Trust pays off for Levin at Phoenix Open
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Spencer Levin's dad told him Thursday that his practice-range swings looked great, he had a hard time believing it. He was all over the range and didn't feel good heading into the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
His father, Don Levin, who played briefly on the PGA Tour in the 1970s, told him just to trust his swing and he'd be fine.
"Basically I didn't feel great, so I said, 'Well, I might as well trust it because it's not going good worrying about it,' " Levin said Friday. "I didn't really expect anything anyway."
That expectation proved misplaced — and his father's advice sound — when Levin stormed ahead of the field Friday at TPC Scottsdale to finish the second round 14-under par before play was suspended because of darkness.
"He's right so far," Levin said of his father. "I just trusted what he was saying and kind of got a little bit comfortable in that first round and started hitting some good shots. Then my confidence started getting a little bit higher. I felt really good today."
Good might not be a strong enough word to describe Levin's second round, a bogey-free 63 to top his first-round 65. He leads by three strokes over Harrison Frazar, who was 6 under for the round through 15 holes before play was suspended.
Levin, a relative unknown in three years on the PGA Tour who's currently ranked 92nd in the world, used six birdies and an eagle Friday to take his commanding lead. He actually started the day by finishing his round from Thursday, which also was cut short by darkness.
The horn sounded to suspend play Thursday just as Levin prepared to take a 4-foot putt on the sixth hole. His playing partners, Hunter Haas and Chad Campbell, wanted to wait to finish the hole, but Levin wanted to take his shot.
"I figured I don't want to start by missing that in the morning," Levin said. "If I miss it (Thursday), I'll be all right (Friday). I just didn't want to start my day off missing that, and then I made it, which was nice."
The momentum play proved a good one, as Levin came back Friday morning with a birdie on the first hole of his resumed round. He just kept rolling from there.
On the 15th hole Friday, Levin's tee shot landed in the water. Making matters worse, his drop rolled on the firm, fast fairway right into a divot.
"Some weird thoughts were going through my head then," Levin said. "But I actually hit a great shot."
Levin managed to save par, keeping his scorecard clear of a bogey. Two holes later, he overshot the green on the par-4 No. 17 — reachable from the tee at 332 yards — and put his ball in the bunker. No problem, though, as he sunk the bunker shot on the left side of the pin for eagle.
The strong start was a stark difference from what Levin expected early. The bad vibes on the practice range and an opening-hole bogey Thursday on No. 10 had Levin feeling pretty down about his chances.
"I bogeyed my first hole of the tournament and told my caddie going to the next tee this might be a nine-hole week," Levin said. "That shows you what I know."
Maybe it was his father's advice to trust his game that put Levin on track for such a strong start, or maybe it was something else. Levin had no clear answer Friday for what he was doing right.
About as unknown as the root of Levin's early success was his identity as he approached the famed par-3 16th hole. The rowdy hecklers typically come to the Phoenix Open pretty well armed with material for a day of good-natured ribbing. For the tournament leader, all they had was his name, and they couldn't even get that right (it's pronounced La-VEEN as opposed to the gallery's LEV-in).
If Levin can maintain the lead he built Friday — no guarantee with more than half of the tournament left to play — he'll do much to change that anonymity. It would be his first PGA Tour win and fourth professional win overall after three Canadian Tour victories.
How will holding the lead affect his approach in the tournament's final rounds? For now, he'll stick to his dad's advice and just keep trusting what he's doing already.
"Hopefully, I can just keep trying to believe in myself and just keep trying to make my swing," Levin said. "We'll see what happens. I'm going to give it my best shot."