After posting a six-under 64 during the opening round of the PGA Championship, Danny Lee gave some frank and honest answers to what it’s really like playing out on Tour
It’s easy to frame an ideal of PGA Tour life: Beautiful locations, playing the sport you love, and winning a LOT of money while doing it.
But there’s a brutal reality to the game, too. If you don’t finish inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup, you lose your status – and your job security. If you aren’t inside the top 100 in the World, there’s not a huge amount of sponsors looking to pay you big bucks, either.
But it’s not just about the money – because lets face it, a quick glance at his career earnings will tell you that Danny Lee has won $11,157,729 throughout his career. For some, like Lee, the lifestyle itself is not as glamorous as it may appear.
Lee is a player who has spent a lot more time than he would have liked fighting for his card. He’s currently ranked 119th in the world, last won a tournament in 2015, and has finished 97th-70th-92nd in the FedEx Cup standings over the last three years. And as he explained in his press conference, getting your game and your body ready, living that lifestyle, only to be battling for your card every year, is a tough job. And that’s if you can keep it.
It’s something he was vocal about on the radio in New Zealand last year after struggling with an injury, and he talked about the daily grind of the game tearing him down when the constant work going in wasn’t paying off.
“People gotta understand it’s not just for everybody. And when things are not going your way, for life in general, it tears you down,” he had said in an interview with Radio Sport’s Tee Time
“Whenever I have a week off, I don’t just sit on my couch and watch TV. I wake up early in the morning, take supplements, take arginine, protein shakes, hit the gym, practice, hit balls, short game, just non-stop, just fighting and non-stop putting so much work in.
“I sometimes think when things are not going my way I don’t know why I keep doing this. It is a tough life.”
That was last September, but the topic was broached after his exceptional first round at Bethpage Black that sees him one stroke behind Brooks Koepka, and Lee was quick to discuss the heartbreak of working really hard but not seeing the results.
“It’s definitely tough out here playing in the Tour golf life,” Lee said. “It’s not easy. Some of the top 20 guys in the world make it look easy, but it’s not always fairy-tales and unicorns out here. I know I work really hard on getting my body strong because I always wanted to hit it further. I always wanted to carry — able to carry 290 bunker, straight over it, but I never had that until this year.
“To have that, not just myself, me and my team put so much work into it. When the results are not there, it definitely gives you a little heartbreak and a little bit of terror out there, and some of the media is expecting me to do better than that. But sometimes I get a little bit disappointed about that, my honest feelings. But all I can do is do my best, I think.
Asked to clarify it further, Lee elaborated.
“Do you want a really, really honest answer?” Lee continued.
“So if you’re maybe near top 50 in the world, it’s okay. But outside of 100 in the world, obviously your endorsement money is not great. I mean, even I wouldn’t pay an outside 100 in the world, pay that much. Let’s be honest.
“And when you are fighting for your Tour card every year, it’s basically where you work out here. How would you feel when you lose your job tomorrow? And you put a lot of effort into it. You’ve tried your best, and you did everything you could do, and you don’t have a job tomorrow. That’s the same feeling we have.
“I know it’s a dream-chasing work, and I’m grateful and happy to be out here and happy for my opportunities out here, but it’s not taking baby from candy out here.
“I know my family is sacrificing out there for me to chase my dream out here. I sometimes feel like I’m a bad person when I play bad because a young baby and my wife and my mother-in-law traveling with me out here, and when I don’t make a good result, it just makes me feel like I didn’t do what I’m supposed to do. I definitely have that kind of mindset in my head now.“
But while the job might be tough, Lee certainly made the exceedingly difficult New York course look gettable on day one, and will head in to Friday one shot behind Koepka and three strokes clear of Tommy Fleetwood in third.
He tees off in the first of the day’s groups at 11:45am (BST) with Michael Thompson (+7) and Justin Bertsch (+7).