Par Train Podcast Episode #27: Scott Langley – The Next Big Lefty on the PGA Tour

PGA Tour Pro Scott Langley (@Scott_Langley) joins the Par Train crew after capturing his first pro win on the Web.com only a few short weeks ago. Scott tells us why “lefties are on the rise and taking no prisoners”, pranks and stories inside the ropes, a tip he learned from Matt Kuchar that could change all our games and much more.

 

Ev: Lot of lefty success recently with Phil’s Top 5’s, Bubba’s win last week, Ted Potter’s win the week before, Harman’s playing well. How do you balance being more likely to be president, be the genius in the family, process things faster but also more likely to die sooner, booze more and be schizophrenic?
Langley: Based on that fact, sounds like we live full lives, you might say we live multiple lives, it’s a cross to bear for sure. Speaking of Brian Harmon, I heard Brian Harmon say one time that he’s never seen a lefty with a bad short game. I’m not gonna deny it what he said, there might be some truth to that. Our minds work more right brain, creative, I don’t know, but yeah the lefties are on the rise man and we’re taking no prisoners.

Stratt: So Scott I have a two-year-old who I’m trying to get into the game and he only swings left-handed, are you telling me that instead of sculling my chip shots 50 yards past the green, I should just start using his fisher-price left-handed clubs?
Langley: Get that right hand working, the sky is the limit.


Stratt: We had Mike Johnson on earlier last year, and he told us funny stories about the camaraderie on the Web.com Tour. What’s your go-to Tour story to tell when you’re in that random muni course 5some and the beers have been flowing?
Langley: It’s funny, there are so many different personalities out on Tour. Guys that are certain ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect. I’ll conceal their identities and not that the story is necessarily embarrassing, but it’s pretty funny and a couple of veteran guys that I’ve got to know really well, they’re super close friends. So they pull pranks on each other all the time and one year they were up at the Canadian Open, this was a long time ago probably 15 years ago, and one of the tournament events at night they had a pig roast and they invited all the players and all the members from the club. So like everybody’s up there and it’s a really casual environment and one of the guys goes up to the chef towards the end of the evening, and the chef is handling the giant pig and you know serving ham or whatever to everybody. The guy goes up to the chef, he’s like can I have the pig, please? Like no I just want the pig’s head, so they cut the head off, the player takes the pig’s head and goes into the locker room. Goes to the other player’s locker and get the locker open somehow put the pig head in the locker, put sunglasses on the pig, a cigarette hanging out of its mouth and stays there all night. So the other guy gets to the course the next day, and opens up his locker and sees this pig head just cheesing at him. Sunglasses, cigarette and everything in his locker for the entire week smelled horrible — his glove, the golf balls, rain gear everything was a disaster. There are a few more pranks back and forth to kind of get retribution but the one that really won the battle I feel like was the pig head in the locker.

 

Cerm: How would you compare your game in 2018 (Just got your first pro win) to when you were in college –  currently, a top web.com player to back then when you were one of the best amateur players in the world. (National champ, Low am at Pebble US Open, Won Palmer Cup in Europe)
Langley: I think so many years, the game just kind of evolved. In that evolution, you kind of have some high points and some inevitable low points, and if you want to talk about real low points you can reference the club pro guy, I’m sure you guys have heard of him. You know with me specifically I think I think my good golf today is better than my good golf was back then, and I would say my bad golf is way better than my bad golf used to be back then. So I would say my offense is a little bit better and my defense is way better because I’ve learned so many things about you know course management and my short game has improved to where you know if I’m not feeling it on any particular day I still feel like I can go out and stay in the golf tournament and not shoot myself out of it like I may have done you know back when I was in college or like early starting out as a pro. That’s just evolution you know the things you learn things you pick up playing with guys on tour, I watch a lot of guys when I play practice rounds, try and play with a lot of veteran players who have been out there for a long time and just pick up on what they do well because it’s not easy to stay on tour for you know 10, 15, 20 years. So whenever I see a guy that’s done that, I really try and pay attention to what they do well and you know, learn from that and apply to my own game. Who doesn’t want to play on tour for 10, 15 years in a row? So that’s probably the biggest difference now and my game now versus what it was you know eight years ago.

