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Big Game James: Driscoll perseveres

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – James Driscoll drilled his tee shot into a hazard on his 15th hole at Disney’s Palm Course in the first round of the Children’s Miracle Network Classic.

After taking a drop, he drilled another shot in a hazard.

When you’re No. 125 on the PGA Tour money list in the season-ending event, wayward shots hurt more.

Given those were his third and fourth balls lost in hazards Thursday, Driscoll wouldn’t have surprised his fellow competitors if he started digging in his bag for some ibuprofen.

So caddie Bill Harke studied his player’s face leaving the tee box, searching for signs that a long year’s struggle might finally be taking its toll.

For all the resolve Harke saw, Driscoll may as well have just split the fairway with his tee shot.

“It’s great to see that in James, how he can hit a shot in a hazard and not be discouraged,” Harke said. “His fight’s unbelievable, always has been.”

Driscoll chipped in to salvage a double bogey, then closed his round with back-to-back birdies.

With an opening 6-under-par 66, Driscoll showed Harke lots of fight. He made eight birdies, an eagle, two bogeys and a double bogey. He had runs of four birdies in a row near the start of his round, and a run of eagle-birdie-birdie to start his back nine, but he also had those errant shots.

Driscoll said he isn’t fazed as the bubble boy this week, as the guy holding the final exempt spot on the money list knowing he has to stay in the top 125 in the year’s final event to keep full status.

“I don’t look at 125 as that special of a number,” said Driscoll, who grew up in Brookline, Mass. “The guys at 120 through 190 are kind of all in the same position. Everyone of those guys needs a good week this week to avoid Q-School. I don’t think the position I’m in is any different than about 40 other guys here.”

Driscoll, 34, has been riding down the money list and toward the bubble for the last month.

“I’ve kind of been under the same pressure from Vegas up until now to make a few dollars and get out of this position,” Driscoll said. “I obviously haven’t done it, but hopefully things will start coming together.”

With four missed cuts in his last five starts, Driscoll was asked if there is torment thinking back on lost opportunities that could have improved his money position coming to Disney.

“I guess anybody out here could do that,” Driscoll said. “It’s kind of a useless process to go through. I mean, the last nine holes at Reno, I probably spent a few dollars. Anybody out here can look at a stretch of holes where they didn’t capitalize. But that’s the game. There are ups and downs. Everyone goes through the same stuff, so it doesn’t do any good to dwell on it.”

Those four shots into hazards had Driscoll marching to see his swing coach, Sean Foley, on the driving range at Disney after the first round. He began working with Foley at Quail Hollow in the spring.

“He’s got a lot of knowledge of the golf swing,” Driscoll said. “He likes a lot of things I do in my golf swing, so I knew he wasn’t going to change a lot of things. The things he’s given me are really simple and helped a lot. Hopefully, he can get me straightened out.”

Driscoll’s been through these money-list rigors before. A year ago, he arrived at Disney outside the top 150 in money and missed the cut. He endured a return to the second-stage of Q-School in a bid to get his Tour card back and made it all the way through.

“I knew there would be a little bit more media attention,” Driscoll said of his bubble-boy status this week. “Other than that, it didn’t really affect my attitude. Obviously, I would rather be about 30 on the money list, but it is what it is. You deal with it and try the best you can.”

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