Every week is a learning experience on the PGA Tour and that was a true for four-time major winner Rory McIlroy as it was for Waterford’s Seamus Power in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
McIlroy blew his chances of a third win at the Charlotte venue in the middle of his round, three-putting twice and struggling with his chipping and pitching as he played the scoring stretch from the seventh to 10 in three over en route to a 73 and a tie for eighth behind breakthrough winner Max Homa.
“I didn’t feel like I chipped the ball particularly well this week,” Players champion McIlroy said of his plans to get ready for next week’s US PGA at Bethpage following his eighth top-10 finish in 10 starts.
“Sort of messing around with a 64 [degree] going into Augusta and so I was practising with that a good bit and then just went back to the 60 last week.
“I was sort of in between two wedges a little bit and just sort of trying to get used to playing everything with a 60 again.
Power couldn’t quite pull off his third top 10 in a row, finding water off the tee and then three-putting from 70 feet for double-bogey six and a one-over 72 that left him tied for 13th place.
But that was only a minor irritant for the Waterford man, who picked up $143,780 (€128,000) and 55 precious FedExCup points, jumping to 101st in the FedExCup standings having launguished in a lowly 189th place just three weeks ago with only the top 125 keeping their cards.
He tees it up in this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas knowing he must win to earn a spot in next week’s US PGA and miss a trip home for his brother’s wedding.
But he’s not worried about that at all but simply pleased to have put in a consistent week’s work and played well alongside the likes of Jason Day and Paul Casey over the weekend, gaining invaluable experience.
“It was nice,” said Power, whose only frustration was that he failed to adjust to the changing pace of the rain-softened greens over a stop-start weekend.
“It was probably the first tournament I have played on the PGA Tour where I was in contention all week. After a good, solid start, I was up there all the time, so that was encouraging. I’ve had high finishes before where I have had a good last round, but never really had a chance of winning.
“But this week, I was up there all week and in amongst it, playing with some of the bigger names. That’s enjoyable and that’s why you practise, to try and beat those guys. It was fun.”
His closing double bogey might have cost him $100,000 but he knows his double there in the opening round also cost him the same amount.
Contending for a big title alongside some big names, and becoming more accustomed to the big crowds and hullabalo, was worth its weight in gold.
“You think they are going to do stuff that is at a different level,” he said of playing with Day and Casey.
"They hit good shots and they hit good shots regularly, and the hit good shots under pressure. And that is what it is all about. They are comfortable being up there on the leaderboard, which is where you want to be.
"You are not watching them as you are playing, but you look back later at certain circumstances and notice that they don’t panic, just try to recover and get going again."
He was happy for tournament winner Homa, who is sponsored by the same clothing brand, Travis Mathew, and aware that the 28-year-old Californian won and lost his card several times over the past few years before hitting the jackpot on Sunday.
“That’s golf,” he said, recalling his own struggles earlier this season and that feeling that the good weeks are light years away. “The upswings are harder to see when you are down. But three solid weeks in a row and you have made a nice move.
“I am still not where I want to be yet, but it was another solid week, another move in the right direction so let’s see if I can keep it up this week in Dallas.”
As McIlroy works at home on his short game and Paul Dunne, Gavin Moynihan and Michael Hoey play the British Masters at Hillside, Power is joined at Trinity Forest in Dallas by Pádraig Harrington, who is seeking some sharpness ahead of the US PGA after a delayed start to his year due to injury.
Power, who moved up 28 spots to 264th in the world yesterday and one spot ahead of Harrington, is not exempt for the US PGA next week but confident that majors are in his future.
“Those good things will eventually come,” he said with good humour. “I will keep trying to improve and do all that good stuff. The majors and PGAs will happen if I can keep doing the right things.”