NAPA, Calif. – Scott Pinckney had played only two PGA Tour events before making his debut as a member in the Frys.com Open last week. One was the U.S. Open at Congressional. The other was the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
That's not to say the 25-year-old Utah native doesn't get around.
Pinckney is another American who spent his early years traveling the world as part of the European Tour or Challenge Tour. He didn't get as much attention as Peter Uihlein, who earned his European Tour card by winning, or Brooks Koepka, who won three Challenge Tour events to reach the European Tour.
That's mainly because he didn't have a lot of success, though it would be wrong to assume it was a waste of his time.
"It toughens you up," Pinckney said after he tied for 31st at Silverado. "When you're over here and play bad, you can say, 'I'll just go home, sleep in my bed.' You go back to your comfort place."
There is no such comfort place after missing the cut in Spain or Norway or Russia.
"You go back to your hotel room and figure it out," he said. "I couldn't hop on a flight and be home in 15 hours. I just had to figure out a way to get it done and better. It toughened me up and made me a more mature player."
Pinckney didn't travel by choice.
He qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open, where he ran into an old friend – more on that later – and then played the U.S. Amateur Public Links before turning pro and getting a few sponsor invitations in Europe. Pinckney failed to get to the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School, but he shot 65 on the last day of European Tour Q-School in Spain to earn his European Tour card.
Because he was low on the priority list, it wasn't long before he stopped getting in tournaments. Pinckney stayed overseas and played the second-tier Challenge Tour the rest of 2012 with limited success, but no regrets.
"I had to get two passports," he said. "They were full from stamping it every week. But you go to some cool places."
Pinckney made it to the finals of PGA Tour Q-School at the end of 2012, which gave him limited status on the Web.com Tour. He finished second at Q-School last year for full status, and came through in the Web.com Tour Finals to earn his shot on the PGA Tour, which is where he wanted to be all along.
Pinckney, who graduated from Arizona State three years ago, is in the middle of the pack in the priority ranking coming out of the Web.com Tour Finals. He plans to play everything he can in the fall, and his tie for 31st wasn't a bad start.
As for that friend of his?
Pinckney rarely gets through an interview without someone bringing up Rory McIlroy, who won that U.S. Open at Congressional with a record score (268). They met at the Doral Junior Public Links when both were 9 – Pinckney was runner-up to McIlroy. Two years later, when McIlroy spent a summer in America, he stayed with Pinckney in Utah.
Fifteen years later, they're both on the PGA Tour – and traveled some distance to get here.