PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Stories like Ryan Brehm’s are why we watch esports.
He’s as good a reason to watch this week’s Players Championship as the world’s best players in the field.
Brehm, a 35-year-old journeyman golfer, struck gold in Puerto Rico last week. Four rounds of golf in one week changed his life.
Brehm competed in the Puerto Rico Open, played on a small medical overtime of a tournament, and needed to win the tournament or finish second alone to retain his PGA Tour status. With his wife Chelsey as his caddy, he won the tournament by six shots after birdieing five of the first 11 holes.
The win was an Ave Maria for Brehm, who was ranked 773rd in the world. The tournament was like a week-long version of the PGA Tour Qualifying School, with only one player surviving and advancing.
Brehm, that went into the final round three strokes aheadsurvived and progressed – straight to TPC Sawgrass for this week’s Players Championship, where he will serve alongside the best players in the world in golf’s strongest field.
“It’s a surreal feeling,” Brehm said Wednesday morning as he sat in a chair on the grass behind the 18th green at Sawgrass. “It’s hard to put into words.”
He received a one-tournament extension after being forced to withdraw from the Zurich Classic last year due to COVID-19. Few have seized the opportunity like he has.
How did he manage to choose his game so nicely with all the pressure?
“Well, I’m 35 years old, have been playing for a long time and have enough experience to understand that you really have to have the mental discipline to focus on the task at hand,” said Brehm. “But sometimes that’s not enough.”
It was Sunday.
What would he be doing this week if he hadn’t won?
“This week we would be in Fort Myers, pick up our truck and drive from Fort Myers to Lafayette, Louisiana on Friday,” he said.
Lafayette is the next stop on the Korn Ferry Tour, where Brehm struggled and tried to play well enough to regain his PGA Tour status.
When asked how his stress level is this week compared to last week, Brehm said, “Well, the stress level is a lot lower, the excitement level is a lot higher.”
He recalled trying not to look at the leaderboards in the final lap on Sunday until he peaked in 15th place.
“Then I looked at the par 5 15 and saw it, I think it was seven shots,” he said. “You’re still counting. You just have so much time left to think about what can go wrong.”
Still, Brehm said he had a sense of calm all week in Puerto Rico.
“It felt like there was no pressure because it was win or go home,” he said. “And we had already agreed that we would still play a full season on the Korn Ferry.”
How will his nerves be going into Thursday’s opening round at Sawgrass?
“That’s a great question,” he said. “I don’t know if I can answer that now. I guess I’ll tremble like leaves at the first hole. This is the biggest stage. I played the golf course [Tuesday] and the level of difficulty is like I’ve never seen before.
“So, this week, a lot of different curveballs get thrown at me. And you never know how to deal with it.”
If he channels what he did in Puerto Rico, Brehm will be fine.
Last week’s win changed his life and got him that precious PGA Tour card through 2024. Now it’s up to him to keep her.
“I know enough to know that those 2 1/2 years will go by quickly and I need to use this to catapult myself and not allow myself to get complacent,” he said. “I got my card. This is the third time I got the card back. The first two times I really wasn’t even close to keeping it.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about what to do tactically to be successful [this time]. I have to avoid the three putts so much to hold my driver and play better and deal with the emotion and pressure of trying to hold the card better.
“I think that win last week will make that a little bit easier for me, but those thoughts and emotions will still be there.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/09/ryan-brehm-at-the-players-championship-after-pga-card-saving-win/ Ryan Brehm at The Players Championship after PGA Card Savings win