Patrick Rodgers didn't mince words.
He feels as if he should have logged his first PGA Tour victory here last year instead of it being Bryson DeChambeau claiming that honor.
And that has Rodgers on a mission at TPC Deere Run in this week's John Deere Classic.
“I've said this a little bit jokingly, but I'm reminded (by) all the billboards around town having Bryson's face on it instead of mine,” said Rodgers, obviously still feeling as if he let one slip away as he settled for what is still his best Tour finish with the runner-up spot. “I was right there and had a great chance. I have great memories from last year — made a lot of putts and a lot of birdies.”
But he also has some scar tissue that may only be healed by his first Tour victory at a place he says is near and dear to his heart.
In the 2017 tournament, Rodgers held a two-stroke lead after the third round and was 18 holes away from personal history. Instead of that inaugural victory near his hometown of Indianapolis, he muddled through the final day at Deere Run, struggling to a 1-under 70 in a round that included four bogeys and leaving him a shot shy of DeChambeau's 18-under total.
Now, 51 weeks later, Rodgers is still thinking about how that close call ended and is still his best Tour finish.
He has been channeling that into what he hopes is extra motivation to land the bronze buck trophy and grab the more than $1 million winner's check.
Prior to hitting the first tee shot in the tournament on Thursday, last year's rough finish was still on his mind.
“I'd be lying if I said it didn't play a factor,” said Rodgers of using that as incentive this year. “I'm still without a win, and I think this is a great venue for me. I think I have a great chance to win every time I tee it up here, and I'm looking forward to getting myself in that position again.”
But he insists that it wasn't just last year's disappointing finish that has his attention.
“It's a tournament I always look forward to coming back to,” he said. “I know I'm going to have a lot of friends and family out here following, and I just want to play well for everyone who is here to support.”
He ended up doing that on Thursday, carding a strong 5-under 66 in the opening round. While that was four shots behind leader Steve Wheatcroft's 62 – logged in the same group early Thursday — he needed a pep talk to kick-start a round that left him in a 15-player tie for 11th place.
“I got off to a great start score-wise, but I actually hit some really sloppy iron shots on my first three holes and kind of had to give myself a little bit of a pep talk to start hitting some quality golf shots,” said Rodgers.
He sandwiched a birdie at the par-5 second between pars. He then logged three straight birdies before hitting what he called a “lull” in his round that included a bogey at No. 9 that broke up what would have been seven straight pars.
“I was able to pick up a few coming in and on pace to shoot 20-under,” said Rodgers. “But I've gotta do that three more days.”
Three more 5-under rounds might — or might not — get the job done. Seven of the last nine winners have scored at least 20-under, so he knows what the range might be and what has to be done to get to the top. And Rodgers' track record here has been mixed, with three missed cuts to go with a T15, T25 and last year's runner-up finish.
“This event feels like a bit of a marathon,” he said. “Maybe other events on golf courses where scores aren't so low, you can get into a bit of a lead and hold on.
“But I like that mentality out here that you have to keep the gas pedal down and make a lot of birdies. That was my mindset last year when I played well in the first couple of rounds and that was my mindset over the weekend, and I'm going to continue to have the same one where you try to make as many birdies as you can and see how high you can get that number.”
And maybe, just maybe, that will lead to a much better result than last year.