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‘My hands were shaking’: Wilcox overcomes pressure to thrive in Great Abaco Classic

GREAT ABACO, Bahamas – Will Wilcox has made 149 starts across the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour, in addition to countless other amateur, college and mini-tour events.

Wilcox considers last week’s The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay — playing on a sponsor invite and knowing he needed a top-25 finish to keep his season going — as one of the most stressful weeks of his golf career.

“My hands were shaking when I first teed off last week,” said Wilcox, who entered the season with only past champion status. “It was a lot of pressure … just a do-or-die moment. I’ve had a few in my career, and I’ve been lucky enough to get it done.”

Indeed, Wilcox rose up with a T13 finish to extend his season to this week’s The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club. Most importantly, the finish will ensure him a strong position in the reshuffle that takes place after next month’s Club Colombia Championship.

Wilcox teed off at 6:55 a.m. Sunday in the opening round at The Abaco Club, and the peaceful setting matched his demeanor. Knowing that his season isn’t on the line this week, like it was in Exuma, the Alabama native produced a 6-under 66 to hold a share of the opening-round lead, with play suspended due to darkness.

The 31-year-old struggled to find success for the majority of 2017; he struggled to find a comfort level on the greens, and he missed all four cuts in the Web.com Tour Finals.

Wilcox discovered an alignment problem during the offseason, though. With the help of a mirror and some alignment tools, as well as Golf Channel’s Martin Hall, he got ‘going in the right direction.’

“I’ve always been lucky enough … to make putts just doing whatever felt right,” Wilcox said. “Basically what happened is I went too far in one direction. I kept opening my stance, opening my stance, and then the clubhead was aimed incorrectly.

“So you’ve got two competing factors, and then you have no idea where the putter face is with the ball. Fortunately, it was something that simple, but it took 30 days to where it felt normal. Now, it feels great.”

The three-month break between the Web.com Tour Championship and the season opener allowed Wilcox to ‘really grind on my putting’ – he figures he averaged two or three three-putts per round in 2017, and he knew that needed to change if he wanted to see better results this season.

So far, so good. Markedly improved putting, coupled with a swing tweak made about a month ago, give Wilcox reason to believe that better days are ahead.

“I knew that what I was working on was good, and you can feel it in your hands and the way the ball was coming out, and increased distance when you start hitting it better.” Wilcox said. “And the putting was just getting better and better and better throughout the offseason.

“On the first tee today, I was totally relaxed, other than it being pretty dark out. Now that last week is over with, I’m really feeling alright.”