Golf

‘My game has felt good for a while’ – Power believes first PGA win ‘just a matter of time’ after surging into Palmetto mix

Seamus Power believes it’s “just a matter of time” before he contends for his first PGA Tour win after he fired a joint best of the day 66 to surge into the mix for the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.

ack to full fitness after undergoing elbow surgery late last year, the West Waterford man (34) is slowly gaining confidence at the business end of big events and feels ready to take the next step.

“Absolutely,” said Power, who arrived in South Carolina on a high after two top-10 finishes in his last three starts.

“You know, even when things are good in practice, it’s still just a little bit extra confidence to see it in the tournament, and even obviously, it was the Korn Ferry event in Las Vegas that gave me a lot of confidence.

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“I hit a lot of good shots down the stretch. I hit some confidence shots with a lot of wind and all that stuff. Really from there, I’ve been able to build on it, just knowing the stuff I have done to improve my game, it is working, and it’s just kind of a matter of time.”

After knocking in an 11 footer for birdie at the last for a five-under 66, he was tied for fourth on six-under, just five shots behind Chesson Hadley, whose 66 gave him a two-shot lead over world No 1 Dustin Johnson on 11-under.

Qualifier Tain Lee was third on seven-under after a 68, with Power looking comfortable alongside Harris English, Chez Reavie, Erik Van Rooyen, Pat Perez and South African prodigy Wilco Nienaber in joint fourth.

“My game has felt good enough for a while,” Power said after hitting 15 greens in regulation, an impressive display. “I had surgery in November, and I was just slow to come back from that. By the time I got to full practice, I’m already playing into tournaments. That’s been the biggest thing, being able to practice fully again, body feels comfortable again.

“Got a little confidence there is a little stretch. Played well in Vegas in the Korn Ferry event and played well in Dallas. Yeah, so just trying to build on that.”

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After opening with a 70, Power got off to a fast start last night, picking up shots at the par-five second and short fifth before back to back birdies at the eighth and ninth, two of the top four toughest holes on the course, gave him a massive boost.

“I kind of figured out something with my irons on the range yesterday afternoon, so that was much better,” added Power, who missed a 12 footer for an eagle two at the driveable 15th but followed a bogey at the 17th with a satisfying birdie three at the last. “I had a nice feel on the greens. All in all, a good day.”

He loves the course but knows it’s going to be a significant test of patience and strategy this weekend.

“You’ve got to think your way around it,” he said. “In certain spots, and it happened to me on 17, I got a little trouble off the tee, maybe tried to be a bit too aggressive, and all of a sudden I have a six-footer to save a bogey.

“I like it in that sense. You can’t just go at every hole. You get too aggressive, and you run into bunkers. You got to hit it in some good spots, and I was able to do that today, so hopefully, I can keep it up over the weekend.”

World No 1 Johnson looked set to snatch the lead when he caught Hadley on 11-under par with two holes to play.

But he missed a six-footer for birdie at the 17th and then took six at the 18th after his club slipped in his hand, and he pulled his tee shot into trouble and had to take a penalty drop.

“The first 14 holes played extremely difficult, I thought, and I was playing really well,” Johnson said. “With the wind, the wind was blowing pretty hard, it was real gusty, so it was just really hard to get a good beat on it. I felt like I did a really good job, though, controlling the golf ball.

“I’m pleased with the way I played. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate finish, just club slip. It happens. Again, got a little unlucky there not to at least have a swing at it.”

Brooks Koepka, one of the favourites for next week’s US Open, mimicked Pádraig Harrington and shot rounds of 72 and 73 to miss the cut by two shots.

“I like where my game’s at,” Koepka said. “I’m striking it well, putting it well. So I don’t see anything wrong. It’s just, like I said, maybe a little lack of focus, and maybe, these weeks before the majors, I start thinking about next week instead of where I’m at.

“It’s not an excuse, but it just needs to be better. I need to be where I’m at currently, even more present in this tournament than thinking about next week.”

He added: “My game’s in good shape. I know my score doesn’t reflect it. I like where it’s at. I feel even better than where I was going into the PGA.”

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