LAS VEGAS — She had no idea at the time, but Aaron Wise’s girlfriend Reagan Trussell pulled off an expert gambling move at the 15th hole at The Summit Club. It was the elusive reverse mush, where you basically say something isn’t going to happen in the hopes of it actually happening, hence “reverse.” In Vegas, it’s a move that rarely, if ever, works.
But it worked to perfection in the opening round of the CJ Cup, as Wise shot a first-round 66, putting him in a tie for fourth, five back of the red-hot Robert Streb.
Making the round all the more impressive was the fact that Wise was only two under through 14 holes, having just bogeyed the 13th when he missed an 11-footer for par, then making par at the par-5 14th, missing a 13-footer for birdie. For Wise, it was his seventh miss from 20 feet or less on the day, which proved more frustrating for Trussell than it did for Wise.
At No. 15, Wise hit his approach from 166 yards to 14 feet to a back right pin. “Pretty good shot,” two onlookers said to Trussell. “If he could just make the putt it would be,” she responded.
From that moment on, Wise literally did not miss. The 14-footer at 15 trickled in the side door, the three-footer at the par-3 16th was routine. He came up two yards short of the 17th green, leaving himself with a 23-footer that had to first tumble through the fairway. Bang. At the par-5 18th, a brilliant third chip left him with only two feet. Even for a guy who has ranked outside the top 130 on tour in strokes gained/putting in each of the last three seasons, it was an easy cleanup. Birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish after Trussell’s innocent quip next to the 15th green. Elite reverse-mushing. And yes, for those wondering, this is the same Trussell who infamously denied Wise a victory kiss following his first win at the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson. They’re still very much together, so all good there.
While we’d love to give all the credit to Trussell, part of Wise’s recent putting improvement is due to a broomstick putter he put in play just before the end of last season. “Right before the Barracuda,” Trussell says. “He used it in college and won a tournament and now it’s working again.”
That tournament was the 2014 Ka’anapali Collegiate Classic in Hawaii, where Wise, as a freshman at Oregon, shot rounds of 66, 72 and 65 to earn medalist honors with a 10-under total.
The broomstick era was short-lived for Wise, though, up until the very end of last season, when he put it back in the bag just before the Barracuda. He wound up missing that cut, but has since finished 26th or better in four of his last six starts, gaining strokes on the green in three of them.
“Just one of those things where I looked at it with my coach and the numbers looked pretty good,” said Wise. “So we gave it a chance and it’s working pretty well.”
Pretty well is more than good enough for Wise, who has been very strong tee-to-green for the better part of a year now.
“I’ve always been a pretty good ball-striker, got that part figured out.”
Now, like Reagan said, if he could just make some putts, he’d have it all figured out.