NASSAU, Bahamas — Sepp Straka had a big weekend ahead of him before late-developing circumstances forced him to alter his plans. On tap Friday was the wedding of his good friend, fellow PGA Tour player J.T. Poston, in Sea Island, Ga. On Saturday, he was heading to Atlanta to watch the SEC title game in football where his alma mater, No. 1-ranked Georgia, takes on LSU.
Sounds nice. Then his phone rang around noon on Monday. His agent was on the other line with some important news. Suddenly, no more wedding. No football game. Change of plans.
“Yeah, pretty wild few days. It wasn’t on my radar at all. Just came out of the blue,” Straka said Wednesday as he discussed his late entry into the Hero World Challenge as the replacement for host Tiger Woods, who had to withdraw with a foot injury. “Pretty excited to get that call.”
Well, yeah, it was a $100,000 phone call. At the least. That’s last-place money in the $3.5 million, 20-man event at Albany. Of course, it could turn out to be worth a lot more. Straka, who won his first PGA Tour title in late February at the Honda Classic, already was gearing up for competition when he received word of his invitation. The Austrian native had been preparing for next week’s QBE Shootout, where he will team with fellow Bulldog Brian Harman.
Ranked 29th in the World Ranking, Straka joins a field with 17 of the top 25 players in the OWGR. He will not feel out of place. He is coming into the event in good form. “I definitely feel like I belong, even if I’m getting in last minute,” he said. “I’m pumped to be here.
“I called J.T. and told him that I was sorry I was going to have to miss his wedding, but when I told him why, he was excited for me, told me to go play hard. I mean, there’s no pressure here. Great field … playing in the Bahamas. Very little downside.”
Straka will not have seen all of the Albany course when he tees off in Thursday’s opening round at 12:06 p.m. with Justin Thomas, his tee time determined by being Tiger’s replacement. He arrived late morning on Tuesday from Birmingham, Ala., via, Atlanta, but his clubs didn’t make it until late afternoon. Then Wednesday’s Pro-Am was cut short by inclement weather. He hit his tee shot on 15 before play was suspended. But that was more golf than anyone else played because he was first off in the field, having also inherited Woods’ 8:20 a.m. pro-am time.
“It really helped having Tiger’s time. I’ll only be playing four holes blind,” he said. “It’s a thrill to be here, but on the other hand I’m sorry that Tiger couldn’t play. I get his spot for the week, but I’d also like to have his game for the week.”