The conversation on Monday between Adam Long and his performance coach started with Josh Gregory making the point to Long – a St. Louis native whose Twitter account is @aLongShot – that it wasn’t a dream, that it did happen.
Yes, Long did really beat Phil Mickelson in the Desert Classic. Yes, he did become a 500-to-1 long-shot winner with a birdie on the 72nd hole. Yes, he did it all with Mickelson, hoping to win his 44th career Tour victory, watching nearby. In his sixth PGA Tour start, in the last group on Sunday for the first time in a Tour event, the long shot established himself as a bonafide late-bloomer in the setting desert sun.
“The first question to me was, we have to talk about my schedule,” Gregory said with a laugh while boarding a plane to San Diego.
Ranked 417th in the world before his win on the Stadium Course, Long had no schedule. Left out of fields in Vegas and Mexico during the fall, Gregory estimated Long would have been eighth or ninth among the alternates hoping to play this week’s Farmers Insurance Open.
Now, they are not only in Torrey Pines, but also the Masters, PGA Championship, The Players and the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Long told Gregory he was more nervous in the starter’s tent when he met Mickelson than he was on the course – and it showed with his approach shot off a hanging lie on the 72nd hole and the ensuing birdie putt he made to change his life.
Gregory, who also works with Masters champion Patrick Reed, told Long on Saturday night that nobody expected him to even play in LaQuinta, so he had nothing to lose.
In actuality, he had everything to lose.
“He was shocked at how calm he was, and how proud he was,” relayed Gregory.
So calm was Long that he made a late decision to hit 7-iron instead of 6-iron for his final approach shot. Wanting to put a club in his hand where he had to hit it hard, not wanting to steer it, Long processed the awkward lie and stuck it to 13 feet.
This is when the words of famed psychologist Bob Rotella kicked into high gear.
In their sessions, Rotella would tell Long that if he was going to play golf, he should play golf to play great, that he should respect his own game more than anybody’s.
“You have to get into your mind that you’re in your own little world,” Rotella said Monday. “Nobody can steal the ball, block your shot, tackle you, punch you in the mouth. You’ve got to go out and play the game to find out. He found out.”
Long found out by gutting the putt. He got lost in his own little world, went to school on Mickelson’s line, and was unflappable.
Rotella is a big believer that you find out how to play golf when everything isn’t pure. And that was certainly the trend in Long’s career. This was only his sixth start, but it took him until age 31 to get there. It had been a long time since O.D. Vincent, the former Duke golf coach, sat him down and told Long he had the talent to make it playing professional golf – if that’s what he wanted to do.
There was nothing that would wow Vincent – except the progress that Long would keep making every year. Vincent told me he could see the light bulb go on in Long’s head when they talked about playing on the PGA Tour. It just took him a long time to get there – after stretches when he wasn’t puring it, when he was leaving tour events in total frustration, when there wasn’t a spot for him in the field.
“Adam just has this really steady, quiet confidence,” Vincent said. “He’s a guy that knows himself extra well.”
The guys that play with him at The Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Fla. – players like Daniel Berger, Adam Svensson, Steve Marino and Corey Conners – could see that come out in their five-man wolf games.
So could Joe Webster, the owner of The Dye. “Adam’s just a real quiet kid, kind of dedicated to his career guy,” is how Webster described Long. “He plays in games with everybody. He really focuses on what he’s doing.”
Monday, Long was walking the South Course at Torrey Pines, focusing on the layout. Next week, it will be TPC Scottsdale. After that, he’s got Pebble Beach, Riviera and the Florida swing on the way to Augusta.
These are options he always wanted playing the Web.com Tour and the Latinoamerica Tour, and just about every Tour that would take him. And now, the long shot has become a reality.