How High Can Williams Go?
March 25, 2012
SEATTLE - To outside observers, it might have been tough to tell, but Chris Williams entered last week's Bandon Dunes Championship in a slump of sorts. He busted out of it like a bull in a china shop by winning his school record fifth tournament, but it did not come without some adjustments - both in attitude and physical nature.
His swing was in need of some tweaks, his putting needed to be more precise and his mental game needed to be sharper. Sure, his play had not suffered a huge drop off, evidenced by his five top-10's over seven events this year. But when you're a two-time All-American, Ben Hogan Award candidate and represented the United States in this past summer's Walker Cup, expectations are naturally raised and shooting in the 60s is expected.
After a respectable first round score of even-par 71 on Bandon Trails left him tied for 7th, Williams had a chat with Husky Coach Matt Thurmond. Williams told his coach that he was due to have a big round and Thurmond agreed. He made a simple suggestion to the junior from Moscow, Idaho that helped him elevate his game to a new height.
"He said `Don't focus so much on the results, focus more on your love and passion for the game and the challenge that every hole throws at you,'" Williams said.
"I didn't think much of it at the time, but the more I started thinking about it, I realized it makes a lot of sense. When you're not focused on how low you're shooting but more on how am I going to birdie this hole or how am I going to do this or do that...it really gave me a mental advantage."
Williams used the game-within-the-game, plus some minor swing adjustments, to propel himself to a course-record 67 during Saturday's second round. He rocketed up to the top of the leader board and had a two-shot advantage heading into the final round.
He followed Saturday up by eclipsing his less than 24 hours old course record with a 66 on Sunday. His back-to-back record-setting rounds allowed him to cruise to a six shot victory and stand alone in Husky history for most career wins.
Williams' success on the course came on the heels of a really tough experience on the same track this summer during the U.S. Public Links Championship.
"The course was playing so hard," Williams remembered. "It was really windy and the weather was bad, plus I didn't play that great. So, to come out here and to somehow play like I did, it feels just sweet.
"And to have another course record always feels nice."
It only took him 93 rounds to reach the record, while Mackenzie played 165 rounds and Taylor 144 in their storied Husky careers. Williams is very aware of his lofty accomplishments to date and also appreciates the company he has at top.
"Playing after guys like Brock and Nick and being able to walk in their footsteps is pretty awesome," Williams, the 2010 national freshman of the year said. "It feels so good (to get the record)."
The scary thing is that Williams can play in up to five more tournaments this year, plus has an entire senior season to add to his school record.
"He is a special talent and a special person," Thurmond said about Williams. "I have not been around someone that works like he does. He is diligent and working hard all the time. That is what is so satisfying."
Despite the satisfaction of setting a new standard among Husky individuals, Williams knows that college golf is a team sport. The team let a large lead slip from their grasp at Bandon Dunes a week ago and had to settle for a first-place tie. Williams and his teammates know that if they want to make a NCAA Championship run, they must be able to finish strong.
"We are definitely a team that holds itself to pretty high standards and to finish the way we did (last week)...nobody feels good," said Williams.
"We've got a long ways to go. We're good, but once it comes time for Riviera, we can't be pulling what we did. I think we are more motivated than we were...we'll come back."