Stratt: What’s one of those things that you picked up from a veteran? We know that when your bad golf is still good enough to be competitive, that’s when guys start to really build up confidence. What is one of those tips that you’ve picked up that you can lean on if you’re not feeling good on any particular day?
Langley: The first three or four holes of every round Kuchar will play very conservatively, it doesn’t matter if he has a wedge into the first hole or whatever he basically aims at the middle of the green, the first four holes, and plays to par those holes and in doing so kind of gets a feel for what kind of command I have over my swing today, you know am I really clicking or am I’m missing it a little bit in a certain direction or both ways? This tells me how aggressive can I play the rest of the round. Not only do you uncover how you’re really feeling about your game, but in those four holes, you can also create momentum for the rest of your round. If I start out and I hit the middle of each green, I’m playing stress-free golf for the first four holes of the round and all of a sudden I feel like okay I’ve got a little momentum. Maybe then I can be a little more aggressive, you know, and still gotten off to a solid start. That’s something that I never used to think about when I started out playing. You know I used to always just play pretty aggressively right out of the gates and funny how sometimes even if you’re feeling great and you miss one shot — all of a sudden you’re short-sighted and make a bogey or a double which can set the tone for the day. Kuchar’s philosophy sets the tone in a very solid way which is more consistent and less stressful. So I try to apply this especially when you’re playing the tougher golf courses, just go out and play for pars early and kind of see how you’re really feeling. And when I pick a bigger or conservative target, it frees me up to swing better and with more freedom. If you come right out of the gates, you’ve got a 6-iron and you’re trying to get it into a tucked pin, it’s not a low-stress shot. Starting a round with the philosophy I have now, I want to play low-stress shots that I can swing aggressively and confidently at more conservative targets and then build my round off of a solid start.

Cerm: So to go back to college for a second, you won the NCAA National Individual Championship, won multiple tournaments and obviously learned a lot during your time there. I want to hear you talk about your coach Mike Small. For those that don’t know, Mike Small has been the head coach for Illinois for quite some time now and arguably the best coach in the country (especially being a Midwestern, cold-weather program). You talked about how he really talks a lot about the short game, but we want to know what it is about Mike Small that grooms future Tour Pros?
Langley: Yeah, I mean when I first committed to Illinois, coach Small was really the biggest reason. I knew I wanted to play golf professionally and knowing that he had done it and done it well, I thought that there are not many guys that would be better to learn from than him, and I was proven right over the four years I was there. Aside from the technical side of my game where he helped me immensely, especially with my short game, he really taught me how to play the game at a professional level. That comes down to pretty simple things but you wouldn’t necessarily think about it unless somebody coached you up to learn these things. Like a dogleg right, making sure you don’t miss your tee shot to the right and always playing to the fat side of the dogleg. Being conscious of where you want the ball to end up on the green to have the best look at birdie whether that’s short, long, right or left, and just developing kind of a blue-collar mentality when it comes to toughness and fighting through like tough conditions which we faced a lot going to Illinois. I definitely thank my teachers and everybody who helped me growing up and in St Louis for introducing me to the game and really providing a good foundation for me to build my swing and short game, but I really feel like Coach Small got me to the next level and taught me how to play the game, how to save shots, how to be efficient and how to travel. Things like the importance of routine and being prepared in all aspects of life to be a great golfer — not just when you tee it up on Thursday morning. There’s a professionalism and a kind of experience that he shared with us that you can’t really get anywhere else. It’s been super valuable for me.

