Ben Griffin may be only four starts into his rookie PGA Tour season, but he’s already learning valuable lessons.
This particular one, however, was tough.
“You can’t let up in a PGA Tour event,” Griffin said Sunday after failing to convert a back-nine lead into his maiden Tour title. “I think I almost got a little too comfortable.”
The 26-year-old Griffin had just birdied two straight holes and led the Butterfield Bermuda Championship by a pair of shots as he stepped on the tee box at Port Royal Golf Club’s par-4 12th hole. A loose tee shot began what would be a 6-over closing stretch:
• He missed short putts for par, bogeying Nos. 12 and 13.
• He hooked his tee ball into the penalty area at No. 14, and he bogeyed that hole as well.
• After a fourth straight bogey at No. 15, Griffin over-drew his tee shot at the cliffside par-3 16th hole, which resulted in a double bogey.
• And he teed off with an iron on the par-5 17th hole, only to have his ball run through the fairway and into another penalty area.
“Those are some of the toughest holes coming down the stretch, especially trying to win a PGA Tour event,” Griffin said afterward. “I tried my best. I had a couple shots get loose in the wind and you've got to be a little bit better, more precise when it gets windy like that or else you can kind of grind for pars and bogeys quick. That happened to me. I couldn't believe my tee shot on 16, I was able to draw it as much as I did against that left-to-right wind. … Obviously 17, trying to hit a tee shot that wouldn't get to the water, I never really thought about it with the club that I had in my hand and unfortunately it went in the water there.
“Otherwise, I talked to my caddie, and I was like, ‘You know, I might have played the last [five holes in] 6 over, but if I finish eagle-birdie, I can win this golf tournament.’ So, tried to continue to stick to my game plan, execute on 17 and 18, and unfortunately, I was only able to make pars.”
Griffin ended up shooting 1-over 72 and fell back into a tied for third, two shots behind winner Seamus Power. Despite the late collapse, Griffin still posted the best finish of his Tour career, just besting his solo fourth from last season’s Wyndham Championship – and it came just over a year since the former All-American at North Carolina un-retired from competitive golf following a four-month stint working as a mortgage loan officer.
When Griffin returned to golf two Julys ago, he had no status. He earned his Korn Ferry Tour card via Q-School last year and parlayed that into a PGA Tour card in only one season on the KFT. Hence why it was hard to truly complain on Sunday.
Griffin knows he made too few committed swings on Sunday. He put himself in too many difficult spots down the stretch. His putter was too shaky the last two rounds.
But he’s also learning, and in a way, considering his journey, he’s just happy to be out there competing.
“You know, playing golf for a living's just really fun,” Griffin said. “It just means the world to be able to compete out here, and I can't get mad at anything that I do because it's so cool to be able to play on the PGA Tour.”
Plus, while he may not be a PGA Tour champion today, he’s confident in this: “I know my time will come soon.”