Akshay Bhatia’s win last year on the PGA Tour earned him full status for 2024. He is already making good on it, too. For the second week in a row, the 21-year-old enters the weekend in contention; this time at the Sony Open.
Last week, Bhatia was one shot off the lead at The Sentry heading into Sunday but had to settle for a T14 as he shot at 71. On Friday, the rising star posted a 6-under 64 to leave himself two shots off the lead, currently held by a trio of golfers.
Unlike in the past, this year he switched things up for the 2024 season and did something he doesn’t normally do for himself — set goals.
“This year, I have goals I want to achieve,” Bhatia said after his second round. “There are a lot of things that I can’t control, and I think as I’m maturing more, I’m understanding that. I’m okay with a lot more things. I’m switching the mentality around… I need to keep doing that. It’s a long season.”
Akshay Bhatia ranked 183rd out of 193 in SG: Putting last year. Lucas Glover was among those he consulted about switching to the long putter. What did Glover say?
“Don’t forget, all those people that you’re worried about judging you want to be you.”
— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) January 6, 2024
It’s a bit surprising to learn that setting goals was not something he had done previously.
But breaking habits can be difficult. So, the youngster has decided to be nicer to himself when things don’t go well. Bhatia knows it’ll be a long season, so pacing himself and listening to his body are big priorities.
“To be more realistic with myself — I think I’m so hard on myself all the time,” he said. “Like I said, switching the way I talk to myself and certain things I want to achieve. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a long process. I don’t know, it frees me up having those in the back of my head where they’re not too goal-oriented but achievable in a way.”
This new mindset has seemed to work for Bhatia thus far. When Bhatia changed putters at The Sentry, instead of setting a result-oriented goal, he went into the tournament with a no-judgment approach. Bhatia finished the week No. 3 in strokes gained putting.
He shot five strokes better than he did in the first round this week. But it was his last four holes that made a difference as he went 4-under during that stretch.
On his final hole, the par-5 9th, the Wake Forest, N.C., resident hit it 330 yards off the tee and had 177 yards to the green. He hit a beautiful approach shot that landed 11 feet from the hole. Bhatia then sank the eagle putt building momentum heading into Saturday.
His new approach to the game seems to be paying off for him, and just might land him his second career win on Tour.
Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.