Eason scores redemption, takes on haters

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Greg Eason: Name sound familiar?

He’s the Web.com Tour player who failed to break 90 in his first three rounds of the year.

91-95-90.

Good speeds for a major-league pitcher. Bad scores for a professional golfer.   

Someone on social media suggested that the 24-year-old Englishman take up another sport, like tennis.   

Another asked if he was actually playing in a Golf Channel Am Tour event.

One even asked for his phone number, to see if he could play in their Saturday game at the club.

Eason was one step from the PGA Tour, but he never felt further away.

“It was horrible,” he said by phone Wednesday from the Bahamas. “It was genuinely worrying. I was thinking about not coming out here to play these events. It’s a horrible feeling when you’re teeing it up and playing against some of the guys who are going to be in great form, but you know it’s going to be difficult for yourself to make the cut.

“That was the hardest bit about it. You’re not playing well, you hadn’t seen good shots in a while, and you’re waiting for it to click. It’s madness, really.”

There was little to suggest he was capable of these blowup rounds.

A former top-10 amateur in the world, Eason has been a steady presence on the developmental circuit. Last year he had one top-10, three top-25s and missed only seven cuts in 24 starts. With more than $64,000 in earnings, he finished 74th on the money list.

Even more telling: His worst score, in 82 rounds played, was an 81. 

But there were warning signs entering the year. He couldn’t keep his driver on the planet, missing both ways. Then Mother Nature intervened, and Web.com players were greeted by 45-mph winds in the season opener. It resulted in the tour’s highest cut ever, 11 over par.

Eason was 42 over.

“I had no chance, to be honest,” he said. “It was petrifying to stand on the tee and not know where it’s going.”

After a week of practice at home in Orlando with his swing coach (and former coach at UCF) Bryce Wallor, Eason returned to the Bahamas eager for a redemptive performance. All he got were a few more layers of scar tissue.

Eason was already 8 over for the day when he came to the 18th, a 572-yard par 5 that played as the third-easiest hole Monday. He hit five drives, none of them good. He found his third provisional, which was unfortunate. From the hazard he took a few hacks, and a few more drops, and his score piled up.

Live scoring has been unreliable, so initially there was some doubt as to his score on the hole. But then it was confirmed: Two weeks after losing 32 balls in two days, Eason had carded a decuple-bogey 15.

“An absolute nightmare,” he said. “I can’t even remember making a 10 before.”

Rather than withdraw – “I really never saw myself quitting” – Eason had a range session late Monday with fellow competitor Rhein Gibson that turned around his game. Gibson noticed that Eason’s downswing was too steep, creating spinny shots that were blown off-line by the gusty winds. “It was a pretty simple fix,” Eason said, and for an hour he felt as though he was playing a push draw. He smoked a few drives down the center. 

“On the tee Tuesday, I felt better than I’ve felt in months,” he said. 

Eason was solid. Sharp, even. Starting on the back nine, he made six consecutive pars before a birdie on the par-4 16th.

Then came 18, the source of his latest embarrassment, the hole where he recorded the worst score in the history of the Web.com Tour. He made 4. Birdie.

He added a pair of birdies on the inward nine for the bogey-free, 4-under round – 22 shots better than Monday.

That, too, is a record. For the largest turnaround in a Tour-sanctioned event.

“It was one of the most pleasing rounds of golf I’ve had in a while,” he said.

Reenergized, he spent the rest of the afternoon with friends, kayaking to a nearby island with a cooler full of beers. “A lovely way to celebrate, really,” he said.

Eason isn’t active on social media, but he felt compelled to tap out a tweet Tuesday night:

It was retweeted more than a thousand times. Anyone who has played bad golf knew the feeling.

“To be honest, I thought the criticism was a little unfair,” he said. “I played three rounds of bad golf on some pretty tough courses in bad conditions. It’s amazing how small people will make you feel for shooting a couple of scores in the 90s. Like, you really feel belittled. And so it’s a whole other challenge of getting yourself out of that hole that you’re in.

“I tried as hard in that round as any round I’ve played. I really wanted to prove to everybody jumping on the bandwagon that I’m absolutely fine.”

Eason has a week off before the Web.com Tour season resumes, in Colombia. He’s more hopeful than he’s been in months.

“That round really has changed my mindset,” he said. “This was a massive step in the right direction, to be able to cure and get over something that was personal and a deep-rooted problem. It’s just enlightening to me that you can get through adversity on the golf course.

“Now, I feel fantastic. I feel like I could take on the world at the minute.”