Adrien Mörk left the driver in the bag, smashed the ground a bit and teed off with a utility club.
The Frenchman and former European Tour player with plenty of experience previously witnessed his two playing competitors go left — near out-of-bounds stakes — and right — near a water hazard — on the first sudden-death playoff hole at Waterlefe Golf and River Club in Thursday’s Florida Open local qualifier.
Mörk, who once fired the only 59 in the European Challenge Tour history, relied on the patient approach in the playoff and capped it off with a 22-foot, left-to-right birdie putt on the 550-yard, par-5 first hole.
“I had the line right away and I struck it well,” said Mörk, who outlasted St. Petersburg’s Blake Dyer and Sarasota’s Erik Souchak in the playoff after the three posted 72s.
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A.J. Morris fired a 72, too, but didn’t show up for the playoff.
Mörk, who is now an assistant coach for the University of Central Florida men’s golf team, was one of six golfers to qualify for the Florida Open, which is scheduled for July 15-17 at Winter Park’s Interlachen Country Club and Orlando’s Orange Tree Golf Club.
Aside from Mörk, the qualifiers either live locally or played high school golf in the area, owing to Waterlefe’s reputation as a course that needs navigating several times to figure out.
“The layout of the golf course, there are some areas that you can get in trouble,” said Waterlefe general manager Steve Dietz, who is in his 11th year at the East Manatee course. “And there’s some areas you can hit a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway and you pull up to it, and there’s water you didn’t know was there. So local knowledge definitely helps out.”
Among the other five qualifiers, one was Sebring’s Rocky Khara, who now lives in Orlando. Khara played high school golf at Lakewood Ranch before a college career at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Since his post-VCU career, Khara turned pro and has played some mini-tours while also dabbling with the Asian Tour and attempting to get into PGA Canada Tour events. On Thursday, he cranked out a 71 that saw five birdies.
“Luckily, I hit my irons pretty close two or three times, where I could just tap it in for birdie,” said Khara, who qualified for the Florida Open for the third time in his career.
Sarasota’s Cole Taylor fired the lone sub-70 round with a 4-under par 68. Sarasota’s Tommy Stirling and Jeremy Perna carded 70s, while Sarasota’s Michael Visacki joined Khara with a 1-under par 71.
They’ll all join Mörk in a couple weeks at the Florida Open, which takes place at two different courses. One of those, Orange Tree, is Mörk’s home course. And despite not having the local knowledge — he played Waterlefe once prior to Thursday’s competitive round — like the other golfers progressing, Mörk relied on the smart play during the playoff and having Perrine Delacour, who is sidelined from the LPGA Tour with injuries, as a caddy.
“If I had played first, I would have hit driver trying to be aggressive,” Mörk said.