Staying in one place for very long isn’t easy for a golf touring pro. Carlos Sainz Jr. was able to do it from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, when he spent most of the holiday season with family and friends in Elgin. Now, however, the PGA Tour rookie is on the road again and looking forward to the opportunities immediately ahead.
Though he’s calling Ponte Vedra, FL., his home base now – it’s where the PGA Tour headquarters are located – Sainz made a stopover to visit his brother Michael in Phoenix this week before heading to what he expects will be his first tournament of 2015, the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Michael, at 25 four years younger than Carlos, also has tour aspirations. He’s playing on the Arizona mini-tours now. Carlos knows all about that. The Larkin High School graduate succeeded in the small pro tournaments after finishing college at Mississippi State, then moved through the smaller tours to make it to golf’s big time. But he still isn’t able to play every week.
“For me it’s all about being ready to play whenever I get in a tournament so that I can establish a schedule for the rest of year,’’ said Sainz. “I’m trying to do my job, like everyone else. I’m young, working hard, looking forward to what I do and cherishing it.’’
Sainz has a history of playing good at the right times. He finished out 2013 with a win in on the Canadian PGA Tour, a runner-up finish in the Illinois Open and a victory in the Chicago Open. Those events led to him earning playing privileges on the PGA’s Web.com Tour.
In 2014 he had just one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour’s satellite circuit, but finished strong in the Web.com Playoffs to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season.
Under its new split-season schedule the PGA circuit started with six events prior to the New Year. With limited playing status Sainz got into only three of them and missed the cut in two. But he had one strong showing, a tie for ninth in the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi, that earned him $100,000 – more than he had earned in the entire Web.com season. That one good tournament boosted his playing position from No. 49 at the start of the PGA Tour season to No. 35 on the PGA Tour’s eligibility list.
New players are subject to re-shuffling of their tournament eligibility based on their immediate play, and the big jump in status means Sainz can get his PGA Tour career off to a fast start.. He will be in the field at the Sony Open in Hawaii, which tees off on Thursday, and will get into the first three events of the circuit’s California swing – the Humana Challenge, Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
He’s also pushing to get into the fourth and final stop in California, the Northern Trust Open, via a sponsor’s exemption. He hopes that the Chicago-based tourney sponsor will look kindly on a Chicago player when invitations are handed out. The second re-shuffle of new players will be made after the Northern Trust Open.
The PGA’s top players usually fill the field at Phoenix (Waste Management Open in February) and then turn out in big numbers for the Florida tournaments in March. Sainz may find it difficult to get into those events.
“I’m not sure which tournaments I’ll get into by then,’’ said Sainz. But he knows he’ll get into plenty of them if he plays well the next two months, and there’s another, more long-range incentive to consider. It’s not unrealistic to think he could compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil when golf returns to the Games.
Sainz’ parents are from the Philippines and Bolivia. As “a token of respect’’ he acquired dual citizenship in the Philippines when he played in a tournament there and he plans to apply for similar status in Bolivia. That would make Sainz eligible to play for those countries, neither of which is rich in golf touring pros.