CROMWELL, Conn. — Tiger Woods once famously said that second place sucks.
Zack Sucher disagrees.
“It's life changing, to be honest,” an emotional Sucher said after his tie for second at the Travelers Championship on Sunday.
That’s not an overstatement.
With birdies on four of his final six holes at TPC River Highlands, including a chip-in to see par on the last, the 32-year-old recorded his best-ever finish on the PGA Tour. It was also the biggest payday of his career, by a lot.
Sucher’s runner-up netted him $633,600. Prior to Sunday’s final round, he’d earned just over $850,000 in a career that spanned a half-dozen years mostly on the Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour).
But this is a story not just about a big payday, though it helped a lot considering the trials and tribulations Sucher endured. In 2017, his second year on the PGA Tour, he missed the cut 11 times in 14 starts, battling ankle problems along the way that were severe enough that the injury also started to affect his knee. After the 2017 Travelers, Sucher underwent surgery and took a medical extension.
It would be another 13 months before the University of Alabama Birmingham alum and Hooters Tour player could swing a club. He also had to wait seven months for the PGA Tour’s disability policy to kick in.
The combination proved a heavy burden.
“We had seven months with no income at all coming in two years ago,” Sucher said. “During that, we had to take out some credit cards.”
When he did return to playing, the path was fraught with obstacles. Sucher had just six starts to earn 347 FedEx Cup points and had to endure the difficulty (and cost) of far-flung trips to Colombia and Panama in the early part of the Web.com season.
He continued to bet on himself, though, and the decision began to pay off. He tied for fourth at the Dormie Network Classic at Briggs Ranch in San Antonio in April and three weeks ago finished runner-up at the Rex Hospital Open to lock up his card on the developmental circuit for next year.
Then came the Travelers.
Sucher was initially an alternate in the field before getting in. With just three starts remaining on his extension he still needed to make up 322 FedEx Cup points and by midway through the third round he was cruising, leading by five strokes and seemingly en route to a life-altering victory.
In the span of just over 30 minutes, he went bogey-double-double and suddenly found himself trailing. Over the course of nine holes, he'd gone from five up to six back.
A day later, though, he'd put the implosion behind him, closing with a 30 over his final nine holes to earn the tie for second. In addition to nearly doubling his career earnings, he nabbed 245 FedEx Cup points to climb to 126th in the season-long race and inside the re-shuffle on the priority ranking, which will provide for additional starts after the medical extension runs out, should he need them.
“To be honest, I'm not sure what all this does for points-wise, for next year,” Sucher said. “I don't even know how that works. I know that like two months ago we had credit card debt. So I know we don't have that anymore.
"Yeah, this is unbelievable."
And second place doesn't always suck after all.
Originally Appeared on Golf Digest