FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Danny Lee on Thursday said becoming a father had given him a fresh perspective on golf, helping him take the bad days in stride, but admitted life on the PGA Tour was still a grind for those not in the sport’s upper echelon.
The South Korean-born world number 119 fired a 64 in his opening round of the PGA Championship to sit one stroke back of leader Brooks Koepka in second place.
“I don’t get as frustrated when I have a bad round,” the 28-year-old told reporters when asked how becoming a father in October had changed his approach to the game.
“I definitely learn how to just laugh it off and put it behind me. I wasn’t able to do that before.”
But Lee was also mindful of the sacrifices his family had made for him to pursue his career and chase his dream of winning a major.
“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 travelling 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,” he said.
“I definitely have that kind of mindset in my head now.”
The PGA Tour might look like a blast to those on the outside, especially with players like Koepka calling the brutally long Bethpage Black course in New York “fun” after he tied the course record with his 63.
But Lee, who claimed his sole Tour win at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, reminded how demanding it could be.
“It’s definitely tough out here playing in the Tour golf life. It’s not easy,” he said.
“Some of the top 20 guys in the world make it look easy, but it’s not always fairy-tales and unicorns out here.”
The biggest change in Lee’s game is his power off the tee, which he attributes to his strength conditioning and his work with swing coach George Gankas over the past year-and-a-half.
“I always wanted to be able to carry 290 (yards)… but I never had that until this year,” he said.
“I’m really happy with my distance at the moment.”
Lee will look to keep his momentum going on Friday after his impressive opening round, which was his lowest round of the year and best ever at a major.
(Reporting by Rory Caroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom)