RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA | Thursday, she made history. When Patty Tavatanakit walked off the Dinah Shore Tournament Course after posting 5-under 67, she became the first defending champion of The Chevron Championship to go that low in her first round back. But you would never have known it by watching her.
Same with Friday. After a birdie-birdie finish to shoot 69 in her second round, a day when she admittedly didn’t have her best stuff, Tavatanakit sauntered over to a gaggle of reporters beside the putting green and summed up her round, as well as her approach to life. “There is no way you're going to have a perfect day with no mistakes,” the 22-year-old said.
She says everything slowly, with a quiet cool. She walks the same way. There’s a swagger that is unequaled in golf on any tour, men or women.
A lot of athletes exude confidence. But they can also come across as aloof or arrogant, which everyone sees as a defense mechanism for some buried insecurities. Not Patty. Whether she’s leading – as she did wire to wire at The Chevron Championship a year ago – or scrambling on the last hole for birdie to post 8-under par going into the weekend, she has a Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape” kind of cool. Never rushed; never shaken; never too high or too low. The only thing missing is her jumping a barbed-wire fence in a Triumph TR6.
“I've always kind of felt comfortable ever since last year, just the whole year,” Patty said after her round on Friday. “Last half of last season and beginning of this year I felt comfortable and just kind of have that belief in myself. But it's still golf. You don't know what's going to happen. You don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow in general. So just going to keep pedaling and keep moving.”
Her victory in the desert last year – still her only win on the LPGA Tour, despite a number of close calls – was without fans as the championship adhered to California’s COVID protocols. This year, a grandstand full of enthusiastic spectators saw her get up-and-down from behind the 18th green for birdie on Friday. More will watch her this weekend.
“I remember making birdie on that hole when I played here (in The Chevron Championship) as an amateur,” she said. “It’s really nice to have the cheering feeling with everyone being around.”
It’s also nice playing in the California desert, a place she will miss after this year.
“I went to UCLA, I've always been like a Cali girl,” she said. “To not play this event next year in California is just kind of a bittersweet good-bye.”
Part of her demeanor is her ability to shut off golf when she walks outside the ropes.
“I love doing nothing,” she said. “Just lay around, watch Netflix, or go hang out with friends. When I'm off the golf course I don't like to think that I'm a golfer.
“I kind of know where I'm at, so if I need to leave the golf course, I'll leave regardless of where I am. Like on Wednesday I played the pro-am and I just left even though I had an afternoon tee time. I just didn't feel like being here. And that's, I think, what works best for me, just knowing when to stop.”
Then she was asked about a shot during the round, a pulled drive into the rough that forced a layup. Those who saw her could tell by the crinkled brow that she couldn’t remember a thing about it, even though it had happened three hours before.
“Honestly, I don't remember much about that,” she said. “But if you ask me what I did in Thailand on 17 on Thursday I wouldn't know. I mean, you keep playing every single week and you're not going to remember everything. We're just kind of wired that way.”
Not “we.” A select few. The cool ones, the ones who can swat the past aside like a pesky gnat and press ahead with a confidence that takes your breath away.
Count Patty Cool as the leader in that camp.