Thursday 15 November 2018

'My long game was shocking... my stats were brutal' - Seamus Power gives honest assessment of year on PGA Tour

Seamus Power is adamant he can bring his driving to the standard of his putting and move to the next level

Seamus Power has been rescued by his short game but believes his driving can improve to the required standard. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Seamus Power has been rescued by his short game but believes his driving can improve to the required standard. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

It's probably no coincidence that Seamus Power learned to play golf just half an hour from Waterford's famous Magic Road, that strange stretch near Mahon Falls where you can switch off the engine and watch your car defy gravity by rolling uphill.

It's one of those strange optical illusions that makes you smile and shake your head. And that's possibly how one could describe Power's second full season on the PGA Tour.

Despite missing twice as many cuts as he did in his rookie season, he kept his card by the skin of his teeth, not just because he can putt, but because he can score.

It was an amazing achievement. But he's not blind to his failings. He knows he dodged a few bullets.

"I looked at all the stats, and they were brutal," Power said at his beloved West Waterford Golf Club when explaining his decision to start working with coach Nick Bradley of Sky Sports punditry fame. "My long game was shocking. There was no long-game stat where I was in the top 120.

"My putting saved me. I'd hit it well now and again but my putting would keep me in it. To be honest, I had no business doing half the stuff I did this year."

Seamus Power. Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Seamus Power. Photo: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Two top 10s ultimately saved Power, but he knew he had to make changes to avoid having to go through more FedEx Cup agony again in 2019.

"I knew the long game wasn't good because all through the year, I was leaving myself these 40 and 50-foot putts," he said. "I was driving myself nuts."

That's why he is excited that his recent success has given him he priceless commodity of time to rest and practice.

And he likes Bradley because he's honest without being brutal.

"Sometimes you see a coach, and they give you too much credit, so you need someone to tell you how it is at times," he said. "You don't want them to undermine you. But you need them to be honest with you."

Power has such an easy-going nature and naturally sunny disposition that you might think he lacks the killer instinct of the top pros.

But it's that optimism and drive that got him to golf's top table, and it remains his reason for playing a game that has already given him €1.7m in career earnings.

"The reason why anyone plays any sport is to win," he said. "I don't care what sport you are playing or at what level. I haven't won a tournament for a couple of years now, but I genuinely believe I will get a win. That's going to be my goal: put myself in contention five or six times and see if I can win one.

"Outside of all the other benefits, winning a tournament is the most fun you can have in a sport. And it has been a while."

His last big win came on the Web.com Tour win 2015 and he knows that if he can win on the PGA Tour, he'll open the door to the really big time.

If he is to get there, he knows he must be better than 170th for driving accuracy and 134th for greens in regulation, and finding time to work on his game has been the challenge.

"You are not stuck," the PGA Tour's 14th best putter said of a gruelling schedule that has seen him play 101 events in three and a half years and left little time for swing tweaks.

"But at some point, you just have to put your foot down and try and do something about this, even though you don't know if it is going to mess up a few tournaments.

"Maybe it's the optimist in me, but I've always thought the long game was easier to improve than putting.

"How do you teach someone to read a green? With a drive, I feel it's teachable.

"Are you going to be as good a driver as Rory? Maybe not. He stands up and just hammers it, and it goes straight. It's amazing. And he's been like that since the Irish Close at the European Club back in '06.

"Myself and Darren Crowe were playing with him and we were hitting irons, and he was hitting driver down holes where you had no business hitting driver.

"I was walking to every tee with a provisional ball in my pocket, and this guy was hitting driver. And was four or five under. It was unbelievable."

McIlroy would pay big money now for Power's ability to hole putts, but the truth is that the sight of the big guns no longer overawes the pride of Tooraneena, who knows that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.

He hasn't yet had the pleasure of playing with his idol, Tiger Woods. But he knows what to expect.

"Tiger was around a lot this year, and it is utter madness," said Power. "Chaos. If he is going to the putting green in the next hour, you know it, because they are five deep. It's crazy. Absolutely crazy.

"Tampa this year still blows my mind. Tiger only committed the Friday before the tournament, and they ran out of food and drink on the course before the second round was over."

Power has exchanged pleasantries with Woods in the locker room and on the range, but it's on the course where he wants to square up with the best.

A PGA Tour win would ease the path to a trip home for the Irish Open at Lahinch and the Open at Royal Portrush, two of his big wishes for 2019.

"I should have played in the US Open this year but bogeyed the last in the qualifier and then missed out in a play-off," said Power, who has yet to tee it up in a Major.

"But if I'd played the US Open, I would have ended up playing 11 in a row this summer. I would have loved to have played it, but if you go there and don't play well, it can affect your entire year."

While he's got an outside chance of making the fields for PGA Tour's limited field, CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur or the CJ Cup @Nine Bridges in Korea, his goal is to rack up as many FedEx Cup points as he can in five pre-Christmas starts.

If he can get his long game to come close to matching his chipping and putting, he knows he can win. But he finds it hard to put his finger on just why he's made it when so many others who were better than him are still waiting for their break.

"I think being self-aware is a massive thing no matter what you are doing in life," he said.

"Some people have confidence, which is great, but it can turn into overconfidence, and you can overestimate stuff.

"People saying they need to work on something shows more confidence than blatantly almost lying to themselves.

"In the long term, you need to reach certain standards in certain things and if you are not aware enough to realise that, it is going to be tough going."

Irish Independent

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