By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Anders Albertson went back to work Thursday morning after taking some rare time off, and while it took a minute to dust off rust, before long he got to playing like he can, like he has, and like Georgia Tech’s next PGA Tour professional probably will.
In the very first group in the Price Cutter Championship at the Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Mo., he found himself at home again, especially with former Tech teammate and childhood friend Michael Hines as his caddie, and former Tech teammate and frequent travel partner Seth Reeves in the field behind him.
They were all there when Albertson banked his first tournament win, and $99,000, when he won the Lincoln Land Championship on July 1 after finishing off a 25-under-par 259 tournament at the Panther Creek Country Club in Springfield, Ill., to all but clinch his PGA Tour card for the 2018-19 season.
Reeves was there, and pointed his phone at Albertson’s last putt on the 72nd and final hole, and then sent video back to Atlanta to Anders’ wife, Ashley.
Ranked No. 10 on the Web.com money list with $182,780 earned to date, Albertson is playing well among an extended family.
“Obviously, Michael is one of my best friends,” Albertson recently said by phone. “I’m really thankful for what he’s been able to give me. In Springfield, Seth, Michael and I split a hotel room. Whether it’s going out to dinner, or having conversations with people you know really well, watching a game or joking around.
“I think it’s great to escape from tournament life, or life on the road.”
Making his 17th start in 20 Web.com Tour events this year, he went one-over par Thursday through the first five holes, and then birdied four of the next six, finishing at 2-under-par 70 and on the top half of the leaderboard.
He’s been there quite a bit recently.
— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) March 26, 2017
You could cut Albertson’s season in half and wind up with two different realities.
In his first eight starts, he had four top-25 finishes, yet missed two cuts and earned about $27,000.
Since then, he’s registered his first career win (for $99,000) among six top-20 finishes, made every cut, and Thursday was his 21st consecutive competitive round of 70 or better.
He earned about $156,000 in that time.
That’s more like the player from Woodstock, Ga., who took medalist honors in the 2013 ACC Tournament, tied for honors in 2015, earned All-ACC honors all four years and All-America honors three times.
After winning the Lincoln Land Championship, he said that he felt like he’d grown up in two-plus seasons on the Web.com Tour.
“I think through three years of being out there and [now 65] starts, I’ve been fortunate to become better almost through attrition of failure and success, and playing some of the best competition in the world obviously below the PGA Tour,” he said recently.
“Playing those guys every week and figuring out how to make a living and have this three-year period after playing the highest level of Division I professional golf … you’re getting used to cameras, and courses.”
Albertson remains connected to Georgia Tech, and credits head coach Bruce Heppler for helping him prepare for life on tour and practicing to stay on it.
After living in Alpharetta and practicing out of the Golf Club of Georgia, he and his wife, Ashley, moved to Inman Park, a couple of miles east of downtown Atlanta and about a 10-minute drive from campus.
He still works out at the school, and spends considerable time at the Noonan Practice Facility between 14th and 16th Streets.
“I’m really thankful that coach lets us come out there as alumni,” Albertson said. “I just think that the exclusivity of it, being able to go out there and accomplish whatever you want. You can’t find that at a golf course, where there are bunch of people. Putting, bunkers, wedges, tee shots … the options are endless.
“With the clubhouse and hitting bay, the video equipment, you’re not going to find anything better. You can really get good, quality work in, and set your own schedule, and you don’t have to worry about sharing with the public.”
Albertson shares a philosophy about staying busy with former Tech golfer Chesson Hadley (2010), who is a model of sorts in suggesting what success on the Web.com Tour can lead to for a player.
Hadley has played 25 PGA events in a season that has wrapped around since last fall. That’s among the most on Tour.
He played through the Web.com Tour to earn a PGA Tour playing card in 2014, when he won the Puerto Rico Open and was named the PGA Rookie of the Year.
He lost his card after the 2016 season, and then in 2017 became the Web.com Tour Player of the Year after winning twice along with two runner-up finishes, earning back his PGA Tour status.
This season, he’s been one of the busiest PGA players, and he ranks No. 18 in FedEx Cup points as a result. For comparison sake, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3-ranked players — Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose — have played 13, 17 and 13 times, respectively.
“He’s obviously having a great year, and was Player of the Year last year on the Web.com Tour,” Albertson said. “I think it gives you confidence … when you see somebody have success like that, knowing that wins like that can translate to a win on the PGA Tour.”
So, Albertson is back at it after a little time off because, well, last week was time for a break.
There comes a point when you play so frequently, that, “Your swing might get a little loose,” he said. “Maybe that’s a mental thing. You’re not able to process everything like you normally would. The signals to your brain slow down. I know I’m not my usual self, and I need to refresh, recharge. I don’t play much when I’m off.”