Crowe’s Putter-Fueled, Best-Ever 63 Lifts Him Near The Lead

PGA Tour players rarely refer to their sport as “a game of inches” the way, say, football players do. But with a pre-round adjustment before Friday’s second round of the Myrtle Beach Classic, Trace Crowe might now also subscribe to that maxim.

The Greenville native, former Auburn player and PGA Tour rookie struggled in his past seven tournaments preceding this week, with a withdrawal, five missed cuts and a lone payday (a tie for 11th at the Corales Puntacana Championship in Mexico). There was no mystery about his woes, Crowe said: his putting stroke was out of sync.

Then on Thursday, a tip from a friend who watched him shoot even-par 71 in the first round enabled Crowe to rebound Friday with the low round of the tournament’s first two days, an 8-under par 63, including a 6-under 29 on his front nine.

That moved Crowe up the leader board to 8-under par, four shots behind 36-hole leader Chris Gotterup (pictured right), who had five birdies in his last seven holes to reach 12-under. Gotterup’s best finish this year is a tie for 11th at the Zurich Classic, where he teamed with Tour rookie Austin Eckroat.

First-round co-leader Robert MacIntyre (pictured below) sits in second place at 11-under, and Spain’s Jorge Campillo is solo third at 10-under. Four players, including Beau Hossler, the other first-round co-leader, are tied at 9-under.

From “hitting it great” but getting little results to being in contention for the weekend; Crowe said it was all about moving his ball back a smidge in his setup on the greens.

“I was struggling putting (Thursday),” he said. “One of my buddies, Jonathan Bowden, was here watching, and he noticed … that (the ball) was a little too far forward, and I kept missing some putts left.
“We hit a few after the round, and he spotted it out and gave me a couple of drills just to check it out before (Friday’s play). Hit about 50 putts with it this morning and it felt great out there all day.”
Crowe thus climbed 64 spots up the leader board and into a seven-way tie for eighth. Only second-round leader Gotterup and England’s Matt Wallace, both with 7-under par 64s, came close to Crowe’s showing. Crowe’s 8-under round was also the lowest of his brief (11 events including this week) PGA Tour career – by three shots.

And despite those recent struggles, he said he’d felt all along it was just a matter of time. “I’ve been hitting it great the last few weeks, so I just knew if I just had one good hot putting day, this could happen,” he said.
Crowe’s putting adjustment paid dividends out of the gate. He rolled home birdies at the first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth holes. The 27-year-old, who turned pro in 2020, cooled slightly on the back nine, but added a pair of birdies while remaining bogey-free for the day.
“I made so many long putts,” he said.

It wasn’t only his putting, though; Crowe said his overall game Friday was vastly better. “To knock it on the first hole … to six inches and tap that in and get some momentum … then going on to (No.) 2, hit a nice iron shot in there, had a 5- or 6-footer and holed that … (after the second hole) I felt like we were going to just keep doing that.”

Crowe’s ascension to the PGA Tour from the developmental Korn Ferry Tour is a result of last year’s change in the PGA Tour’s qualifying process, returning to the traditional “Q-school” format for aspiring professionals. Had he been competing under the previous rules, Crowe’s Korn Ferry season in 2023 would not have elevated him as did his top-five Q finish.

“This past year on Korn Ferry, I ended up barely missing my (PGA Tour) card at the last event,” he said. “(So) then having that opportunity to get (his card) again at the final stage was great.” At Q-school, “you’ve just got to hope it’s your week. I knew kind of the last nine holes, it was my week.”

It was his day Friday, as Crowe – like other native S.C. players – benefitted from a strong presence of local fans. Playing with Columbia’s George Bryan IV, one group behind Wesley Bryan and two groups back of Aiken’s Kevin Kisner, the day seemed like a home game.

“This South Carolina support has been crazy,” Crowe said. “My family is here, too.” His father, who can’t walk due to a handicap, hadn’t seen his son play since last year’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte (the event taking place this week opposite Myrtle Beach), and then the final stage of Q-school. It’s awesome having him here. My sister … yeah, we’ve got a bunch of family.”

Late Friday, most of the other S.C. players had missed the cut and departed. Crowe’s still around, and with his putter now an ally, he has a chance to make the most of that.

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