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Wesley Bryan aims for successful homecoming the first two weeks in April

By Bob Spear
Published on

HILTON HEAD ISLAND -- Jerry Reed sang his way to the top of the country music charts with lyrics that provide an ideal theme for the world of games: "When you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, you're not."

Like any athlete, Wesley Bryan knows the truth in those words, and this time a year ago, his golf game defined "hot."

Then, in the early stages of his rookie season on the PGA Tour, he had chased Dustin Johnson to the wire at Riviera and a week later could not quite catch Rickie Fowler at the Honda. He shared fourth in both tournaments, heady stuff for a guy with fewer than 15 PGA Tour tournaments.

A little more than a month later, the former Dutch Fork High and USC stalwart hit the mother lode -- winning the RBC Heritage in only his 18th PGA Tour tournament.

His quest today: recapture that magic that sent him soaring into the top 50 in the world golf rankings. His focus: reach that point the first two weekends in April, in the Masters and the Heritage.

MORE: Current unofficial field list for the 2018 Masters Tournament

"A work in progress," he said Monday in describing the state of his game today. "The results aren't showing, but my game is better than my scores."

His points of emphasis will be hitting more fairways and improving his putting, the latter negatively impacted by poa annua greens on the West Coast and the substandard surfaces the players encountered in the Honda that ended Sunday.

"I'm moving in the right direction, and this is the right time," he said at Monday's media day to promote the golden anniversary Heritage, set for April 12-15 at Harbour Town Golf Links.

The Masters and Heritage rank at the top of his favorites list and both can realistically be called "home tournaments." He and his wife, Elizabeth, live in Augusta -- "About seven and a half minutes from the front gate at Augusta National," he said. And he grew up around the Heritage, playing in junior tournaments and watching his dad, George III, compete in the main event.

He turned into Sea Pines Resort en route to Harbour Town for media day responsibilities, and the memories from Easter Sunday 2017 came flooding back:

-- The contingent of family and friends following in his wake and cheering his every move

-- The string of four consecutive birdies -- Nos. 4-7 -- that put him nipping at the leaders' heels

-- The birdie at 13 to pull even and another at 15 to take the lead

"I knew from the start if I made a few (birdies), I would have a chance, and I thought I would need one more (birdie)," Bryan said. "But it was a weird day in that there was not a lot of movement behind me.

"I proved I could get in contention, hit the shots I needed to, and I could win on the Tour. The whole thing is pretty special."

The Heritage's golden anniversary celebration promises to be special, too; the world's No. 1 player, another native son and former Dutch Fork star named Dustin Johnson, will be in the field for the first time since 2009.

In town to shoot a commercial, Johnson popped into the media day activities Monday and rejected the idea that the tight Harbour Town course would dilute his chances to win.

"If I'm playing well, the course doesn't matter," he said, noting he likely would be hitting 2-irons off a lot of tees in the Heritage.

Bryan laughed at the thought of Johnson's power and said, "I'll still be hitting driver."

And if his plans come to fruition, his game will be "hot" again -- at just the right time.

This article is written by Bob Spear from The State and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.