Cameron Champ's performance during the third round of the Shriners Children's Open was not going according to his plans, a scenario he has faced frequently in the past two years. He had entered the weekend with a share of the lead, but a triple-bogey on the third hole and back-to-back bogeys on Nos.
5 and 6 left him slipping away from contention. This setback was demoralizing for Champ, who has struggled to regain his winning form since his last triumph in 2021, finishing a career-worst 144th in the FedExCup last year, and on a similar pace this season.
However, his swing wasn't the culprit, it was his mentality that proved to be his Achilles' heel.
Nonetheless, Champ's response over the final 11 holes of his third round at TPC Summerlin, which he played in 2-under, and his 6-under 65 on Sunday indicated a pivotal turning point. He has started to comprehend that his mindset plays a crucial role in his gameplay, and he has taken a positive approach to his gameplay.
"I was my worst enemy," Champ admitted.
"I would just take it out on myself. Now I’m just trying to enjoy the positives and negatives. It’s tough out here. I have to fight it out until the last hole."
Champ made a sensational start to his PGA TOUR career, showcasing his potential during his remarkable collegiate career.
Even as an amateur, Champ played a remarkable game during the 2017 U.S. Open, securing a spot in the top 10 after 36 holes. He was also a part of the Walker Cup team, alongside Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa. Graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour in just one season, Champ has proven his mettle on the PGA TOUR.
His impressive length catapulted him onto the front page of Golf Digest, even before he secured victory in just his second outing of his rookie TOUR season.
He went on to claim victory in each of the next two seasons too.
Cameron Champ, statements
Now, five years later, Champ has high hopes that the autumn season could set the stage for his renaissance. Despite starting his third round slowly at the Shriners Children's Open, he managed to finish at T18 for the tournament, capping a week of promising golf at TPC Summerlin that featured a first-round 63 and a final-round 65.
A week prior, he finished T9 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, securing his first top 10 placement since April. He has since improved his standing from 143rd to 127th in the FedExCup rankings. However, next season will mark the final one in which he is fully exempt by virtue of his three victories.
Earlier this season, Champ's team took the initiative to sit him down for a frank discussion, spurring the player to make a necessary change.
"I've had conversations with my wife, with my coach.
I'm just like, if I don't enjoy it, why do it," Champ reflected. "For me, I knew there had to be a change because I wasn't enjoying myself, didn't want to be out here, and again, I've loved the game forever. It's given me everything.
So I know it's not that I don't love the game. It's just I'm taking it out on myself."
Champ's agent arranged for him to work with a performance wellness coach, who urged Champ to focus on the positives and build confidence in his abilities.
The coach advised him to accept both the highs and lows, put in the necessary effort, and find joy in the process, irrespective of the outcome.
Champ acknowledged the impact of this approach and stated, "I know what I'm capable of when I'm free-spirited.
It's been at home for the last year and a half." His recent rounds showcase his new mentality; during the second round of the Shriners Children's Open, he began with five birdies in his first seven holes, followed by 1 over in the next 10 holes.
Despite this, he maintained his positive mindset and finished with a birdie to tie for the lead.
Champ now exudes a more relaxed attitude, understanding that golf is a challenging sport and maintaining a positive outlook helps when struggling.
His recent form attests to this, with eight rounds in the 60s over the last three events compared to just 12 in his prior 20 events. Although he is currently having his worst statistical season driving the ball, he remains a promising talent at the age of 28.
He currently ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and third in driving distance, achievements that would be commendable for almost any player.
Champ can rest assured that he has his status secure until 2024, affording him the freedom to play without worry.
Although he aspires to break into the top 125 by the end of the year, it is not imperative, but would validate the mental progress he has made and prove that it translates to tangible results. Moreover, achieving this feat would set him up for a crucial 2024 season, during which his status is in question for the first time since his debut.
As he rightly puts it, one's conviction is what ultimately matters.
Champ has dedicated himself to believing in a brighter future, and there is no dearth of reasons to underscore his optimism.