Ev: I’ve always been fascinated by how a college golf coach designs their coaching style. It’s not like football where you can have everybody working on the same things and have a plan for everybody. Some golfers may like getting more technical help while others may need more mental assistance, more course management, fitness, etc. How’d Coach Small do it? Did he have a specific plan for each player?
Langley: 
Yeah, for sure and that’s where his experience really comes in and I remember at the start of each season we would kind of sit down with coach individually and look at our stats and assess our games and figure out what you need to improve. So we would have a combination of unstructured practice where we were off on our own but then also structured stuff that he would design to make us tougher. One of the things that we used to do was at the chipping green. It was a pretty nice facility at our at our orange and blue course out by the airport in Champaign, and the short game green is kind of like multi-tiered, had rough and you could get short-sighted easily. It presented you all kinds of shots and we used to do this drill where coach picks 5 holes that are really difficult up and downs and one easy up and down but the easy up and down would be the little hole, you know, like the one that’s barely bigger than a golf ball. So we had to finish the drill. Mind you, six holes, we had to finish the drill in 11 shots consecutively to be done. So that means you have to chip one in and get the rest up and down in a row if you miss one, you know you have to chip two in and restart the drill every time you fail. So all the guys a half-hour in, we’d be laughing, joking around and be having fun. Nobody would be getting it done, but we’d be like joking around. Then, like an hour and 15 minutes rolls around and everybody all of a sudden starts to get a little dark — like everybody wants to just get done. Clubs start flying, and it gets intense. I remember the first time we did it, my freshman year. A senior teammate of mine and myself didn’t get it done for like five hours and we were about to have to come back the next morning to finish since daylight was going away. We barely finished and finally did it right before the sun went down. I’ll never forget the feeling of satisfaction, and we were worn out but go figure, the next day we go out and play qualifying and my short game feels like I can chip anything in. It was a totally different feeling than I ever had with a confidence and belief. That’s the goal, and that’s a small example of what coach designed for us which built a toughness and fortitude to accomplish a task that is very difficult. You either get it done or you have to chip forever until you do. 

 

 

Ev: Your first tourney as a PGA Tour member, you shoot an 8 under 62 and then 4 under 66. 65 third round with lead going into Sunday. Finished T3. First, tell us about Saturday night, sleeping on the lead going into Sunday at your first PGA event as a member?
Langley: Yeah, obviously a great week I don’t think I’ve ever putted better for 72 holes, well maybe like 54 holes, I didn’t putt great on Sunday but sleeping on the lead was not something I was particularly used to, especially at the PGA Tour level. But it’s funny I just had this calmness. I really was excited to play and excited to be in that position and I guess you know being so green and a rookie, I probably didn’t even realize the weight of what was going on. I was just playing golf and enjoying it and like you said, I was playing with a lot of confidence and really felt like I had what that course required that week. I didn’t necessarily play badly on Sunday but I just got beat, you know two guys that played with me shot 63s on Sunday. I finished third, shooting 70, which isn’t a bad score but a great experience. It taught me a lot about maintaining my rhythm on Sunday when you’re in that position. I’m a young kid, there’s a lot of people, a lot at stake and I definitely look back on that round and some other rounds that I’ve been in contention where the human nature takes over, you get a little quick and you make mistakes because of that. So, as a matter of fact, a few weeks ago in Panama when we had four holes to go on Sunday to win, I turn to my caddie and I just said you know what, I don’t care what happens these next four holes, but we’re gonna keep our rhythm the same, walk at a steady tempo and we’re gonna take our time. And it paid off. I didn’t necessarily finish great, but it’s such a demanding golf course but was still able to get the job done. That’s just an example of something that I learned that day at the Sony that I carried forward with me until today. It’s kind of fun to come out early and put my name out there and now I have this reputation, after three rounds at the Sony, of making everything on the greens which isn’t a bad thing to be known as.

