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Canada's Pendrith hopes to dial in driver at Players Championship

Taylor Pendrith Taylor Pendrith - The Canadian Press

The driver has been the best club in Taylor Pendrith's bag throughout his golf career, but he's struggled with it this season, an issue he hopes to rectify at this week's Players Championship.

Pendrith is one of six Canadians competing at TPC Sawgrass for a share of the US$25 million purse, the largest on the PGA Tour calendar. On an individual level, Pendrith hopes that the Stadium Course, which has an average drive of over 285 yards, will help him dial in his long game.

"I feel like my game overall is pretty good, but the strongest part of my game has been the weakest in the past couple of months," said the native of Richmond Hill, Ont. "So get the driver going and just put myself in contention as much as possible and try and chase a win.

"That'd be amazing."

The numbers bear out Pendrith's frustrations.

He was 10th on the PGA Tour in driving distance last season and 12th overall for strokes gained off the tee. This season, he sits 18th in driving distance and 46th in strokes gained off the tee.

Pendrith's short game has sustained him so far this season, as he's fourth for approaches from 175-200 yards, seventh for putting from eight inches, and ninth for scrambling from 20-30 yards.

However, Pendrith has made four of six cuts since the PGA Tour's winter break, including a tie for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Feb. 5 thanks to a 64 in the fourth round.

"Overall this year I've played some average golf and I think once I can get the driver dialed in again I will be able to score a little bit better," said Pendrith, who is 106th in the FedEx Cup rankings and 114th in the world golf rankings. "The year's kind of been a slow start.

"I've made a lot of cuts and haven't really got anything going on the weekends."

Derek Ingram, the head coach for Golf Canada's men's team, is in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., this week at the Players Championship to support Pendrith and Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont. Ingram said that Pendrith's results don't reflect how well he's played this season.

"His game is a lot closer than the results are indicating," said Ingram. "The results haven't been there and I feel like they're coming and he's making a lot of progress."

Pendrith and Conners will be joined by Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., and Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., who is making his Players debut.

There will be a new champion crowned at the prestigious event as Australia's Cameron Smith jumped to the upstart LIV Tour after winning last year's Players. The event has never had a successful title defence in its 49-year history.

Last year's Players was a turning point for Pendrith. He cracked a rib while warming up ahead of the third round. Although he played through the pain to tie for 13th, he missed the next four months of the PGA Tour to recuperate.

"There's some courses in that four month stretch that I really like," said Pendrith, who missed last year's RBC Canadian Open because of the injury. "I'm really looking forward to those events."

DP WORLD TOUR — Aaron Cockerill of Stone Mountain, Man., is in the field at the Magical Kenya Open at Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi. Cockerill finished second at last year's edition.

"I'm excited. It's a place where I have good memories and I don't really have any expectations," said Cockerill, who became a father on Feb. 1 following the birth of his daughter Addison. "I was just at home for a month changing diapers.

"Game feels pretty good, actually. Just no expectations, but excited to be back here and have good memories of the place and looking forward to the week."

Cockerill is 103rd on the Europe-based DP World Tour after his month-long paternity leave.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 8, 2023.