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Pierceson Coody goes low to move into contention at Bay Hill

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Published in Golf
Saturday, 04 March 2023 07:26

ORLANDO, Fla. – If Pierceson Coody’s grandfather, Masters champion Charles Coody, has taught Pierceson and his twin brother, Parker, anything, it’s to hit it low. That advice served Pierceson Coody well late Friday afternoon at a windy Bay Hill, where Coody posted three back-nine birdies to shoot 1-under 71 and punch his ticket to the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

A day later, bettors who bought low on Coody were rewarded with a third-round 66 that vaulted Coody into contention.

A week earlier at the Honda Classic, Coody backed up an opening 66 with a second-round 75 to squeak inside the cut line. He nearly cost himself two more rounds at Arnie’s Place, flying a wedge into the back bunker at the par-4 finishing hole, catching a plugged lie and leaving his third shot in the rough. But Coody would roll in a 3-footer for bogey and end up two shots clear of the players headed home early.

Coody and his former Texas teammate Cole Hammer later sat in Bay Hill’s locker room and soaked up the moment. Neither were particularly high on the leaderboard – Hammer in a share of 41st, Coody T-53.

Not exactly knocking down the door, yet the two sponsor invitees were excited to be on the first tee again in just over 12 hours.

“Why not just go out and have a great round?” Coody said of their mindset. “With the way the money is (over $100,000 to solo 36th this week) and everything, and where we are in our careers, like, it’s just an opportunity and it’s a lot of fun to be doing it together.”

Hammer is using his fifth of seven allotted exemptions, though should he finish solo 20th or better on Sunday, he’d be able to secure unlimited invites as a special temporary member. His 75 Saturday, mostly a byproduct of a double-double start, didn’t improve his chances, but Hammer was hardly discouraged.

“It’s close. It’s really friggin’ close,” said Hammer, who will join Coody at the Valspar Championship in two weeks. “I’ve learned a lot about myself these past few months. I know I can do it. I just need to be able to tap into it every now and then.”

Like Coody did Saturday. Playing six groups ahead of Hammer as the fifth twosome off with David Lipsky, Coody, already a two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour despite two major injuries in the past 15 months, seemed miles behind leader Kurt Kitayama to start the day (10 shots to be exact).

But if there was an advantage to waking up early, it was calmer conditions.

Coody ducked the expected gustier afternoon weather and got off to blazing start, birdieing five of his first nine holes thanks to some stellar ball-striking. Three of those putts came from outside 10 feet but none of those were longer than 17 feet. He had a tap-in at the difficult par-4 ninth, and even missed a 6-footer for eagle at the par-5 fourth.

Things cooled off on the back side, though Coody was still able to birdie two of his final three holes to sit T-6 on the leaderboard at the time he finished play.

“That 5 under on the front nine was awesome,” Coody said. “It gave me an opportunity to shoot a great score like I did. The back nine's really tough. Those last four, five holes, you're kind of just holding on a little bit. You're still trying to push the needle to make a few more birdies, and luckily, I did today.”

Coody will get a week off after Valspar before returning for KFT starts in Savannah, Georgia, and Chile, as he looks to wrap up his PGA Tour card for next year. He has two more Tour starts on the horizon as well, at the Wells Fargo and hometown Byron Nelson.

“And then it’s back to KFT for the summer,” Coody added.

There’s a chance, however, that those summer plans could change. Coody will have a late tee time Sunday, and the former top-ranked amateur in the world won’t be intimidated rubbing elbows with Tour superstars with $3.6 million on the line for the winner.

Conversely, Coody, unlike his preferred ball flight, likely won't be flying under the radar either.

“He’s so good,” Hammer said. “Nobody should be surprised by this.”

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