Wesley Bryan won the 2017 RBC Heritage in April in the 14th start of his PGA Tour’s rookie season, and members of the media searched for the right word to describe his feelings.
One reporter liked “surreal” and phrased his post-tournament question this way: “I know you always believed you could be where you are right now, but is it a little bit surreal to know that a couple of years ago you were winning on SwingThought Tour and now three times on the Web.com Tour?”
Before he could answer, Bryan had to set the record straight.
“I don’t know if I was winning on the SwingThought Tour,” he said. “I won a two-day event once. But that was about all the mini-tour success I had.”
With his mini-tour performance clarified, he called his three 2016 Web.com tournament wins “unbelievable. I definitely didn’t foresee that happening when I started the year.”
Those wins and quality play in two of his 2016 PGA Tour tournaments allowed him to approach ’17 on the Big Tour with confidence.
Four months later, he teed off in the 99th PGA Championship on Thursday morning with a dazzling rookie season already assured.
Complacency is not in his vocabulary.
“A great experience, a fun ride,” Bryan, 27, said in assessing his first full season on the PGA Tour. “But there’s a lot more to get done.”
The “more” centers on this week’s PGA at Quail Hollow Club – less than two hours from his old stomping grounds around Chapin, Dutch Fork High and the University of South Carolina – and the FedEx Cup playoffs that begin in a couple of weeks.
He sees the opportunity to turn a great season into a spectacular one and relishes the challenge.
The playoffs, he said, “have been the goal from the start.”
A rookie with playoff goals? And now within sight of reaching them?
To get from there – no professional success after college – to here, climbing to No. 39 in the world rankings in 20 months and to 24th in this year’s FedEx Cup points race, is indeed the stuff of dreams.
Bryan is a story of confidence and the certainty that success is the residue of hard work, focus and attention to detail. He has stared adversity in the face at times in his golfing career, and he bounces back.
His round Thursday illustrates his resolve.
On a day that bogeys were plentiful, pars appreciated and birdies cherished, he shot 3-over 74 – a score that figured to keep him in the middle of the pack and, he said, “didn’t knock me out of the tournament.”
He made the turn 3 over, a number that would have been higher without his sterling short game. He played the back nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys.
“The golf course is really hard to play where I hit the ball off the tee” on the front nine, said Bryan, who hit only five of 14 fairways. “You get what you can, and I made a couple of nice saves. Then, on the back nine, I didn’t hit many bad shots. Maybe that will carry over” in the second round.
But no matter what happens in the PGA and the playoffs, who would have believed 20 months ago that a player best known, with brother George IV, for trick shot artistry would own a spot among the world’s best?
“The biggest thing . . . you’ve got to believe in yourself,” he said.
He has the Heritage win and five top-10s this year.
Satisfied with his rookie season?
Not yet, he said, “There’s a lot more to get done.”