After moving to Las Vegas in January, Justin Suh barely had time to unpack before starting a busy stretch that included three PGA Tour starts and a trip to Oman for his European Tour debut.
When he returned home for the foreseeable future thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Suh figured he’d have some time to get settled into his new place, located near TPC Summerlin and TPC Las Vegas, where he splits his practice time. But that, too, was short-lived, as both TPC courses closed in early April, forcing Suh to uproot himself again.
Now, he’s in Phoenix, keeping his game sharp at TPC Scottsdale and waiting for a time when he not only can return home but also resume competition.
“I can’t wait to get back and work toward my goal of getting to the PGA Tour,” Suh said.
And rejoin his fellow All-American buddies.
Last summer, Suh, a four-year standout at USC, was one of the headliners of arguably the best crop of newly turned pros in more than a decade. At the Travelers in June, Suh’s second pro start, he joined Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland for a pre-tournament press conference introducing a four-pack of highly anticipated next big things.
So far, only three out of the four have taken off. Wolff won two weeks after the Travelers, at the 3M Open. Morikawa was victorious later that year at the Barracuda. Hovland was the most recent to grab career victory No. 1, doing so earlier this year in Puerto Rico.
Suh, who played in all three of those tournaments, missed five of his six Tour cuts last summer as he battled a nagging left-wrist injury. He was able to notch four top-10s on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, including a T-2 in Argentina, to earn full status for this year but missed advancing out of first stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School in Arizona last September.
“I was in a bad spot not only physically but also mentally,” Suh said. “All the bad golf I was playing, it’s a tough thing to overcome. Q-School was pretty brutal, a four-day stretch where every mistake seems so costly. You just have to keep level-headed and unfortunately, I didn’t and missed it by one shot.”
Suh admitted that while he enjoyed seeing his peers have instant success, it was “a little tough” to not be a part of it.
“Just because a lot of people are comparing me to them,” Suh said. “But personally, I’m thinking about my own career and my own goals of getting on the PGA Tour and winning on the PGA Tour. It doesn’t matter how I get there, I just trust that I will if I work hard.”
Since getting healthy, that hasn’t been a problem for Suh. While the results still haven’t been there – Suh has missed the weekend with all five of his sponsor invites on the PGA and European tours this season – he is starting to shed the hesitancy that marred him for much of last year. He continues to work with sports psychologist Kevin Sverduk and golf strategist Scott Fawcett on taking a more aggressive mindset to the course.
“I was playing it too safe,” Suh said. “I was pushing or pulling my irons into the safe spots of greens, leaving myself 30- to 35-footers and not giving myself birdie opportunities. I was basically waiting for birdies to come.
“But when I got to Pebble Beach [for the AT&T Pro-Am in February], my only goal was to pick more aggressive lines.”
He shot 67 in the first round.
He also posted 77 on that Saturday to miss another cut.
Knowing a PGA Tour card would take more than mental improvement, Suh recently called up his college coach, Chris Zambri, and began practicing the way he did at USC, where he was a four-time All-American, eight-time winner and world No. 1 amateur.
Through Zambri’s testing method, they measured Suh’s ability to get the ball on line with his full swing, knowledge of iron distances and all-around putting skills.
“The wind has been up almost every day he has tested so it’s hard to say [how his current numbers compared to his college numbers],” Zambri said. “I would say the major finding so far is that he was likely hooking it a bit more than he has in the past. I will be very interested to see how he does when we get some calm days.”
Suh figures to have plenty of time for those calmer days to come. Nevada’s stay-at-home order isn’t set to expire until April 30, and it’s possible that it will be extended. And while the PGA Tour is set to resume June 11, the Tour has yet to announce its updated Latin American schedule, which had eight events postponed and is currently slated to pick up again Aug. 20-23 in Brazil.
“Right now, we’re just feeling it out and waiting to see what happens,” said Suh, who is also uncertain how many opportunities he’ll have to Monday qualify for Korn Ferry Tour events.
Suh is preparing for every scenario, even one that sees his Latin American status being carried over to 2021 and no Q-School taking place this fall.
“That would be pretty upsetting, I’m not going to lie,” said Suh, who knows that would delay his PGA Tour aspirations another full year.
But he’s trying to stay patient. He is close friends with Tour pro Joseph Bramlett, who first earned his PGA Tour card in 2011, only a year out of graduating from Stanford, but then suffered a major back injury that kept him sidelined for five years. Bramlett regained his Tour card through the Korn Ferry Tour last year.
“Joe is like a big brother to me, and to see him go through so much out of college and now be back playing golf again on the PGA Tour, he just tells me, ‘It’s all worth it in the end. You just have to trust the process and let it happen,’” Suh said. “In the grand scheme of things, I’m still young, I still have plenty of time to get onto the PGA Tour. It’s just a matter of which route to take.”
Right now, that route is Highway 93, which runs between Las Vegas and Phoenix.
But Suh is hoping that someday soon a lane opens up alongside Morikawa and Co.