Ev: The crazy thing, Scott, is that was 2011. You had just won the NCAA National Championship, was low am at US Open at Pebble and probably thought “okay this is easy”. Can you talk about your journey and the grind of having that much success early but not getting your first pro win until 2018?
Langley: I mean I love to practice, I love to improve, and I love the grind so it hasn’t been tough to continue to fight to get better. I think the thing that I learned after that week and I’ve had some other like great weeks on tour, the next week can be tough. You really need to separate yourself from expectations after a great week and focus on the same stuff that got you there in the first place. Like you said, my first tournament as a member on the PGA Tour, I finished third place. That’s a great finish, being in contention, and maybe part of me expected to continue that play. I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing but maybe I put a little too much pressure on myself to live up to that performance, and that’s never a good thing. You don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself in golf. You know you want to play with freedom and make the game feel easy, that’s the goal. So that’s kind of the thing that I’ve learned to get better at is to not expect that I’m going to continue to play great unless I work hard and stick to my process and focus on the things that got me to those great peaks in my career. It’s not just gonna happen because it happened two or three weeks ago. I’ve got to keep my head down and continue to focus and that’s maybe something that took me a while to learn. I feel like I’ve learned it now, and it kind of comes with experience. Can’t really teach it if you haven’t experienced it.

Stratt: Given that you won the Palmer Cup (Collegiate Ryder Cup) for the US in 2010, what do you think are the most important aspects of team play success? Is it pre-tournament hazing of the rooks? Or is it a booze-fueled pre-round team tattoo adventure?
Langley: I think we should stay away from the lower back stamp (laughs), but playing on the Palmer Cup team was an amazing experience. I’m never played on the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, but some friends of mine have and I think take the tough thing about team plays when you’re playing with another guy you kind of put more pressure on yourself because it’s not just yourself that you’re playing for like every other week of the year. You’re playing for another guy and add all this on top of playing for the United States, which is a huge honor obviously. I think guys who in a good way can be selfish and just focus on themselves and their own golf — that’s when guys play the best, and you help each other but don’t put too much pressure on yourself because another guys fate is in your hands. I think if you look back to the Presidents Cup, we had a great team of guys. If we can get the same group of guys at the Ryder Cup that we had at the Presidents Cup, I really like our chances because these guys are all Bulldogs, ready to fight. It was an interesting group and really fun to watch because I know all these guys and I know that it was full of guys who were ready to go — ready to fight. I think if we can assemble a similar group to that that will be in good shape, but yeah I mean that team dynamic introduces a whole new part to golf, and I think if you can make it as individual as possible in that atmosphere, that’s the way you play well and that’s how you play how you normally do.

 

Ev: How do Web.com Tour caddies survive? Chesson Hadley (Player of the year on the Web) made $265K last year, Hossler (Now on PGA Tour) made $164K and the Web.com Tour money leader in 2017 made $368K. That’s $36.8K to the caddie!
Langley: That’s a good question, and we ask ourselves that same question sometimes thinking about our own guys and others that we that we see out on the road. I got to think that these guys are experts at saving money with travels. I mean these guys these guys are road warriors, I mean they drive from just like Portland Oregon to Columbus, Ohio. They split $39 a night Priceline hotel with like four other guys, it’s not a it’s not a comfortable life but the upside is what attracts guys to do it. I think especially if you’re like a young guy who loves golf and maybe you played but like you don’t quite have what it takes to play at the curl level. I think caddy and on the web would be kind of fun to be honest like you hang out with a bunch of guys, you’re inside the ropes, you definitely feel the heat of the moment if you’re in contention in there, you get that you get that bug a little bit. I know that there’s quite a few young guys that are caddie in this year and I think it’s great but no it’s not an easy life. Even on the PGA Tour it’s tough it’s there’s not a lot of job security so there’s quite a bit uncertainty with week to week if you’re going to be working, who you are going to be working for and only half the guys really make money every week. There are some guys who barely make anything even with making the cut after expenses — it’s a tough life. It’s the upside that attracts guys to do it. I think if you love the game and travel — it’s fun to see so many cool cities and get to go to so many unique places. It’s a fun life if you’re up for the grind. 


