Small at the PGA: 'This place will eat you up'
Illinois golf coach Mike Small shot a first-round 76 at the PGA Championship on Thursday (follow Small, Steve Stricker and D.A. Points at the PGA here). Here's a Q&A with the Danville native after his 4-over round:
Just evaluate what you had to go through today
Small: Plus 4. Could have been a lot worse. I was even par after 6, and then I drove it bad about four holes, about four to five holes, and made bogeys in the middle of the round.
Bogeyed 7, the par 5, from a bad drive, and bogeyed 9 from a bad drive, and I wasn't able to get it up and down. Then 12 and 13, same things. I missed at 12 left, and 13 I hit it in the water. Four drives cost me four bogeys, and I played the hard holes pretty solid coming in, made solid pars and missed birdie putts on 15 and 16.
I didn't drive it great, and I didn't make really any (putts). I made two probably solid putts outside four feet. If you don't drive and putt good, this place will eat you up.
These are the kind of conditions you've seen before at Kiawah, with this kind of wind and a hot day?
Small: Yeah, this course is longer than I remember, plays a little longer. But I was playing a little better then, too. It's been a tough summer for me. I haven't played the best. I've got one more crack at it tomorrow and shoot even par or something, a couple under.
Are you having fun out there? It is obviously a challenge and you're playing against guys that do it 24/7, 365.
Small: Well, I don't use that as an excuse, though. I need to have more fun than I am. I need to have more fun. My whole life, I've been playing competitive golf now for, shoot, 30 years, and if you're a really competitive golfer it's hard to get out of the score dictates how you feel type of thing, because it's your life.
But I need to get past that. I'm fine now, but out there during the round I get a little agitated when I hit shots like I hit. I hit a shot on 13 that was 50 yards right of my target and goes in the water and bounces in the water. I was aimed left of the fairway, probably 40 yards off line. How do you enjoy that?
Talk about 17. What club did you hit there?
Small: I hit a 3 iron, and the thing bit on me. I hit there in the middle of the green, it hits and rolls like six feet. So that was a good par. ... I hit balls with Butch Harmon yesterday for 45 minutes. Who gets to do that? Who gets to hear what his thoughts are and stuff like that? And I talked to Bob Rotella here and there, talked to other guys, played with Davis Love and Steve Stricker. That's my job. So I think the ego and the player in me gets kind of P.O.'d when I don't play very well.
Is there pressure with that? Do you take away something from that, a pride in that?
Small: Well, I think I'm considered that because of the success I've had. I've been in the top two or three, and I've played well. I've made three or four cuts in this thing. My game isn't as consistent to where I come out and back it up as often as I want. My game is a lot like this. It's up and down, up and down.
If I can just catch the upswing when I come to these things, it's a lot more fun, but sometimes you catch the downs. Whistling Straits I caught the down, and last year in Atlanta I caught it and I played pretty well. I don't know what I'm getting. It's frustrating. This summer I haven't played very well.
Hitting some of the shots I hit today, it's not fun, but hitting good shots is what makes it fun. To answer your question, yes, it is pressure because there's expectations, and what I try to teach my players is check your expectations at the door, be happy with who you are no matter what you shoot, and don't let that I skulled a chip today.