Forget the calm before the storm, Patrick Rodgers is relishing the calm after the storm—both in his career and typically turbulent Bermuda.
After six solid years on the PGA Tour, each one netting at least $1 million, Rodgers struggled through 2020, lost his card and was forced to play his way back on Tour through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
But the reprieve has triggered instant results. A relaxed and refreshed Rodgers started the season with a T-6 in Napa at the Fortinet Championship, and on Friday — after nasty weather rolled through the region on Thursday — he fired a 64 to jump into the lead at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship after the early wave of players at Port Royal Golf Course.
The native of Avon, Indiana, now sits a shot behind leader Taylor Pendrith, who fired a tournament-record 61 in the afternoon wave to take a one-shot lead. Vincent Whaley is one shot behind Rodgers and the tandem of Danny Lee and David Skinns each sit a stroke behind Whaley.
Rodgers — who has never won on Tour, but has 42 top-25 finishes — admitted he originally struggled with returning to the Korn Ferry Tour, noting that he’d gotten comfortable with life on the PGA Tour.
“It was really difficult to go through, to be honest with you. My mindset and I think the mindset of most players out here is that I got my card at 22 and I didn’t feel like I would ever be in that position, to be quite honest with you,” Rodgers said. “I felt like I had the game to not put myself there and it was maybe a little slice of humble pie, and more so just kind of managing stress on the golf course.
“I’m definitely feeling like I’m able to breathe a breath of fresh air here as the new season started. I’m really grateful to be out here and I’m playing some stress-free golf, which is nice.”
The highlight of Rodgers’ round on Friday was a chip-in eagle on No. 7, in which the Stanford product simply followed the lead of his playing partner, Michael Kim. After watching Kim chip in four times in eight holes, Rodgers finally followed suit.
While the chip was the TV moment, Rodgers’ early-season success has hinged on his putter. After finishing 11th in putting on the Tour two seasons ago, Rodgers fell to 96th during last season’s struggles.
Through three events and eight rounds this season, it appears he’s regained his putting stroke, and that helped Rodgers take advantage of surprisingly tranquil conditions on Friday.
“I’ve never seen Bermuda this calm, at least here at Port Royal. I felt like it was a round where we needed to take advantage of it and I just did a great job of staying patient and giving myself a ton of opportunities,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t feel like I was overly aggressive at any point today and I just kind of plodded along. I think I hit 17 greens, so I just kept giving myself chance after chance and it added up to a great day.”
Rodgers still has plenty of golf ahead this weekend, but he’s in the right frame of mind to enjoy the surroundings, even as the competition gets ramped up.
“That was a really just difficult emotional battle. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders since coming back,” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s much that can stress me out on a golf course at the minute and I’m just really grateful to have opportunities to play.
“So, yeah, I’m excited to be here. It’s our little slice of paradise here this week, so it’s easy to enjoy ourselves and I think that translates into some great golf.”