RALEIGH — After another long putt landed too far short, this time for a three-putt bogey on the par-3 12th, Grayson Murray turned his face to the sky in equal parts supplication and exasperation.
Two years ago, when he became the second-youngest player to make a cut at a Nationwide Tour event, those putts dropped for Murray at TPC Wakefield Plantation. Friday, they didn’t, and the 18-year-old missed the cut at this year’s Rex Hospital Open.
“I never really got a feel for the greens the whole week,” Murray said. “I kind of struggled with everything. It just carried over from putting to my iron game to my driver. I struggle a lot with my swing, and I’m able to still get around and score, but this week was a little different. No worries. You’re going to have bad weeks. You just don’t want them to come at times like this.”
His performance two years ago may have created unrealistic expectations for the Wake Forest-bound graduate of Leesville Road High School this week, but Murray also knows he can play better than this. He’s been working hard to get to that level, only a month away from entering summer school at Wake but already six months removed from high school.
Murray graduated early so he could live with a friend in Florida and work full time on his game. He half-seriously proposed the idea to Clancy Waugh, a Wake Forest golf recruit from North Palm Beach, Fla., at the Wake Forest-Notre Dame football game last fall. But Waugh’s parents were OK with it, and so were Murray’s, so off he went.
“I lived with him for three-and-a-half, four months, working on my game,” Murray said. “Just getting up every morning and playing golf. I started thinking about it a year ago, because I was just kind of getting tired of high school.”
It’s all designed to get his game in shape for college, where he’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of Webb Simpson and Bill Haas under Wake Forest coach Jerry Haas. Len Mattiace, the PGA Tour veteran from Wake Forest, approached him on the range this week, impressed by Murray’s record in this event.
Coming home and having a couple days to work with coach Ted Kiegiel helped Murray find his swing for the 36-hole Rex Junior Invitational, winning that tournament and the exemption into the Nationwide event for the second time in three years, but even the experience of two years ago wasn’t enough to keep him going against the pros.
He opened with a 12-over 83 on Thursday and finished with a 4-over 75 on Friday, four shots ahead of the last-place finisher, 97 spots behind where he finished in 2010.
“I know I can hang with these guys,” Murray said. “I just had a bad week.”
He’ll have to step back from tournament play while he’s in summer school, so he only has a few amateur events left to play. Two of those offer the winner an invitation to the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship in August.
Murray has never played in a PGA Tour event, but his Nationwide Tour debut made history. Two years later, he’s ready to move on – from this week, into college, to the rest of his golf career.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Murray said. “I’ve been committed for so long, it’s just kind of dragged out. It finally hit me I only have a month, and then I’m there.”
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, (919) 829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock