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Bob Weeks

TSN Senior Reporter

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To survive on the PGA Tour often requires a healthy dose of optimism – even when it seems that the sky can’t get any darker.

Roger Sloan knows that well. So far, his season has been nothing short of miserable, but to hear him talk, his world is full of sunshine.

“You’re never as far off as you think you are,” he said on Wednesday where he was preparing for his first Players Championship. “This year has been a bit of a struggle, but when you’re struggling and in those valleys, that’s probably when you learn the most about yourself.”

Sloan has played 13 events so far this season and made the cut in just three of those. He’s only played the weekend once in his last seven starts.

But with his wonderfully optimistic outlook, he assures you that the next round is going to be his best one. It’s easier said than done, of course, when you’re playing for your living. The 32-year-old sometimes needs to check his mental approach, which he admits can go astray.

“Sometimes that’s a little bit of an Achilles’ heel of mine, that when things start to go south, I try harder, and as I try harder, I’m just digging the hole a little bit deeper,” he said. “That’s kind of been something that I struggle with personally. It really just comes down to trusting yourself, relaxing a little bit and not building up the story line too much. It’s getting back to being a kid and playing golf again.”

This week, as he makes his debut in the deepest field in golf, Sloan is focusing on the rhythm and tempo in his swing and trying to play simple golf. In some ways, he said, not having many expectations frees him up.

Much of his sunny disposition comes from the work he’s done with sports performance coach Paul Dewland, a native of Toronto who now resides in Orlando, Fla. Sloan attributes the success he’s had over the last two years to that relationship. It’s one that focuses less on golf specifically and more on the science of the brain and the nervous system and how they all interact.

The other reason Sloan doesn’t seem as flustered about his recent play is that a slump isn’t exactly new for the Merritt, B.C.-product either. Last year he went through a similar early season period before hitting his stride in the summer and finishing the year by making nine cuts in 10 events.

“I remember I went through a pretty good stretch last season in April and May where I wasn’t playing my best golf,” Sloan recalled, “but I came out of it a much better player and played really well in the summertime. So I’m encouraged. I’m trying to learn as much as I can and try to get better. That’s been my motto since I turned professional. Hopefully we get out of it sooner than later, but I’m going to be a better player coming out of this.”

This week will certainly be a test. He’ll tee it up on a course that he played for the first time on Monday. Despite the limited experience, he likes what he sees and feels he can tackle the many challenges TPC Sawgrass presents.

“It’s very fair and if you just keep the ball in front of you it gives you opportunities to score,” he stated. “At the same time that helps you avoid some of the disaster out there if you’re too aggressive.”

It would be a good time for Sloan to break out of his slump, especially with a purse of $15 million and a first-place cheque worth $2.7 million. That could definitely turn the season around in a hurry.