The numbers are presented not to demean Martin Trainer, but simply to put into perspective just how brutal the game can be at the PGA Tour level, and how difficult it can be to fight your way out of massive slumps.
And for that matter, how remarkable it is that Trainer is leading this week’s Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open after two rounds.
Since a February Sunday in 2019, when he captured the Puerto Rico Open in only his ninth start as a tour member, Trainer had played on the weekend only nine times in 63 appearances. The 30-year-old was 3-for-16 after the win in 2019, 2-for-19 in ’20, 4-for-23 last season and this year he began the 2021-22 campaign going 0-for-5 before arriving in Houston. He’d missed 17 of the past 18 cuts, playing his last weekend at the 3M Open in late July.
But one’s golf outlook can change in the matter of a single week, and Trainer is having one of those breakthroughs that he hopes isn’t fleeting. With back-to-back 65s on the par-70 Memorial Park Golf Course—his best scores since a 64 in the 2021 Sony Open—Trainer is alone at the top, one shot ahead of Kevin Tway and three up on Adam Long with second-round play continuing into Saturday because of Thursday’s weather delay.
“It’s been tough at times for me the last couple years not playing well, but now that I figured out a little bit of ball-striking, dropped some putts, it really can turn around that quickly,” Trainer said. “So I’m just grateful that that’s happening to me this week, and hopefully I’ll keep it going.”
Not all missed cuts are the same, and Trainer said he hit the ball better than he had in a long time in shooting 72-69 while missing the cut last week at Mayakoba. He just couldn’t make putts, but he’s put it all together this week, gaining more than a half-stroke (.60) on the field with the flat stick. Trainer started on the 10th hole on Friday and made bombs of 25 feet and 34 feet, respectively, at the 15th and 17th.
“Every course on tour is firm and fast and difficult, but this week especially so,” Trainer said. “So it’s really tough just to make pars, and then I had a couple instances today where I was just trying to two-putt and they dropped in from long range. When that happens, not only do you know it’s your day, but you’re thankful that you’re in that position.”
Trainer, who was born in France and raised in California, admits that he’s been demoralized at times by the results. After all, he very well earned his way onto the PGA Tour with two victories in 2018 on the then-Web.com Tour. He seemed destined for more success after the victory as a big-league rookie in Puerto Rico. But it’s been a monumental struggle ever since. In the last two years, Trainer has earned a total of $149,766 after making $692,155 in his first full year.
This is the last season he can lean on being a tour winner to own his card.
“There’s always an incentive to play, and there’s always that hope that maybe I can find it, but yeah, there’s definitely been times when I haven’t been playing well in the last couple years where I thought about and pondered my future in the game. It’s nice to finally have one of these validating performances where all that work actually is paying off.”
This article originally appeared on Golf Digest.