'It's been building': Guthrie's game on rise as he heads to U.S. Open

Quincy native Luke Guthrie has finished in the top 10 in three of the last five Tour events and carries a ton of confidence along with a solid low-key approach to the game into this week’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links. | Photo courtesy Revere
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jun. 11, 2019 12:40 am Updated: Jun. 11, 2019 12:42 am

What awaits Luke Guthrie this week is the toughest test in golf on one of the game's most iconic courses.

Yet he's better prepared to face the treacherous conditions of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links now than any other point in his career.

To some, that may sound absurd. Six weeks ago, the Quincy native was 177th on the Tour's points list. His world ranking was difficult to calculate and there were no guarantees he would play his way into any future starts. He had less than $1,500 in earnings with just one made cut in three events.

Still, Guthrie liked everything about his game.

"I really started to put together some nice rounds at the end of last year," Guthrie said. "I played some really nice rounds, just rounds that would travel. You're hitting quality shots. It didn't matter if you're playing an easier course or a hard course, that would have been a good round of golf."

It just didn't translate to the kind of finishes he needed. For example, last December at the Tour Finals, Guthrie posted four rounds in the 60s to close at 16-under 272. It was only good enough to tie for 64th and conditional status on the Tour.

"It didn't work out like I wanted, but man, I played some good golf," Guthrie said.

He kept doing that until he caught a much-needed break.

It happened on the final hole of the second round of the Nashville Golf Open. Guthrie rolled in a 6-foot putt for par to make the cut on the cutline. He proceeded to shoot his best round of the tournament at 1-under 71 in the final round, finish tied for 56th and earn a start the next week in the KC Golf Classic.

"Looking back now, that was such a big putt," Guthrie said.

It jumpstarted his surge.

In the four weeks that followed, Guthrie enjoyed three top-six finishes, shot eight consecutive rounds in the 60s and climbed into the top 50 in the points standings. He then went to the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, and blistered the field, shooting rounds of 8-under 64 and 3-under 67 to earn individual medalists honors and his spot at Pebble Beach.

"So it's been building," Guthrie said. "It's not out of nowhere."

Now the finishes are matching the buildup.

"It's nice to have it start happening," Guthrie said. "Putts are going in and I'm hitting a lot of quality shots. Just getting back in the mix and feeling the heat and feeling comfortable being uncomfortable is fun."

That's the feeling of being near the top of the leaderboard on the weekend and being chased by the pack.

"I don't think it's comfortable for anyone," Guthrie said. "But if you put yourself there enough, you are comfortable having your feet to the fire and you look forward to it. It's the process and it's been fun to be in the mix. I haven't had that one breakout round on a Sunday that it takes to win. You still have to go get it."

Guthrie sees that day coming soon.

Until it does, he's learned not to fret.

"It comes with maturing as a person and maturing as a golfer," the 29-year-old Guthrie said. "There is a natural process to things. Golf isn't who I am and there's something relaxing about that. In my early-to-mid 20s, if I had a bad round of golf, life stunck that day. It's not like that anymore. I enjoy playing and being in that spot.

"It doesn't mean I don't want to play well and not compete hard. I'm still the same player out there, the kind of hard-nosed player who is a little intense. I can just kind of shake it when I get off the course."

It's all about attitude.

Guthrie went from top-20 finishes in his first three PGA Tour events in 2012 to winning twice on the Tour and earning his PGA Tour card without ever going to Q School. His first two full seasons on the PGA Tour he made more than $800,000 each year and had four top-10 finishes.

By the end of 2016, however, Guthrie lost his tour card and was back on the Tour. The backward steps he took were as much about attitude as they were mechanics.

"The last few years, when I showed up to the golf course, it didn't feel like I couldn't put together a good round," Guthrie said. "It just felt like the odds weren't in my favor. I was just trying to get through it.

"Now when I show up, it feels like I have a good chance to put together a really good round. More times than not, that's going to happen."

This would be the perfect week for it to continue.

Guthrie has played Pebble Beach a handful of times in his career, making the cut at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2013 and 2016. He finished tied for 26th and tied for 35th, respectively. It gives him some insight into what to expect.

"Oh, man," Guthrie said, "I know the course well. It sets up well for me."

This will be his third U.S. Open appearance, but the first time he's played the course previously.

"It's fun going to a U.S. Open knowing the course," Guthrie said.

It's even better knowing the attention this tournament will receive with Tiger Woods trying to repeat his performance from 2000 when he was the only golfer at Pebble Beach to break par in the U.S. Open.

"As a golf fan, it's going to be fun to be right there in the mix and competing in that environment," Guthrie said.

And Guthrie can compete. His game is trending that direction, but more importantly, he's fixed the mental barriers that plagued him.

"It's going to make me a strong golfer and better person having gone through this," Guthrie said. "I feel like I'm a better player than before all of this. In the big scheme of things, it's going to be worth it."

So is playing Pebble Beach instead of staying closer to home and playing in the Tour event in Springfield, Ill.

"No matter what happens in my career, at the end of it, I'm going to get to say I played in a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach," Guthrie said. "That's pretty cool. It's going to be quite the experience."