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Zac Blair anxious to get back to playing golf on the PGA Tour

Former BYU standout will be in first event in Fort Worth, Texas, next month

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Zac Blair hits from the fifth tee during the second round of The American Express golf tournament on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, in La Quinta, Calif.

Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Zac Blair might play as much golf as any person alive. He plays anywhere, anytime with anyone. Even as a PGA Tour regular, he’s been known to play extra rounds during the week he was playing in a tournament. He’d much rather play a round of golf than practice.

He’s been playing a ton of golf since he was a little kid, tagging along with his father, Utah Golf Hall of Famer Jimmy Blair. Thanks to his membership at Riverside Country Club in Provo, for the past two months Zac has been able to keep up his daily golf despite the coronavirus pandemic. But he’s also enjoyed the extra home time with his wife, Alicia (they’re expecting their first child, a boy, in August). He’s not traveling all over the country for his full-time job as a PGA Tour golfer as he has for much of the past few years.

“It’s been a lot of fun, it’s nice being home,” he said recently from his home in Orem. “I still play every day. Luckily, Riverside’s been open and I can get out with a few of the guys. I haven’t spent a ton of time practicing, but I’ve always liked to play, so I’ve been OK with it.”

Since his standout career at BYU, Blair has played on the PGA Tour for most of the past five seasons and earned $4.5 million.

Following a brief stint on the Buy.com Tour, the Triple-A Tour below the PGA Tour, he earned his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season, earning $1.2 million and finishing 59th in the FedEx Cup standings. The following year, he earned more than $900,000 and kept his card, finishing 110th in the standings and nearly winning in Hawaii where he finished third. In 2017, he had a heartbreaking finish to his season, when a late birdie by another player dropped him to 126th on the FedEx Cup list and he lost his exempt status (top 125 are exempt).

With limited status, Blair was able to get into 20 events in 2017-18, but didn’t earn enough FedEx points and had to go back to the Web.com (Korn Ferry) Tour last year. 

After getting off to a slow start with four straight missed cuts, he got rolling and only missed three cuts in the final 19 tournaments. He finished 11th in the Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club In June and then secured his PGA Tour card for this year by winning the Ellie Mae Classic in California in August.

Although he preferred not to have gone back to the Korn Ferry Tour, he shrugged it off and looks back at it as a learning experience.

“It was something you don’t ever want to happen, but it taught me — not that I didn’t appreciate it — but that you’ve got it pretty good out there on the big tour,” he said. “I kind of just got back to playing golf, having fun and not getting too worked up. I had to understand some weeks you’re going to have it and some weeks maybe you don’t play as well. It’s been good to get back to that kind of mindset. I definitely felt like I learned a lot that year and it was nice to get that win late in the season.”

“Yeah, I think they have a good plan in place if everything keeps on the right track. It’ll be interesting to see. We got guidelines on how they’re going to treat everything with all of the testing and how it will be handled.” — Zac Blair, on playing during the coronavirus pandemic

This season, Blair finished fourth at the Safeway Open in Napa, California, in late September and probably would have won except for an opening-round 75. Before the season shut down in March, Blair had earned $693,343 and ranked No. 71 on the FedEx Cups points list. 

“I felt like I was playing good and having a pretty solid year,” he said. “It’s been nice to have a little bit of a break, but I hope to carry over that momentum.”

Blair plans to play in the PGA’s first event, the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, scheduled for June 11-14 and feels he’s getting good preparation by playing every day at Riverside.

“Riverside is in really good shape — there’s not too many places in Utah better than Riverside is now,” he said. “It has Tour conditions — tight fairways, the greens are fast and firm — so it’s been fun to get out and play out there.” 

Earlier this week, golfers were briefed by the PGA Tour about what to expect when things open up next month, beginning with the Charles Schwab event in Texas. 

“Yeah, I think they have a good plan in place if everything keeps on the right track,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see. We got guidelines on how they’re going to treat everything with all of the testing and how it will be handled.”

A 37-page memo was presented to all the players about how things will be done with golf being one of the first professional sports to start back up with competition. Testing will play a big part with a pre-travel test kit, testing of players immediately upon arrival as well as during the week. The PGA Tour will be providing its own tests so as to not take away tests from the local community. 

No family members will be allowed on site and caddies will be allowed to work with minimal interaction between other caddies and golfers. No spectators will be allowed for the first four events into the middle of July and perhaps longer.  

With Blair’s current status on the PGA Tour, he’s in the field at Fort Worth, but not in the Heritage in South Carolina the following week. From there he’ll play whenever possible.

“I’ll play where I can,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see what I’m able to get in the rest of the year.”

Blair has goals every year, the main ones being winning a tournament and making the Tour Championship at the end of the season, which includes the top 30 players. “If I do either of those it takes care of the little goals,” he said.  

For the last three years, Blair has also been working on starting a golf club, called the Buck Club. Blair is a regular on Twitter with a loyal following and the Buck Club is regular topic. The club even has a logo and merchandise as well as a layout that Blair helped design. He originally planned to build it in northern Utah, but it didn’t work out and now the plans are to build on a piece of property in southern South Carolina, not far from Augusta National. 

“Everything is falling into place, it’s a cool little project, working out great right now with all of the time off and down time,” he said. “It’s been fun to put a little attention into that.”

He says it has worked out better being back east where there’s a little more golf-heavy population but adds, “it’ll be a nice place for folks in Utah to go out in the winter.”