Despite falling just short of her first LPGA title last week in her hometown of Dallas, Gerina Piller has gained more confidence over the last few months of stellar golf.
“It definitely encourages me,” Piller, 31, said after a T2 at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout. “I’ve never been in the lead (alone) before going into Sunday, so I took nothing but good things from today and I still believe in myself and just looking forward to next week.”
Her competitive drive has also been displayed, most humorously in a new Pure Silk and Barbasol commercial with her husband, PGA Tour player Martin Piller, where they one-up each other in swimming, cooking, checkers, ping pong, video games and rock, scissors and paper.
That trait has played out over the last month on the LPGA. Beginning at the Kia Classic in late March, Piller has finished T6 at the Kia, T6 at the ANA Inspiration, T3 at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic and T2 last week entering the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic this week in Prattville, Ala.
Her usual long game has been there this season, with a 270-yard average off the tee – currently ranking 12th in the Driving Distance category where she has never finished worse than ninth. She is also among the best in Greens in Regulation, hitting more than 73 percent in each of the last four seasons. But the big turnaround has come in the touch department. Piller has never finished better than 66th or with more than 72 percent of fairways hit in Driving Accuracy for a season, yet she is averaging 75 percent (in 35th place) this season. Putting is even a bigger switch as Piller is averaging 29.7 putts per round, ranked 47th in a category where she has never averaged less than 30 putts per round in a season or ranked better than 80th.
The focus on high-level play and short game improvement began last September at the Solheim Cup in Germany when Piller had a 3-0-1 record. She sank a 9-foot par putt on the final hole to beat Caroline Masson 1-up and keep the American team alive in a dramatic comeback.
The all-around game is also paying dividends toward the goal of playing for American teams in international competition this summer. She is 17th in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings this week, her career-best ranking, and is the fourth-best American in the world. Only Lexi Thompson (No. 3), Stacy Lewis (No. 4) and Cristie Kerr (No. 16) are ranked higher.
The Americans will carry four players into the UL International Crown in mid-July, based on the rankings of June 13. With the rankings of July 11 being the final factor for the Olympic Games, 60 players will make the field. The top 15 in the world rankings – two spots ahead of Piller –qualify, with a limit of four players per country. So the next two months will be vital is she wants to wear red, white and blue.
Not to worry about motivation as her husband continues his best-ever play on the PGA Tour. Prior to the Dallas event, he picked her up at the airport as she traveled from San Francisco, two players and spouses coming off top four finishes at the height of the professional game.