The D Line
McLachlin makes most difficult round look easy
On the surface it looks like Parker McLachlin did it the easy way. Crush par and the field the first three rounds. Then just cruise on in with a gentlemanly 74.
Grab the trophy, the exemptions, the FedExCup points and the check and spend the next two years swinging for the pins. You've got job security now, buddy.
Nothing though, is simple on the PGA Tour. There is no easy way, even from ahead.
Light-headedness. Sweaty palms. Heightened pulse.
McLachlin experienced them in Reno yesterday, and it had nothing to do with the altitude.
Sweet anticipation of victory mixed with the dread of potential collapse - and then, finally, the realization that there was no way he could blow it.
Wire-to-wire is never as easy as it sounds, especially in this case, with McLachlin going for his first win. He had been in command late in a tournament before, with no win to show for it. There's always someone lurking.
In many ways, grinding it out from behind is easier - and nobler. Let the guy in front take the heat. Let him be the target and feel the pressure, then make your move at the right time.
You can't choke from second place.
"I just never felt comfortable out there for 1 second," McLachlin said.
Actually, there were finally a few moments when the weight was lifted. When his second shot landed safely on the 18th green, McLachlin's first PGA Tour victory was assured.
He completed the longest, most nerve-wracking round of his life with those lighter-than-air strides up the final fairway, when he finally allowed himself a smile, a subdued fist-pump and a "We did it!" to the gallery that included his parents, Chris (fully recovered from a stroke earlier this year) and Beth.
Parker had made it. He could knock the ball off the green into a bunker and back on for laughs and still win. Relaxed, the victory in hand, he closed it out with his lone birdie of the day.
If you've met Parker McLachlin, my guess is you like him. He is truly humble, but also a tough competitor. He represents Hawaii as well as or better than any other athlete. So when the accuracy of his drives and long irons became more like that of a T-shirt bazooka than a laser gun, my palms got a little sweaty, too. Hitting two of the first 13 greens is no way to secure a championship.
But McLachlin's forte is his short game, and it did not abandon him. He made the par putts he needed to stave off Brian Davis, who rallied briefly early on the back nine before double-bogeying himself out of it.
"When everything else fails I have 100 percent confidence that I am going to make putts," McLachlin said.
A golfer with a big lead in a tournament is like the chip leader in a poker freezeout.
When you get to the final round or the final table, you have to play it smart: conservatively, but without changing the basics that got you there.
McLachlin did that.
And he didn't panic when his lead was whittled to four strokes with plenty of holes left.
Parker McLachlin shot the 74 of a lifetime yesterday.