The start to Peter Uihlein’s season was lousy at best. Three tournaments, one missed cut and such a plodding performance in South Korea last month that he came home and didn’t touch a golf club for two weeks.
Then it got worse.
“I got really lazy and complacent,” he said. “Just really tired. I just wasn’t sharp enough for what I needed to be to compete in these events out here.”
The recipe to snap out of such a funk is simple and usually works: Take a break. Recharge. And switch putters.
Call it chicken soup for the golfing soul.
Refocused and refreshed, Uihlein authored an 8-under-par 63 to take the first round lead at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He ditched a blade putter in favor of his more familiar mallet and dropped nine birdies Thursday at TPC Summerlin for a one-stroke lead as he searches for his first PGA Tour victory.
Seth Reeves, a tour rookie making his third start, finished off a 64 to grab solo second as darkness fell. Reeves missed a five-foot putt at No. 9, his final hole, just as play was suspended with 20 players still on the course.
Harold Varner III and Robert Streb opened with 65 amid blustery winds and were tied for third place. Jordan Spieth birdied two of his last three holes to shoot 66 and was tied with Bryson DeChambeau and five others three strokes back.
All those leaders except Reeves played in morning pairings before the breeze kicked up a notch and scores rose about a half-shot (70.05 to 70.58).
“I probably would have said more,” said Rickie Fowler, who carded two eagles and was among a group at 68 that included playing partners Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson. “It definitely played tougher in the afternoon. Those guys who played in the morning will deal with that tomorrow. It all evens out.”
Uihlein needed some kind of edge after he decided to begin the 2018-19 season by playing three straight weeks that turned into an October to forget. He missed the cut at Safeway, tied for 69th at the CIMB Classic and tied for 55th at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in South Korea.
His retooling began with the putter.
“I know where it is,” Uihlein said of the old one. “It’s unusable.”
Uihlein turned pro in 2011 and grinded through the ranks on the European Tour, where he was named rookie of the year in 2013, and overseas circuits. His break through came with his victory at the Web.Com Tour’s 2017 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, which sealed a spot on the PGA Tour. In 2017-18, he notched four top 10s in 26 events.
”I’ve always believed golf is more of a marathon and a journey and not a sprint,” he said. “It’s one of those things if you keep working hard, keep your head down, keep focused, stay disciplined, results will follow.”
If anything, Uihlein appears overdue to win. After his two-week malaise, he began preparing for the Shriners Open and snapped his game back into shape.
“I just got back to work. I needed to adjust my mental approach a little bit and get back to being a lot sharper,” he said.
It paid instant dividends. Uihlein began his round at the 10th tee and made the turn at 3 under. He knocked down four consecutive birdies, added two more to go with a bogey and shot 30 on his second nine.
“I didn’t expect to see results like this so quick, but it’s nice,” he said. “If I stay disciplined and not try to press or force anything, results will follow.”