Now that John Hurley has gotten into his first PGA Tour tournament, even his short-game instructor said he’s waited for this day.
“I think it’s about time,” Omaha’s James Sieckmann said. “He’s had the ability and the talent to be out there. The margins for error are so small and he really can’t afford any.
“There’s a lot of little tricks to know and learn about being out there. Basically it’s experience and we’ll work on it. It’s also a matter of playing when there’s an opportunity and he’s gotten one.”
Hurley made it through a Monday qualifier to play in this week’s John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
The 25-year-old Texas A&M graduate from O’Neill, Neb., is in the 1:45 p.m. group Thursday and has an 8:30 a.m. tee time Friday.
Sieckmann, who runs the Shadow Ridge Golf Academy in west Omaha, started working with the long-hitting Hurley last summer. Their connection is an unnamed Shadow Ridge member who is one of Hurley’s sponsors.
“James completely changed my bunker setup and that’s improved a little. It got me through the (Deere) pre-qualifying tournament,” Hurley said. “I got up and down out of three bunkers in the last five holes to make it by a shot or two and advance.”
He said Sieckmann is teaching him how to make his wedge game better by keeping a constant rhythm and altering distance by the length of the swing and not by swinging faster or slower.
“He likes my tempo for chipping and pitching,” Hurley said.
Sieckmann said Hurley is a work in progress on shots from 40 to 140 yards, “which for him is a wedge.”
“He hits it so far,” Sieckmann said, “that he gets a lot of partial wedge shots, 80, 100 yards.”
He said Hurley’s length — the 6-foot-4 former basketball player can drive the green on some holes up to 375 yards — needs to translate into scoring, especially on par-5s.
“Tour courses are so difficult,” said Sieckmann, who has several PGA Tour pros as clients. “You have to hang in there on the par-3s and 4s and go crazy on the 5s.
“Their par-4s are like 495 yards and the par-3s are like 230, so you have to hang in there with big pars. You look at the tour stats and the guys at the top are about even par for the season on 3s, maybe 10 under on 4s and 380 under on the 5s. That’s where John needs to be great, and where he’s gotten a lot better.”
Also ahead for Hurley is working on his putting. Sieckmann said some of the recent breakout Tour players, like U.S. Open winners Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson, succeeded once they turned into great putters.
Hurley said he went through a stretch on the mini-tours the first half of the year in which he was going back and forth between putters.
“I’d been blaming the poor putting on the blade and not myself,” he said. “I’ve missed a lot of putts inside 10 feet and seemed to have one hole a round that was killing me. People may have seen scores and said, ‘John’s been struggling,’ but I haven’t been struggling. I’ve just been waiting for that day to turn on the switch.
“My putting got a little warmed up over the weekend and I guess saved all my birdies from the final round in Sioux Falls (a Dakotas Tour tournament) for when it mattered Monday.”
If this isn’t the weekend to make his dreams come true, then it’s back to the mini-tours with an eye on getting through the final PGA Q-School before the tour in 2013 changes how it determines the final 50 eligible players for the following season.
Hurley said he would play more Dakotas Tour stops while going to Monday qualifiers for the Cox Classic as well as two more cities on the Web.com Tour (the former Nationwide Tour), Springfield, Mo., and Kansas City.
“When it’s so hard for him to get opportunities to get into those kind of events, it’s about playing good whether it’s getting through Q-School, through Monday qualifying or into the next event,” Sieckmann said. “I think he’s ready.”
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