BROUSSARD —Ryan Armour was never happier with a bogey.
After 299 starts on the PGA Tour and the Web.com Tour without a win, the Ohio native and veteran professional found himself walking to the 72nd green of last month’s Panama Claro Championship in Panama City with a four-shot lead.
“I finally kind of let up on the 18th and three-putted for bogey,” Armour said, “so I guess that’s a lesson learned that you always go full steam ahead.”
Armour had done that through four solid rounds in the opener of the Web.com Tour season, finishing 65-64 in that event, and now the pressure’s off — a little — as he heads to Le Triomphe Golf Club and this week’s $550,000 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
He finished the Panama event with a 12-under 268 and a three-stroke win over Kyle Thompson, who had finished his final round earlier. Armour knew that he had strokes to play with on the final hole, especially after rolling in a monster birdie putt on the 17th that put him in front by four shots.
“I never got ahead of myself ... maybe on 18 when I kind of exhaled, a lot,” Armour said. “It was more relief, I guess. It had been a long time coming. I was relieved, and almost vindicated by the process and the way it all happened. Just a great way to start the year.”
He’s No. 2 on the Web.com Tour money list, in solid shape to earn his way back to the PGA Tour, where he’s played 82 events since 2007, and he comes to this week’s Louisiana Open as one of two players who has already hit the winner’s circle in the 2016 season. Tour rookie Sebastian Munoz has the other title, cashing in on a sponsor exemption and winning the Club Colombia Championship in Bogota five weeks ago in the last Web.com Tour event.
It’s a big change for someone who lost Tour playing privileges completely as recently as 2013, when he was relegated to life on the mini-tours after struggling throughout the 2012 season.
Armour finished as runner-up that year in Panama, but things went south in a hurry from there — he didn’t have a top 25 finish the rest of the year, and missed 13 straight cuts in one stretch when he shot an aggregate 63 over par.
That included missing the cut at the 2012 Louisiana Open, after finishing tied for 13th including a final-round 64 in 2011.
Armour had made attempts to change his game during that season, after playing regularly on the PGA Tour in 2007-08 (64 starts) and taking a pair of runner-up positions on the Web.com Tour in 2011 and 2012.
“I was going after more length, and that’s not my game,” he said. “I’m not the biggest guy in the world, and with the golf ball now, it gives the big powerful hitters, the better athletes that are playing golf now, an advantage. I call them the high school tight ends. They look like they played tight end in high school and then decided golf was OK to come and play.
“You better learn to accept it with open arms. It’s not the worst thing in the world because it helps me, too. But I still like to curve the ball, so I still wish we could play a couple of tournaments with the old balata ball.”
Armour played a lot in his adopted home town of Jupiter, Floirda, over the winter, and credited all that work for his Panama success and a following top-30 in Colombia.
“I went back to what I know best, which is driving the ball straight instead of far, hitting a lot of greens and giving myself a lot of opportunities to make birdies. If I ever try to overpower a course, I don’t succeed.”
Armour has played in the Louisiana Open eight times, and knows that length isn’t the overriding factor on the 7,069-yard par-71 Le Triomphe layout. Taking advantage of the par-fives and managing the nearly constant windy conditions are much more important.
“It blows out here,” he said. “For the long hitters the par-fives are definitely gettable. For me, it’s about opportunities. You have to get through four or five holes that are really difficult and you can make a big number.
“Other than that, you have to take advantage of your scoring clubs. You’re going to have some wedges and 9-irons in your hands, and hopefully get those close and give yourself opportunities.”