Ev: Also, do you approach the game differently with the differences in purses (i.e. Playing for $1,000,000 instead of $100,000 and making $35K at T30 vs. $3500 for a 30th on the Web)
Langley: 
Definitely is a big difference in the prize money. Earlier in my caree,r I’ve focused more on money and like what I was making each week with each shot, like what the last putt was worth on the last hole on Sunday but I don’t know, the more I played I’ve realized like you’re gonna make what you’re gonna make. You need to play golf and try and be your best and let that stuff take care of itself — not even pay attention to it. I’ve learned how fine the line really is and so I grind over every single shot, no matter what tournament I’m playing in because you never know. I kind of learned the hard way. A couple years ago I finished 127th on the FedExCup list and I lost my card by 10 FedExCup points which over the course of the season is probably one putt at a tournament. So I kind of learned the hard way — no matter where it is in the season, you’ve got to grind it out because you never know what that putt or shot could mean later in the year. When it comes down to where am I gonna play next year, am I gonna make the FedEx Cup, and am I gonna make the Web finals, even though it might be worth less money on the Web Tour, that putt for $500 on the last hole on Sunday, there are guys every year who missed their PGA Tour card by $50 or $60 — the line is that fine. So you just gotta give every shot the utmost importance and all of your focus, and that’s golf — you can never let up until you’re done

Cerm: Can you talk a little bit about that weekly PGA and Web.com event shuffle? Let’s say in March to get yourself into a PGA Tour event, if you’re going to do any Monday qualifiers on the PGA Tour and how you keep your mind right with the atmosphere constantly changing?
Langley: From a big-picture perspective for me this year, I have a number in my mind that I want to make before I focus on any PGA Tour events. So once I get there then I’ll start to think about maybe pursuing some exemptions or maybe Monday qualifying for some tournaments, but the best thing I can do for myself right now is to focus on the Web Tour and do my best out there. It’s not as glamorous no doubt but I think the investment is a good one. The Web schedule is set up in such a way where if I really wanted to I could go and grind out some Monday qualifiers, I could go and pursue some exemptions but then all of a sudden, if I get in and play, I lose an off week which is valuable in the middle of the season on the Web. It can be such a grind. Last summer I played 10 tournaments in a row which thankfully this summer I won’t have to do partly because of the way the schedule is set up but also because of the position I’m in now. I’m not fighting to make the Web Finals — I’m secure in my status for the next couple of years so I can plan my schedule a little. I mean you can’t expect to play well playing 8 or 10 weeks in a row. It’s just so tough physically and mentally to do. I saw Phil get interviewed at Riviera last week after he goes and finishes in the top five in his last three tournaments and the lady interviewing him was like “Why don’t you play Honda? You’re playing so great.” Phil’s like I definitely see that point, but I’ve learned that it just as important to have off weeks to physically and mentally recover and come back for bigger tournaments later in the Spring.


 

Stratton: I hear you’re a big 1st Tee nutrition bar guy, I’ve heard through the grapevine if you eat a 10th Tee on the 1st Tee you can add 100 yards to your tee shot… care to discuss?
Langley: I like to keep them up inside the line, 1st Tee bar at the first. 10th Tee Bar at the tenth. I’ve heard a rumbling of guys who have experimented and I don’t think the effects were negative…

Ev: Why do so many guys win after they’ve had a bad run? For example, we always see a guy win after missing 4 consecutive cuts, etc. Do you think these guys just get back to basics when having bad form and that type of simple mentality promotes success?
Langley: I would say it is true. I think the line is so fine, and it’s so competitive on the PGA Tour / Web.com Tour. You don’t necessarily see if they finished 150th or if they finished 71st and missed the cut by a shot. So you can have a guy who misses three cuts in a row and he’s striping it but just not making any putts. He misses each cut by one or two and then he gets the putter figured out and then wins! That’s that’s much parity there is on Tour. Guys are so good and so equal with the exception of your superstars who are seemingly in the mix every week. So there’s so much parity that it makes a streak like that not seem like a strange thing to me as a player. You see it all the time. It’s just the way guys can be sometimes with a specific mindset. If a guy is maybe more aggressive, maybe he has a career that looks more like that – missed cuts where he’s missing in the wrong places and then all of a sudden he stripes everything close and wins. But at the end of the day, it’s also just golf — it’s such a fickle game. I won in Panama and then the next week they go to Bogota, play a golf course which probably suits my game even better than Panama. I hit 32 greens in regulation for two days, I missed four greens and I shoot two over, and I missed the cut. I go from having probably one of my best putting weeks ever when I won to probably one of my worst putting weeks ever the next week. That’s just the way golf is, and I did the exact same stuff — I prepared the same way, same drills, felt the same. Sometimes the putter just doesn’t cooperate and you have these funny results. So many people in the media make such a big deal about results. When you look at a guy’s career, you’re like oh, a guy missed a few cuts and then wins? That’s totally possible, and I could totally see how that would happen a lot.

Cerm: As someone who grew up practicing and playing with their brothers, what was it like for you growing up playing with your brother, Nick? Former collegiate teammate of mine at Missouri State – we battled in many qualifiers against each other. Plus Nick is 6’5 and has one of the prettiest swings out there. Intimidated of your little bro?
Langley: He wasn’t intimidating because I could still beat his butt (laughs). In a physical fight too — ya know the way brothers are. Now that might be different today. He’s outgrown me but back in the day, I could take him down. Growing up with a brother playing golf is the best. I mean we used to go to the Family Golf Center in Kirkwood, MO. Every day we’d hit 500 to 1,000 balls. There was no limit to what we would do and hit right next to each other, watching each other and then go play 21 on the putting green, chicken contest, play the par 3, like my gosh, I mean we worked together at a Country Club in town, in the cart room. So many great memories of growing up and having a brother. I have a more recent funny memory of Nick and golf. Ever since college, he hasn’t been playing as much since he’s been working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car and doing amazingly well. He calls me one night, and he hadn’t played golf for probably three months and goes “You’re never gonna guess what I just did. I just shot a 59.” He shot a 59 with a total storybook ending. He needed two putts from 30 feet in the dark, so they bring out the cars, turn on the headlines and use their iPhone flashlights so he can see. Hits 59, he didn’t play golf for three months but he’s always had massive talent.

Ev: We asked this to Kevin Chappell as well, and we’re interested to hear your answer. Mic’d up caddies – help us make it happen.
Langley: First of all, I would love to hear Chappell’s answer to this question. You have to be pretty selective with the guys you mic up because I’m not gonna lie, we go dark sometimes out there on the golf course. It would not be PG but there are some things said that would definitely be good comedy. In certain situations, I think you’d be fine. It would take some heavy editing but you could get some good nuggets, and it wouldn’t be terrible. I think maybe start with pro-ams or practice rounds to start out because I’m sure some guys wouldn’t want to play with a mic on, I used to really enjoy watching Phil and Bones talk through a shot. Oh my gosh — those guys are like breaking it down like a chemistry textbook for every shot and so that is definitely cool. I would totally be on board with that. Even getting the mic close enough to hear the player caddy conversation pre-shot. Now, you may wear out the bleep button post shot if you get too close to a mic, but I think pre-shot would be really cool as long as it’s not too intrusive. Most of the time you don’t even notice the mic guys standing there. They do a good job to stay out of the way, but like I said, you need the editing but there’d be some good stuff in there for the viewer at home.

 

Stratt: So Scott, who do you think should be our next guest on the Par Train? Any friends on tour that we got to get on?
Langley: You gotta get my boy, Keith Mitchell, on the podcast. He is awesome, so funny, and will have some great insight. He’s a Georgia Bulldog so he’d probably talk a lot of football, prep your college football knowledge, but he’d be great. He’s a great personality, a really good player on tour, playing his rookie year this year. He was always my guy last year giving me all the good like tips on which credit card to get — he’s very sophisticated (laughs). 

 

 

 

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