Champions Tour > Greater Gwinnett Championship

| April 17, 2015

Bryant Bart PGA

DULUTH —  Bart Bryant is keeping his eye on the prize.

Bryant is off to an excellent start to the 2015 Champions Tour season. After five events, he’s tops on both the Charles Schwab Cup points and Money List.

In 15 tournament rounds, his scoring average of 69.07 is the best on the Champions Tour.

For Bryant, the success comes from perspective.

“You’ve just got to play your game, keep the ball in front of you and you’ll do fine in the end,” he said.

Bryant, named the Champions Tour Player of the Month for January/February, has followed that formula this year. He’s got four top 10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes at the ACE Group Classic, where he lost a playoff to Lee Janzen, and the Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

This week at the third Greater Gwinnett Championship, Bryant is looking to add a first win of the season. In two previous starts at TPC Sugarloaf, he finished T7 in 2013 and T16 last year.

Bryant, a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR, suffered an injury to his left wrist near the end of the 2009 PGA TOUR season. Two surgeries sidelined him for almost three years. In November, 2012, he celebrated his 50th birthday and within a year had his first Champions Tour victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

Bryant’s best year on the PGA TOUR came in 2005. He won twice – at the Memorial Tournament and The TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, just a short drive from where the Champions Tour is this week in Duluth, Georgia. The first victory of his career came at the 2004 Valero Texas Open.

Bryant has also endured elbow and rotator cuff surgery over the years. But he’s content that his health is good enough to allow him to compete and his mental approach has been strong.

“It’s been a really good year,” Bryant said.

He laments failing to close out either of his runner-up finish this year.

“I just have to give myself some more opportunities to maybe get it done,” he said. “I think I’m just kind of maybe getting a little more comfortable out here after being (sidelined) for three years and then playing for two years getting a little more comfortable with my game again.

“I have a couple of shots I didn’t have when I first came back. Starting to develop a little fade shot which I used to have on the TOUR but I haven’t had since I came back. My strength being a little stronger I actually have a 3-wood I can hit up in the air and carry, which I couldn’t do when I first came out here.”

The entire package gives him a sharper competitive edge.

“I just have a little more arsenal, maybe a little better mental game,” he said.

“I’ve been driving the ball extremely well, keeping it in the fairway, keeping it front of me,” Bryant said. “As long as you do that, you’re going to do pretty well. And my putter has been awfully good, too.”

Bryant has hit 77 percent of the fairways off the tee. He’s No. 2 in putting average (1.684), behind only Scott Hoch (1.649).

Bryant finished top 10 in eight of his 22 starts last year, but never higher than fifth. Early in 2014, he was top seven in four of seven starts.

All those good things are required on the Champions Tour, he said, because of the level of competition.

“It’s the same every week,” Bryant said. “Every week you have great players. You might be missing a couple this week and adding a couple the next week but that’s life on the Champions Tour. For the most part you have strong, quality fields every week.”

The Greater Gwinnett Championship is an example. The defending champion, Miguel Angel Jimenez, is coming directly from Augusta National and the Masters. Jimenez claimed the title at Greater Gwinnett title in his Champions Tour debut. Jimenez made 15 birdies and an eagle in 54 holes at TPC Sugarloaf.

Jimenez already has a victory this year. He won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai in January.

Bernhard Langer, winner of the Greater Gwinnett in 2013 and runner-up last year to Jimenez, also is making the two-hour trip from Augusta, along with Mark O’Meara, the low senior at the Masters. Jimenez and Langer missed the cut at Augusta. O’Meara shot 4-under 68s in the second and fourth rounds to finish T22.

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