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Again at Utah Championship, Patrick Fishburn in hunt for PGA Tour card

By Bob Judson - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Aug 4, 2023
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Patrick Fishburn tees off on the 11th hole during the first round of the Utah Championship on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
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Patrick Fishburn
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Patrick Fishburn looks at a putt on the 10th hole during the first round of the Utah Championship on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
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Patrick Fishburn putts during the first round of the Utah Championship on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.

FARMINGTON -- Momentum can be a funny thing.

And not always ha-ha funny.

Four short days ago, former Fremont High and BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn tied for first at the NV5 Invitational in Illinois, shooting 25-under, but lost on the second hole of a playoff.

So coming into the Utah Championship on Thursday, would he be hyped over his first top-of-the-heap tie on the Korn Ferry Tour or downtrodden at the disappointing, extra-hole loss?

Either way, or neither way, according to Fishburn, he shot an uninspired, one-over-par 72 in the first round of the tournament held at Oakridge Country Club.

"Some weird stuff went on out there today. It's just an off day in golf that happens. You can shoot 62 one day and shoot 70 the next," Fishburn said Thursday. Hopefully tomorrow it's closer to the 62; better than what I did today."

Fishburn has a lot of reasons to hope for a good finish in the Utah Championship, another step in his goal to qualify for his PGA Tour card. He entered the weekend 15th in the standings on the Korn Ferry Tour, which plans to award 30 of the coveted cards based on those standings and which has just a couple of tournaments left.

Last year, the Korn Ferry Tour issued 25 PGA Tour cards and Fishburn finished 28th, just missing by a mere two strokes to qualify.

"I was very disappointed that night, but got over it the next day and started preparation for this year," Fishburn said. "It didn't last long. I was excited to get back at it and try again. I've got a good chance; after this round today, seven more rounds."

Statistics may be mundane, but a quick review of Fishburn's past performances that have gotten him to where he is currently on the Korn Ferry Tour could be in order.

He was a Region 1 standout in basketball in 2011, along with his prowess in golf (side note: his sister is the mother of current Region 1 star and Fremont senior guard Hunter Hansen).

Fishburn went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Nashville, Tennessee, and returned to continue his golf career at BYU where he was not an immediate success story.

"It's a hard decision, whether you're doing sports or anything in life, but it's what I felt I needed to do. I was better because of it. A lot better mentally; I could handle things on the course better," Fishburn said of his mission.

"But it took me a full year to get my game back. My first qualifying round at BYU, I shot 91," Fishburn said. "It took a long time to figure out how to play again ... definitely pushed things back a little bit, but I probably wouldn't be here if I hadn't gone on a mission."

Fishburn turned pro in 2018 and joined the PGA Tour Canada in 2019. He took fifth on the money list there to step up to the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020.

Over the 2020-21 season, Fishburn had a ranking of 71st on the regular season points list with eight top-25 finishes and made 26 cuts in 41 events.

In 2022, he finished 49th on the regular season points list, again with eight top-25s, made 13 cuts, then was on the bubble for one of the 25 PGA Tour cards available via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, but finished in that 28th slot. Fishburn was ninth on the tour in greens in regulation.

He tied for second at last year's Utah Championship, closing with a final round of seven-under 64 and finished at 20-under.

"Each year, parts of my game are getting better. I'm hitting it very consistently and I rank one or two in greens in regulation this year. I definitely can improve on my putting from between 6 and 15 feet," Fishburn said. "Those are good ball-striking stats. I've been driving it well, just managing my game on the golf course. Limiting bogeys and mistakes."

The money has gotten better also, as Fishburn made $142,373 in 2022 and has taken in $239,274 this season. It doesn't hurt that the purses went up from $600,000 to $1 million and the playoffs will be $1.5 million. His career earnings are $558,047 on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Then, there was the near miss at the NV5 Invitational at Chicago last week.

Fishburn got into the playoff with an eagle on the 72nd hole to tie Trace Crowe at 25-under.

"I hit two great shots to get to the green and have a chance," Fishburn said. "I had about a 35-footer and happened to roll it in and get me into the playoff."

Both players birdied the par-5 18th on the first playoff hole, where it looked like Fishburn would finally claim his first tour victory.

"I had two great shots and had about a 15-footer for eagle, but Trace nailed about a 40-footer for birdie," Fishburn said. "Before he made that, I thought I would have a little two-putt birdie to win."

On the second playoff hole, No. 18 again, Fishburn made just the slightest of mistakes and it cost him the title.

"I hit two pretty good shots; I felt like I was swinging so good. Maybe I shouldn't have taken dead aim, but I pushed it 3 yards. A couple of yards left and it would have been perfect. The margins are so thin," Fishburn said.

Crowe made par and Fishburn was bridesmaid again.

Which brings us to this year's Utah Championship.

Fishburn played the front nine Thursday and scored a non-descript, two-over 37, carding two bogeys and seven pars.

His biggest boo-boo of the day came when he hit his drive on No. 10 (No. 1 on non-tournament days) into a pine tree and it didn't come out. Fishburn had to walk back up to the tee box and re-hit and was sitting three, finishing with a double-bogey six.

Momentum -- there's that word again -- then switched when Fishburn eagled the par-5 11th, pulling even on the back nine after two holes in an unusual way.

"In golf, you better have a short memory or you're going to have a short career. I had two great swings on 11," Fishburn said.

He then birdied No. 12, almost driving the green, and closed the round with six straight pars.

"I was 4-over through 10 and finished 1-over, so I can't really complain too much,' Fishburn said. "I came back a little bit and I could still shoot a low one tomorrow and make the cut and see what happens on the weekend."

If anything, the weather had as much of an effect on Fishburn's round as anything. He teed off in the morning and rain halted play on the second hole. The restart was an hour later, with an iffy forecast. A second downpour in the afternoon paused play again and not all players finished their first rounds Thursday.

"It was kind of weird, with the rain. I thought we were going to play in the rain all day, so I kind of changed the setting on my driver, which isn't a good setting for when it's not raining," Fishburn said. "Going out there playing ... and not very much rain, I didn't play very well today, didn't hit it very good."

Perhaps those changes to his driver led to four bad shots that Fishburn pulled left, including the tree on No. 10 and a ball out of bounds on No. 7 that led to a bogey.

"Adjusting my driver before the round wasn't a good idea. I never usually miss it left; mostly I miss it to the right. You never know," Fishburn said. "Just one of those days where timing and rhythm were a little bit off and it was hard to get it back.

"I had some decent putts that didn't go in (no three-putt greens), but it's one of those things where I wasn't really sharp with any of the clubs in the bag, so hopefully I come out tomorrow firing."

Fishburn was tied for 134th after the first round and in danger of missing the cut Friday.

"Things can change in a hurry, but you have to be patient," Fishburn said. "All you can do is break it down to what your next shot is going to be like. Put one in the fairway and put one close to the green and try to get some momentum going the other way."

Fishburn's tee time Friday wasn't until 1:25 p.m. as Thursday's several rain storms stopped play enough times that not everyone finished their first round that day. But he came out firing with that next-shot mentality and birdied his first three holes.

He got to 4-under through the front nine before a bogey on 10, the same hole that gave him trouble Thursday. But birdies on holes 12, 13 and 16 pushed Fishburn near the line to where he might keep playing through the weekend.

Seven birdies makes for a good round but he may have needed one more. Pars on 17 and 18 put Fishburn at 5-under for the tournament. When he finished his round and with several golfers still on the course, the projected cut line sat at 6-under.

So it may take Fishburn into the next couple weeks on the Korn Ferry Tour to secure that PGA Tour card.

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