Willy Wilcox is in his 10th year as a professional golfer. The Alabama resident is enjoying a successful season thus far on the Web.com Tour, with two top-5 finishes that currently place him in one of the top 25 spots that earn a PGA Tour card for next season. The 31-year-old had status on the PGA Tour the past four seasons, with his best season coming in 2015—earning more than $1.1 million—and Wilcox’s career earnings are more than $3.2 million. He once shot 59 in a Web.com Tour event, but his most famous highlight was a hole-in-one on No. 17 at the 2016 Players Championship and his epic celebration. We caught up with Wilcox ahead of this week’s Players Championship.
How often are you reminded of your hole-in-one on No. 17 at the Players?
“Pretty regularly. It’s still surreal. And I definitely think it’s good I made that hole-in-one because nobody else was going to react like I did. A lot of guys, like Sergio’s reaction wasn’t great (laughs). I mean, they’re going to play it every year. But with me, it was just a flood of everything, so it was pretty sweet. And it really resonates with kids and people who would react the same way. Kids from all over the world have contacted me or come up to me and said, ‘If I made a hole-in-one, I would have reacted the same way.’ So that’s pretty cool.”
Is No. 17 really as uncomfortable and scary as everyone says it is?
“When you’re just playing with it buddies, it’s almost funny if you hit it into the water. But if you’re in tournament play, it’s not as funny. And I did hit it in the water the next round. That day the pin was up, the wind was pumping into out of the left so it was a 120 number and you’re hitting 8-iron, so that’s a lot different than flipping a pitching wedge. So that hole, when the wind is blowing is an absolute animal.”
How does your mind-set change playing on the Web.com Tour vs. the PGA Tour?
“I look at it different from most players. If I’m paying my bills and playing golf, then I’m in good shape. So I’m more motivated now than I was on the PGA Tour last year just because I found my game again, I’m not losing a few balls every round. Last year was such a tough year. I was so unmotivated because I was playing so bad — I just couldn’t wait for it to be over. Because that’s a hard spot to be in because everybody’s so good and I just developed some bad habits, that six months into the season, there’s not much you can do, so you’re kind of screwed. So this year now that I’m playing well, I go into every week, it feels like the Masters.”
What did you learn from your buddy Ryan Armour recently winning his first PGA Tour title?
“He broke through at 43, which is awesome. Basically, it took him awhile to get a perfect set up. I just believe stronger in dialing in equipment after seeing what he did. It took him awhile, but now that he’s got it figured out, he’s got about 20 extra yards in the air. He’s hitting his 7-iron 180 where as before he was like a 166 7-iron. So the more technology, the more ability to tinker comes out, not necessarily with heads and shafts, but just learning how to dial in equipment with lofts, lies, grinds, weighting. Before I just grabbed a club and started playing, but now I’m looking around and seeing how dialed in everyone is so now I’m going to TrueSpec and I’m trying to stay on top of my equipment better. All these other guys have that advantage, so I might at least do it as well.”
You’re a huge Tiger Woods fan as evidenced by your Twitter feed. Have you had any brushes with him?
“Nothing good (laughs). Honestly, I had a little thing with him at Medalist a few years ago where I was taking a video of him on the range and he was pretty offended. So yeah, that didn’t work out pretty good. I think he might know who I am, and I don’t think he’s a big fan. So that’s kind of depressing, but I’ll continue to love him.”