'It's a hard game right now': Brian Stuard hoping home-state magic can save his PGA Tour card

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Brian Stuard, lugging his own staff bag, strolled past the clubhouse and toward the putting green Wednesday morning, when he was stopped by two young boys asking for an autograph.

He practically grabbed the selfie before they finished the question. And Stuard allowed himself a wry smile, which is noteworthy. Smiles, well, they've been hard to come by lately.

"I'm just trying to figure this game out," said Stuard, who's played this game for all but a few of his 39 years. "I feel like I'm in one of those funks where it's a hard game right now.

"Little bit of everything. I feel like sometimes you go through stretches where just kind of nothing works, right, you know? (Editor's note: Oh, we know.) It seems like one day, you might figure something out here, and then this suffers. It's just kind of trying to put it all together, and figure it out."

Brian Stuard needs a big week in Detroit.

Stuard is running out of time to figure things out.

A native of Jackson and an Oakland University alum, he enters his home-state tournament needing a very good showing either this week or next to crack the top 125 before the playoffs begin — and thus, keep his full-time status on the PGA Tour.

On the back of 10 consecutive missed cuts entering Detroit, Stuard officially sits 146th on the FedEx Cup points list, though he's several spots better because that list still includes players who've left for the LIV tour and are no longer eligible for the playoffs.

Stuard's last made cut was at the beginning of May.

"It's not much fun when you're in the middle of that," Stuard said.

Stuard's been a full-time PGA Tour member since the 2013-14 season, and was full-time a couple of years in the early 2010s, as well.

But that's in jeopardy now, not that he hasn't felt the heat before.

Stuard came to Detroit last year straddling the top-125 bubble, and eventually rallied and kept his card — but the Rocket Mortgage Classic was earlier last year, over July 4 weekend. It was pushed back this year and is one of just two events remaining for Stuard to make up that ground.

If there's a place to do it, of course, it's Detroit. He loves it here. He's almost certainly played here more than anybody in the field. In 2019, he tied for fifth.

"This would be it," Stuard said, with a smile (there it is again!). "Just gotta get it going."

Stuard is a relatively quiet guy, who even in his most comfortable interviews with reporters gives short, succinct answers. On Wednesday morning, talking to The Detroit News, he stretched the sentences a bit. Not much, but a bit, enough for it to be noticeable — and a bit telling of a man who's just searching for an answer, any answer, right now. It's almost like he's talking to himself, not a reporter, trying to find that answer.

After all, he hasn't worked a weekend in nearly two-and-a-half months, and the kicker of it is that he hasn't been able to go home to Texas much for those weekends, either, given the instability of the airline industry right now. So he's been left to figure things out on his own, away from his current home.

At least this week, he's back to his old home. On Tuesday, he got a real taste of home, playing a business 18 at his old stomping grounds, Country Club of Jackson.

"It's tough when it's, you know, you feel like you're working hard and not seeing the results," Stuard said. "I think you gotta tell yourself, just keep trusting the process. You just know it's gonna turn around sometime. You kind of think next week's the week."

He's running out of next weeks.

This will be Stuard's eighth consecutive week playing a PGA Tour tournament. He's always carried a heavy schedule; that's what you do when you're a guy who always feels like he has to fight to keep his card.

But he admits, he probably would've taken a week or two off at some point in this stretch if not for his precarious position in the season-long points race.

He figured it was about the start of the stretch, eight weeks ago, where he started looking ahead.

"I've always felt like I'm better when I kind of play a lot and kind of figure it out that way, rather than going home for a week and just beating balls," Stuard said. "And (now), you feel like you don't have that opportunity right now, like I'm going to take a week off. I feel like I'm already kind of behind. I've done it enough where I've been kind of in this position a couple times. I know I just gotta try not to worry about it. I'm just trying to figure out how to play some good golf again."

Stuard's season started much like it's ending, missing eight of the first 10 cuts.

But he turned things around with a tie for ninth at The Honda Classic in February, then finished tied for 16th at the Valspar Championship in March, and tied for seventh at the Puntacana Championship the next week. Stuard made three of four cuts after that.

And then, nothing. He's been close, like last week at the 3M Open outside of Minneapolis, until one bad swing on the 16th hole on Friday ended his work week early.

During this stretch, he's tried to get some reprieve. He's tried to take one day off a week. He doesn't know if that's the right approach: "I don't know if there's a good way to do anything," he said, softly. But for now, Stuard has tried not to think about golf at all on Saturdays.

Of course, he'd love to think about golf on Saturdays again, starting this week.

"It's a pretty find line between playing good, playing decent or playing bad," said Stuard, who's six years removed from his lone PGA Tour win, the Zurich Classic in New Orleans in 2016. "It doesn't take much.

"You just gotta get a little momentum on your side and just try to keep it going.

"Just one week."

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tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984