Will Gordon hits his drive on the 18th hole on Friday in the Travelers Championship.
By Joel Beall
CROMWELL, Conn.—Life on the PGA Tour can be a cozy existence. Assuming, that is, a player has status. Will Gordon does not. On any tour in 2020 for that matter.
“Correct,” Gordon confirms.
The 23-year-old did have membership on Canada’s Mackenzie Tour, but that was canceled due to the coronavirus. “My initial reaction was just kind of roll with the punches and take it in stride,” Gordon says of his career seemingly being put on pause, “and try to make the most of any opportunity I do get.”
Through two rounds, he’s making the most of the opportunity he received from the Travelers Championship. Playing on a sponsor’s exemption, Gordon turned in rounds of 66 and 62 to take the early Friday lead at TPC River Highlands, and finished the day tied for second, one stroke back of leader Phil Mickelson.
“After seeing the scores yesterday morning I knew that it was going to be gettable this morning,” Gordon said after his eight-under round on Friday. “Just tried to come into today with a really positive mindset and aggressive mindset, and I was able to do that and execute early. Whenever I get that momentum early, I usually don’t let it go, so I was pretty proud of myself and how I hung in there early.”
If the name isn’t familiar, you haven’t been paying attention. Gordon has posted three top-25 finishes in six starts this season, highlighted by a T-10 in the fall’s RSM Classic. His prowess, like so many of the under-30 ilk, has been predicated off power: Heading into Cromwell, Gordon ranked 21st on tour in strokes gained/off-the-tee.
However, his success so far at TPC River Highlands has been through the putter. With the afternoon wave still playing, Gordon has gained more than five strokes on the field on the greens this week.
“My putter really saved me yesterday,” Gordon said Friday. “Today I knew if I came out with a little bit better commitment and a more aggressive mentality that I could get the ball closer to the hole because the wind would lay down and I’d be a little bit more comfortable today.”
That is an understatement. Gordon racked up eight birdies in his first 11 holes on Friday, sounding the sub-60 sirens. He managed just a birdie in the final seven for “only” a 62.
“You’ve just got to kind of continually adjust, especially into the green, the ball is bouncing a lot more,” Gordon said. “As the greens get quicker and firmer, though, the wind starts to affect it a little bit, so you’ve got to be aware of that. But overall you’ve got to trust the compass and trust where you think the wind is and roll with it.”
Gordon knows a bit about navigation. Each year brings a wave of new faces to professional golf from the amateur level, each class seemingly more remarkable than the last. In fact, it was this week last year when recently-turned pros Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Justin Suh sat on a dais in the Travelers media center. “This group that’s here before us today, what a bright future they have,” a moderator crooned. Those words came to fruition faster than most imagined, with Wolff and Morikawa winning on tour later that summer and Hovland capturing his first title in February.
Star-studded as that crew is, they were not the only talents to emerge from the college ranks last year. An All-American and SEC Player of the Year at Vanderbilt, Gordon went north to begin his career, making nine starts on the Mackenzie circuit. He finished 21st on the tour’s Order of Merit, and added made cuts at the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship and Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship.
Alas, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gordon is currently a golfer without a home. “The uncertainty of having kind of 18 months and being kind of at the mercy of the Monday qualifiers and sponsor exemptions makes you really thankful for the opportunities you do have,” Gordon said.
A high finish at the Travelers can alleviate those worries, and a win would do so much more.
“I’m just going to try to continue to play good golf and see what happens,” Gordon said.
For the moment, Gordon is on the outside of that cozy lifestyle. But through two days in Cromwell, he sure looks comfortable in his surroundings.