Spencer Levin signed autographs for fans by the scoring trailer while he waited for Martin Laird to finish up with interviews and other formalities on the 18th green. After they signed their scorecard, Levin stuck around and patiently spoke to reporters after posting a disappointing four-over 76 on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. All things considered, Levin was in good spirits. He got off to an awful start, bogeying four of the first five holes. The problem? He was gunning for pins on a day where the pins were tucked and the greens were as hard as rocks.
“I thought I hit a good shot (on No. 3) and the ball bounced all the way over the green,” said Levin. “I thought I had a 15-footer for birdie and all of a sudden I had no chip. After that, I should have known to play a little more conservative on the next couple holes, but then I went after the pin on No. 5.”
Levin admitted to nerves on the first few holes and he allowed the bad break on No. 3 to get to his head, but then reminded himself “it was just golf and not that big of a deal.”
This was his first start at Bay Hill and his lack of experience at invitationals and majors hurt him, but he managed to adjust his game plan. (I’m wondering why his caddie didn’t step in and tell him to stop going for pins.)
“As the day went on, I realized you couldn’t go at any of the pins today,” said Levin. “It wasn’t that kind of day. You almost had to pretend there was no pin in the green. I started telling myself– which is hard to do when you’re already four-over — to play conservative, but I knew I had to or I’d make more bogeys.”
Despite carding five-over 41 on the front nine, he grinded it to make a few birdies and shot one-under on the back. Next time he’s in a similar position, he’ll remember what he gleaned on this Sunday.
“I learned more on a Sunday than I have at any other event — even at Mayakoba,” said Levin, who lost in a playoff a few weeks ago to Johnson Wagner. “You get in these big tournaments and these hard courses that set up really hard on Sundays. The greens are always really firm and fast. I’m learning now. I was trying to hit it close and going at pins and that cost me two or three strokes. Looking at the tournament now, that could have been it.”
Meanwhile, he praised champion Martin Laird, whom he played with in the final two rounds, for his poise and resiliency.
“Even though (Martin) bogeyed that par 3 (No. 14), he still made a long one (on the next hole) and then another long (putt),” said Levin. “He finished well. He acted like a champ and hung in there like a champ. My hat’s off to him.”
Despite the rough day, Levin tied for sixth. He now has top-15 finishes in five of his last six starts. Although he’s not in The Masters yet, he has another shot — a victory at the upcoming Shell Houston Open would secure him the last slot in the season’s first major.
“A one-spot qualifer,” said Levin, smiling.
He walked back to the autograph area where a dozen or so fans were still waiting and signed every one of them before leaving.
(AP Photo/John Raoux)