AKRON, Ohio – Last year was supposed to be the year that Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts burst onto the scene in all the big tournaments. He captured his first European Tour win at the Volvo China Open and was ready to take the majors and WGCs by storm.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the big time.
While riding a scooter on Monday of the 2011 Open Championship, Colsaerts fell off and broke a small bone in his elbow. That took him out of the Open, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and the U.S. PGA Championship.
Now healthy, Colsaerts is trying to make up for lost time. He was back in the winner’s circle at the Volvo World Match Play Championship and back into the world’s marquee events.
“I’ve actually played better in the last couple majors I played,” he said following his second round at the Bridgestone Invitational Friday. “I really haven’t shown my best in the WGCs. These are the events you want to play, and you just want to show what you’re capable of.”
Maybe Colsaerts hasn’t been at his best in the two prior WGC events, but his season has been nothing short of spectacular. In addition to his win in Europe, he also has a runner-up, a third and five other top-10 finishes. He already has made more money than he did all of last season, and he entered his delayed debut at Firestone Country Club at No. 5 on the Race to Dubai.
Though he was eliminated in the first round of the WGC Match Play Championship, he finished a respectable 35th at the WGC Cadillac Championship. He’s been even better in the majors.
At the U.S. Open at the tough Olympic Club, he finished 27th at 8-over. He followed that with a T7 in The Open Championship, where he bookended two mediocre rounds with brilliant 65s.
On top of all that, his scoring average on the European Tour stands at a career-low 70.33.
Colsaerts, who will be 30 in November, attributes his improvement to working with putting guru Dave Stockton as well as an overall improved short game. He said he’s also become more savvy in his approach to the game.
“I’m a little older and a little wiser,” he said. “I don’t really take as much flag on and maybe play more conservative at times. I don’t make a lot of big numbers like I used to. I still make the same amount of birdies, but I don’t make as many doubles and such as I did in the past.”
Strangely enough, Colsaerts began his Bridgestone Invitational debut with a double-bogey 6 on the South Course’s No. 1 hole. His first round included four other bogeys and three birdies to leave him at 3-over par.
Friday’s second round got off to an equally inauspicious start with two bogeys in his first three holes. But Colsaerts rebounded to play his final 15 holes 4-under par – including a birdie on his final hole (the ninth) — and finish his first two rounds at 1-over and tied for 35th in the 77-man field. (The field was at 78 until Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee withdrew after Thursday’s first round.)
The strong finish left Colsaerts in a better frame of mind, and now he hopes to finish his first trip to Firestone in grand style then carry that momentum into next week’s U.S. PGA Championship.
“I left the golf course very angry (Thursday). I felt I should have done a little better than 3-over,” he said. “I played better the last two or two-and-a-half hours of my round today, which was a bit of a kick, so it’s good.”
– Chuck Curti