Champ struggled with ‘expectations’ after Sanderson win

Relative to where he stood a year ago, as a fresh-faced PGA Tour rookie looking to break through on the biggest stage, Cameron Champ doesn’t have any regret about his newfound standing on Tour.

“I mean, I think as a rookie season, if you would have told me I would have won and made it to the BMW (Championship), I think I would have took it and signed the paper then,” Champ told reporters this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship.

Champ is back to defend the title he won in impressive fashion last year at the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.), where a four-shot win signaled the long-hitting prospect as the next game-changer on Tour. He followed with a T-10 finish at Mayakoba and a sixth-place showing at the RSM Classic later in the fall, heading into the holiday break near the top of the season-long points race.

But things didn’t exactly progress as expected for Champ once the calendar flipped to 2019, with a T-11 finish at the 35-man Sentry Tournament of Champions serving as his lone top-20 result. There was a back injury that led him to withdraw from The Players in March, which was sandwiched in between a run of four straight missed cuts. A T-54 finish at the PGA Championship in May was the first time he played a weekend in more than three months, and after sitting one shot off the lead through 36 holes of the Rocket Mortgage Classic he faded to a T-46 result over the weekend.

In hindsight, the whirlwind of promotion and success took a toll on the 24-year-old who was still finding his footing.

“Obviously being in featured pairings, it all led to other things,” Champ said. “At first I didn’t feel like it affected me, but on the inside I think it did. I had expectations, kind of putting extra pressure, kind of worrying about things I wasn’t worrying about at all last year and in the beginning of the fall.”

Champ is making his first start of the new season this week, but after experiencing unexpected highs along with unexpected lows during his debut campaign, he’s eager to turn last season into a learning experience that brought with it lessons in maturity.

“For me, I’m kind of happy it happened now,” Champ said. “It’s something I’ve really sat back and looked at, what I did for those two months (around the injury), whether that’s practicing, how I showed up to the course, if I showed up on time, what I was eating, if it affected my mood. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”