Tavatanakit enjoys the chase as she looks ahead to final round Sunday in Atlanta
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Patty Tavatanakit said she likes to have a “goldfish memory” when she is in the heat of competition. A goldfish, the 21-year-old explained, has a memory that lasts all of three seconds. Good shots, bad shots, and even those in the middle, they all get erased quickly, and it’s on to the next one. Tavatanakit laughed when asked if she actually owns a goldfish. She does not.
Adopting the “a short memory is a good memory” model, in Tavatanakit’s case, is a bit unfortunate. She might want to recall her Saturday finish at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship the next time she is just muddling along and wants to quicken the pace of piling up birdies. She would make seven of them in all on Saturday, four consecutively in a red-hot closing stretch that at least kept her within shouting distance (five shots) of co-leaders Nelly Korda and Lizette Salas.
A bid from 20 feet to jar a fifth straight birdie at the par-5 18th barely slid past the left edge of the cup, and the tap-in for par left her with a bogey-free round of 7-under 65, best of the day. She’ll be five shots behind Nelly Korda and Salas to start Sunday, but trying to run down and catch the leaders is a position that she enjoys.
“Not going to lie, I feel like chasing more than I love just having the lead, because I like the feeling of just chasing,” said Tanatavakit. “I have something to look forward to, or just look up to, all the time.”
Tavatanakit already has had a successful year in the majors, and the KPMG Women’s PGA is just the third of five. She broke through to capture the ANA Inspiration in Palm Springs, Calif., in early April, leading wire to wire, and tied for 26th at the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club. Despite her youthful age, already she has built plenty of experience at the majors. This week’s KPMG marks her 13th major start. She has played well in the big events. What’s her attraction to being on the grandest stages?
“I think I'm just addicted to adrenaline,” she said. “I feel like without adrenaline, I'm just like really flat, Do-Nothing, Last-Minute Patty. When adrenaline kicks in, I feel like it brings me to a normal stage where I'm competing with full self-conscious and with full focus, nothing too crazy going on, like my breathing is like too fast or like I'm getting really fast in my routine and all this stuff. I feel like adrenaline kicks in and tournament rounds really bring me back to normal. That's what I think helped me a lot.”
In her run of four late birdies starting at the par-4 14th, a highlight came on the difficult par-3 15th, protected by water on the right and a gaping bunker left. Even with the tee moved up to 176 yards, 30 yards from the tips, the 15th played as the day’s third-toughest hole. She hit 6-iron farther right than she wanted, causing her heart to pump a little extra, but the shot had enough on it to land on the green, settling 10 feet from the hole. After all the drama, she wasn’t about to miss the putt.
It has been an interesting week for Tavatanakit. In the opening round, she cracked her driver on her 10th hole. Late Thursday, a friend drove up the driver she used last season, transporting it late night from Orlando, Fla., to the north side of Atlanta, where she received it early Friday morning as she started to warm up. By Friday afternoon, after shooting 71, she was experimenting with new combinations using six different driver heads.
Five minutes before her Saturday time, she decided to go with the driver she knew from last year. The doubt has left her hitting a lot of 3-woods off the tee, which, with her high speed and length, allows her to still be out there 260 yards or so, out where many other players are hitting their drives.
“I just feel like right now, where I'm at in my result, I'm satisfied with it,” she said. “I wouldn't want it to play out any differently. Everything happens for a reason, and if I have to play with the driver that is not my gamer, I can work around that.”
It has worked so far. On a golf course where a good deal can happen down the stretch, Tanatanakit at least has a fighting chance on Sunday. And win or lose, chances are the memory doesn’t have a goldfish’s chance of sticking around for long.