With length and confidence to burn, rookie Patrick Rodgers, 23, has already battled Rory and banked a cool million. Life is good in Mr. Rodgers’s neighborhood.
You've had a solid year as a Tour rookie, with more than $1 million in earnings. Your highlight came at the Wells Fargo Championship, where you got into the field as a sponsor’s exemption and then finished second to Rory McIlroy. Did you surprise yourself that week?
I left Stanford a year early [to turn professional], so that decision reflected how confident I am. I can compete out here and win. The Wells Fargo was just validation that I can be up there with the best players in the world and give myself a chance on the weekend. I was really comfortable playing late on Sunday. It’s addicting. I’m excited to get back there.
McIlroy won comfortably, but on the back nine on Sunday, you were within three shots of his lead. Did you say, “I have a chance!”?
It was crazy. Going into the [final round], I was pretty far behind. I knew it would take a really good round to compete. I looked up at the leaderboard on 14 and saw that I was only four back. I went birdie-birdie [on Nos. 14 and 15], so I thought that I might have a shot if I made a couple of birdies coming in. Then I looked up and Rory was still well ahead of me, so I tried to keep the pedal down and play aggressively, and I made some mistakes. But I didn’t back down, and I’m proud of that.
As a Tour rookie, which older players have you turned to for mentorship?
Zach Johnson has been such a high-class guy to me. He’s in a position with all of his accomplishments that he really doesn’t have much reason to hang out with a young Tour rookie, and he’s been over-the-top nice, trying to help me out with anything I need. I’ve always had so much respect for him and his game and his approach, and I’ve looked up to him for a long time. He wasn’t the best player on his high school team or at Drake University, and now he’s a perfect example of hard work paying off.
You and fellow Tour rookie Justin Thomas are roommates in Florida. What’s that like?
Justin and I have been good friends since our junior golf days. We go to the beach all the time, and we both love sports, so we’ll hit up sporting goods stores—we bought a football to throw on the beach. And we put up a mini [basketball] hoop on our front door. We need to repaint soon because there are a lot of dings from the missed shots. [Laughs] We definitely have a good time off the course.
We’re envisioning a bachelor pad where all the young pros in the Jupiter, Fla., area congregate during off-weeks.
Yeah, well [our house] was Peter Uihlein’s and Brooks Koepka’s place last year, and I guess it’s been passed down. There are so many young guys that live [in Jupiter, Fla.]. It’s been just a ton of fun living there.
Thomas and Jordan Spieth are big-time pranksters. Do you get involved?
I’ll get burned if I get into that, so I try to stay out of it. Justin usually tries to get under Jordan’s skin, but Jordan usually gets the upper hand.
You cracked the top 10 in driving distance this year. Before you turned pro, you made news for another reason: In college, at Stanford, you tied Tiger Woods’s school record of 11 collegiate wins. How much did Tiger inspire you?
Growing up, I was extremely passionate about golf. I was 8 or 9 when he was winning his Tiger Slam [2000-01], so I grew up heering like heck for him every time he was on TV. Tiger made golf cool and inspired me to work hard.
Do you think Woods can bounce back from his current slump?
Ups and downs are inevitable in golf. He’s too good a player to not bounce back, so I think we all expect him to have success again soon.
You’re from Avon, a small town in central Indiana. On your Twitter profile, you list “Avon High School class of ’11” before anything else. Is that Hoosier pride?
Absolutely. I’m really proud to be from Indiana. More and more golfers are coming from Indiana. It’s incredible to be a Hoosier playing on the PGA Tour. I’m just so proud of where I came from. I try my hardest to represent my home state well.
Hoosier pride must explain the Indianapolis Colts staff bag that you carry.
I grew up a huge, huge Colts fan, and now I have a unique partnership with them. A lot of Colts players went to Stanford. [The Colts’] offensive coordinator is a Stanford guy, and the owner is a big golf fan. I get to represent my hometown team every week out on Tour. How cool is that?
ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE
You have to play the long game. My dad, Charlie, always talks to me about how golf is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day emotional grind, and it’s really important to take a broad perspective on everything. With my game, I trust that if I refine my process and I do the right things on a day-to-day basis, the results at the end of this big, long marathon that is my golf career will be what I want them to be, and I’ll be really fulfilled with how I went about doing everything. That's how I try to live my life.