Cody Gribble leads a talented PGA Tour rookie class into 2017

January 23, 2017

In 2012 the Texas golf team had a couple of promising prospects in Cody Gribble and Jordan Spieth. “He was there for one reason and one reason only—to play great golf and get to the Tour,” Gribble told me. “I had other priorities.”

Oh yeah? What was her name?

“Jack Daniel’s.”

Gribble and Spieth won a national championship together, and then Spieth did in fact bolt for the Tour, to immediate success. Gribble stayed at Texas, earning a degree in corporate communications—with a minor in having a good time. He turned pro in 2013, but Gribble’s route to the Tour would be slightly more circuitous than the one his old teammate took. By 2015 he had reached the Tour, but he finished an agonizing $2,035 short of reaching the Show. “If you think too much about that one shot or one putt that would have made the difference, you will definitely go crazy,” Gribble, 26, says with a dark chuckle. Stuck on the Web for one more year, he was in position to win the tournament near Evansville, Ind., when, on the 72nd hole, he hit a seemingly perfect approach that landed next to the flag—then trickled off the green into the water, leading to befuddlement from the TV announcers and outrage on Twitter about an extreme pin placement. At that point Gribble hadn’t won an individual tournament since the 2007 Western Junior. “You definitely start to wonder if maybe this isn’t meant to be,” he says.

He missed the cut in 10 of his next 17 events, but clutch play in the Tour Finals punched Gribble’s ticket to the PGA Tour. He’s part of one of the most intriguing rookie classes in recent memory, thanks to the cult followings of Andrew “Beef” Johnston; Wesley Bryan, the trick-shot artist who’s turned into a birdie-making phenom; and this month’s GOLF cover boy, Bryson DeChambeau. In October, Gribble was the first to put his name in lights, as he stormed to a four-shot victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship, the second event of the Tour’s 2016-17 wraparound schedule. In becoming the 13th lefty to win on Tour, Gribble birdied five of the last seven holes to cap a bogey-free 65. Some of the credit goes to Bryan: When they were paired together earlier in 2016, Gribble was dazzled by his playing partner’s wedge game, inspiring him to work on his own. Given his strong long game, that made all the difference.

To underscore the strength of this rookie class, Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, at Sea Island, three weeks after Gribble’s triumph. “I was pulling so hard for him,” Gribble says of the 26-year-old Canadian. “There’s definitely a team spirit among the rookies. We’re all in the same spot, fighting for our right to be on the Tour and trying to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we belong. I’d call it a friendly rivalry. I know that all of us want to be named rookie of the year. It’s going to be a good fight for that trophy.”

Gribble is keeping things simple by continuing to live with his parents in Dallas. And why not? His mom, Diane, doesn’t mind doing his laundry, and she makes a seafood pasta that’s “out of this world.” Meanwhile, Gribble’s dad, Bill, cooks up a spicy chili that is “so good it’s stupid.” Both of Gribble’s parents work in the financial sector, so Cody is being quite careful with his new largesse—the only splurge he’s even considering at this point is a new pickup truck for the family’s 8,500-acre ranch outside Albany, Tex., where the Gribbles and assorted friends hunt for deer, quail and duck. Gribble is certainly enjoying his new status as a Tour winner, but he admits it’s been a little “hectic.” I mentioned to him that I once heard Spieth say that before he won on Tour, it took him 30 seconds to get from the locker room to the driving range—and then after his first victory, the same walk took 20 minutes.

“I can totally relate to that,” Gribble says, swallowing a smile. “It used to take me 30 seconds and now it takes a full minute.”

But like his fellow rookies, Gribble’s time is coming, and soon.