Patient Power grabs early clubhouse at Sanderson Farms Championship

Patient Power grabs early clubhouse at Sanderson Farms Championship
Seamus Power

Seamus Power

PGA Tour rookie Seamus Power refused to get carried away after an opening 65 gave him the early clubhouse lead in the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi.

It’s not that the 29-year old West Waterford talent does not believe he’s good enough to win at the County Club of Jackson this week, but he knows that there are no $738,000 cheques handed out on Thursdays on the PGA Tour and that he's going to have to keep his boot on the accelerator.

After making seven birdies and single putting nine times in a seven under par round to share the early lead with  fellow Tour graduate Trey Mullinax, Power still said he feels ready to compete to win having seen other Tour graduates hit the ground running in recent seasons.

"I mean, absolutely," said Power. "The thing that prepares you more than anything is when you see guys — last year, Peter Malnati played on the I played with him on the in 2015, and he comes out and wins here. 

"Grillo wins Safeway last year, and Smylie Kaufman won in Las Vegas, and all of a sudden you're like, they're the same guys we played with all year, and they're obviously good enough to compete on the PGA TOUR. It kind of hits home that the gap isn’t that big, as long as you can produce your golf on a big stage.

"At least it's a tournament we can get in. That's one of the hardest parts. You get your card, but it’s not a full card. 

“It’s nice knowing after the season is over, everyone can kind of bank on getting in here, which is huge,. 

“There’s a lot of guys playing here, so it's a chance for us to feel a little bit more comfortable and kind of get off to a good start."

Power didn’t play well and missed the cut by a stroke on his PGA Tour debut in the Safeway Open in California two weeks ago.

But having shown at the Olympic Games in Rio that he can rub shoulders with the big boys and picked the brains of players like Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley there and of Shane Lowry when he was in his adopted home town of Charlotte for the Wells Fargo Championship last year, Power is not overawed by the challenge.

“Yeah, it’s been great,” he said. "This is where you dream about playing. Just to see some of the other guys out there that you’ve been watching for years on TV, it's been special. 

"It's early yet in my season, but you just kind of have to look past that and make sure you're concentrating on your own golf and playing your own golf.

“I mean, I was obviously picking Padraig's brain quite a lot when I was at the Olympics and just getting some advice for the year, and then I had dinner with Shane last year during the Wells Fargo. 

"So yeah, I mean, I tried to pick here and there, but they're trying to -- they're busy trying to figure stuff out, as well. I never try to annoy them too much.

“But yeah, every little bit of advice I can get from those guys will be very helpful.”

Power got off to the perfect start, hitting two perfect tee shots before hitting short irons to eight and six feet and holing for birdie on the first two greens.

After failing to birdie the par-five third and then saving par with a chip and putt at the fourth, Power missed a seven footer for birdie at the 209-yard seventh but remained patient and played his last 10 holes in five under par.

His five birdies from the ninth came in a hot, seven-hole stretch that saw him make a 17 footer for birdie to turn in two under, then make putts from 10 feet, 18 feet, 21 feet and five feet at the 10th, 11th, 13th and 15th before finishing with three pars.

“I hit it in play,” he said after 11 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. "I wasn't really in any trouble. I didn’t miss too many fairways. 

“I haven't got my stats yet worked out, but I didn't miss too many fairways, and I could get at some of the pins that were tucked away on the firm greens. 

"If you get off position off the tee, everything else is going to be more difficult, so I was fortunate enough to hit it on the fairway and give myself some chances on the greens.

“As I got here on Monday and played the course, I knew it could be a good chance for a good week for me,” Power said, adding that he adjusted well. 

“Bermudagrass is not normal for me, but I’ve played enough of it by now that at least I can have a better guess at what's going to happen."

Asked the key to his round, he said: "I stayed patient. I was 2-under through 8 and I missed a couple chances, but I just kind of stayed patient and knocked in a few more putts there around the turn, got me going a little bit. 

“Overall everything was pretty good, and I felt like my speed was good on the greens, which always helps you make putts.”

With half Dungarvan living every step of his dream with him via the internet and TV, Power admits that it’s been a dream come true journey

“Yeah, it’s been great,” he said. "This is where you dream about playing. Just to see some of the other guys out there that you’ve been watching for years on TV, it's been special. 

“It’s early yet in my season, but you just kind of have to look past that and make sure you’re concentrating on your own golf and playing your own golf."

While he might only get 18 starts given his category, he knows if he plays well he can improve his schedule considerably by moving up in the re-rank.

The wraparound schedule means the Tour graduates get to play around five events before the Christmas break and the goal is to take advantage.

“That’s one of the advantages for us guys coming off the Web,” he said. “You don't get time to stop and think, you just kind of continue going with what's been working. 

“So yeah, a lot of momentum throughout the summer, and just nice to try to keep it going here into the fall.”

Given his love of the course, his confidence and the knowledge that he’s good enough to win at this level, Power is not holding back.

“It’s just one of those courses when I step on the tee boxes, I kind of like how the lines look, and then the greens are cut -- I like putting on fast greens, and these are quick, and they're a perfect surface, so you can really get the putter going."

On his ambitions to win, he added: "I mean, absolutely. I'm not on the PGA Tour just for one year just to compete and get off. Your goal is to win, so I mean, you've definitely thought about it, but there's no FedExCup points given out on Thursdays, so it's a nice start, but there's a long ways to go. Something to build on.

"I mean, the biggest thing to remember is I'm not going to win the tournament at seven-under. I'm going to have to get to 20-under, so that's the overall goal you have to get to and then see what happens from there.

"I mean, it's a nice start. You’re obviously going to have to shoot some low scores this week, especially if the weather stays like it is, so it’s a nice start, but you’re going to have to make a lot more birdies to be in contention Sunday evening.”

Finished tied 15th in the Olympics, where he was in medal contention during the third round, was a big boost but Power is only thinking ahead to Friday and making more birdies.

“I mean, it’s nice to play with some of the top players in the world in an event, and it gives you a little bit of inner confidence just knowing that you’ve played with these guys, you know a lot that they can do,” he said. 

“It makes me feel a little more comfortable say in a week like this knowing that I’ve already played on a big stage with some of those guys."

Planning to keep his foot down and yet remain patient, he added: “My caddie and I have a pretty good game plan for the course. Seven-under is obviously a nice start, but I'm going to need a lot more, so I'm going to stick to doing a lot of the same things, and hopefully some putts will go.

“One of the things with putting on greens that are this good, you feel like you can make every putt, so when a 15- or 20-footer just misses, you obviously feel like you just let one go. 

"You have to stay patient in golf. There's a lot of holes to go, and you don't know, you could birdie the last nine holes on Sunday. You can go on a run at any point, so you have to hang around for that run to come.”