Lanto Griffin knows better now.
The first PGA Tour event of the season will not define him. Even if it marks his return to the big leagues after a one-year absence, and even if it’s staged at The Greenbrier — the course that’s such an easy drive for all his family and friends in the New River Valley.
The former Blacksburg High School and Virginia Commonwealth University standout will tee off at 1:45 p.m. Thursday in the first round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier — the opening tournament of the 2019-20 PGA Tour wraparound schedule.
“If I had to pick one event where I really wanted to play well, it would probably be The Greenbrier,” Griffin said. “I’ll just have to manage the distractions. Obviously, I’ve been doing this for a while, so I’ve gotten pretty good at saying no and managing my time. But it’ll be interesting going from playing for $600 grand to $6 million. That’s a big difference.”
The purse for this event is actually $7.5 million, which dwarfs the financial incentives Griffin chased last season on the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour. After losing his PGA Tour card following his first campaign on the circuit, Griffin won it back this past summer by finishing sixth on the Korn Ferry Tour regular-season standings.
He’s taking a more relaxed approach to his second PGA Tour season.
“I remember my first year on Tour, I missed the cut at the first event of the year,” Griffin said. “I missed the cut by one. I birdied the last hole and thought I made the cut. I took it pretty hard. I was pretty [ticked] off.
“Looking back, there’s 25 events in a year. There’s no reason to put all this emphasis on the first week. Little stuff like that that I’ve learned from my first year on Tour, I’ll be able to take into my sophomore year and hopefully be a little bit smarter.”
That doesn’t mean he’d be happy with missing the cut at The Greenbrier, of course. With the tournament moved from mid-summer to the fall, it’s a great opportunity for players such as Griffin to set the tone for the year.
“There’s a lot of tournaments that I could earn my way into by having a good fall,” he said. “So that’s the goal. I’ll be focused. I’ve taken a good five or six tournaments off this summer just to stay fresh, so I’ll be ready to go.”
So will his local fans. Many of his family members and close friends are staying in a cabin all week at The Greenbrier, so Griffin will have to balance the potential distractions with his desire to connect with all those who support him.
He believes he’s better prepared than ever to do that — just one of many reasons his second season on the PGA Tour feels so much different.
“If I go to The Greenbrier and I play great, that’s amazing,” he said. “If I play terrible, I’m in the next week and the week after. I’m going to have five tournaments in a row starting with The Greenbrier. So there’s a lot less pressure than if you have one week to make your mark.”