Luke Guthrie confident he’s on path back at Web.com Tour Q-School


BROOKSVILLE, Fla. – There are a few former PGA Tour players competing at the Southern Hills Plantation Web.com Tour Q-School second stage site, but Luke Guthrie may’ve had the most interesting path here.

The 28-year-old was once a hotshot out of the University of Illinois, a player who turned pro in 2012 and quickly found success with two Web.com Tour wins that year. Despite only playing in 10 Web events in 2012, he finished second on the money list and easily earned his PGA Tour card.

His first year on the big Tour, Guthrie held the 54-hole lead at the Honda Classic (where he placed third) and finished 90th in the FedEx Cup standings to comfortably keep his card. It seemed with his talent and steady rise, stardom might be only a matter of time.

But gradually his results regressed, to the point where he lost his PGA Tour card at the end of the 2014-15 season. He was relegated to the Web.com Tour in 2017 and ’18. His 89th-place finish on the money list this season meant having to go through the second and final stages of Q-School to regain full status.

And yet he may enter 2019 the most comfortable he’s felt … maybe ever.

“This offseason has been probably the best I’ve hit it in my life, honestly,” Guthrie said.

It’s manifested over the first 54 holes at Southern Hills Plantation, as Guthrie has gone 70-64-68 to put himself in solo seventh at 14 under entering the final round. That’s certainly an enviable position, as the top 18 and ties after 72 holes advance to final stage.

If he does move on, it will be a rewarding push in a long process.

Guthrie’s issues in performance began in 2014. He had played strong golf mainly employing a soft cut, but he began trying to add a draw in an attempt to move to the next level.

“I thought that was my next progression as a player, to be able to be a shot-maker,” Guthrie said. “I felt like I needed to be able to (move the ball both ways) and I was kind of picturing trying to win tournaments coming down the stretch on 18 at Sawgrass, 18 at Pebble, 18 at Houston and water down the left and I’m like, ‘Man I’m going to have to aim right over that water.’ I was kind of jealous of the guys that could sling it down there.”

The aspirational move turned against him. Before, Guthrie could essentially eliminate a left miss and harbor a strong consistency in his ball-striking.

In the aftermath, Guthrie found himself missing both ways and struggling with inconsistent ball flight. It took about a year for him to realize he had made a mistake going down this road.

He decided to go back down the path of how he used to swing, but that was even tougher to recapture.

“The thing is I used to do it unconsciously. That was me,” Guthrie said. “And now I had to kind of figure how to do it consciously.”

After much work, though, he is zooming down the right path.

Guthrie began working with Tony Ruggiero roughly a year ago and made it a focus to understand the strengths of his swing. They looked through a lot of old videos of Guthrie’s motion with the idea of getting him to feel what it was that he used to do.

That sounds simple enough, but it can be complicated.

“I can tell you what something looks like or what’s going on,” Ruggiero explained, “but I can’t tell you what it feels like to you.”

The duo worked on Guthrie swinging the club more left, rotating his body more and reducing club face rotation going through.

The progress came in spurts this year, but it wasn’t until some work in Mobile, Ala., right after the end of the 2018 Web.com Tour season that something really shone through.

“I turned him through the ball where I tried to have him feel like he left his right wrist bent, like he was really trying to hold it off and swing it left,” Ruggiero said. “It was like it clicked, he goes, ‘That’s what I used to feel.’ ”

From that trigger, Guthrie started compressing the ball better and hitting the shot shapes in the windows he was looking. Ruggiero bought his pupil a Greg Norman’s Secret training aid and told him to hit with it to continue to recapture that old feel.

Guthrie knows the process is ongoing but feels he’s in a far better place than just a year ago. While he finished 50th on the money list in 2017 – 39 spots better than this season – that largely came from one stellar week.

And even that one, a T-2 at the Digital Ally Open, didn’t seem quite right as Guthrie felt relieved when the week was over rather than excited about how he could attack the next tournament.

“I feel like my low point in golf was last year,” Guthrie said. “This whole year, even though I didn’t finish as high, I felt like I played more consistent. It was overall better than the year before. So it’s like, ‘OK, finally a positive.’ ”

And with his current form, the progress continues. Guthrie has mainly gone back to his trusty cut, although he will employ a one-yard draw when needed. His accuracy has reemerged. Most importantly, those old feelings are returning.

Guthrie didn’t anticipate this drop-off of recent years, but he never felt naive about how quickly golf can be humbling and never lost faith in the long run. There are times, though, when golf can seem simple, like it did back in Guthrie’s earliest pro days.

He took a lesson from that time, too.

“When you’re going, you don’t have to ask questions,” Guthrie said. “You just get out of your way and let it happen.”

With the path he’s on, that edict could serve him well in the near future.

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