going.
“I’m pretty proud that I’ve been able to hang in there.
“I’ve looked after myself pretty well and it’s paid dividends at this stage of my career.”
The other Australians in the field this week at The Greenbrier are Cameron Davis, Matt Jones, John Senden and Rod Pampling.
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