The duo of Abraham Ancer and caddie Dale Vallely made their first Tour Championship appearance this past week at East Lake Golf Club.
This huge accomplishment capped off Ancer’s career-best season, finishing 21st in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, 39 spots better than his 60th finish last season in his postseason debut.
“We’ve accomplished so much this year and setting up for (the 2020 season),” Vallely said, “it keeps getting better and better.”
Thanks to some early FedExCup Playoffs fireworks in the postseason’s opening Northern Trust earlier this month, Ancer secured his spot in the coveted season-ending top-30 field with a solo second, their best finish of the year.
Ancer had an eagle putt from 42 feet that would have tied eventual winner Patrick Reed on the 72nd hole. Give the 28-year-old credit, he was aggressive with it and had seven feet coming back for birdie.
He drained the birdie which guaranteed a solo second and eighth in the FedEx Standings, locking up his spot at East Lake.
“That was a key moment, that putt on the last,” Ancer said. “I knew it was going to be important but I didn’t know it was going to mean that much at that time.”
Had he missed it, one PGA Tour official estimates he may not have automatically qualified for East Lake that day.
In jumping to eighth in the standings, Ancer also guaranteed himself a spot on Ernie Els’ International Presidents Cup team headed for Australia in December. He’ll be the first Mexican player to play in the event.
“I’m really happy with the way I played to get this far and I’m really excited for what’s coming, like the Presidents Cup and other big events after that.”
Ancer brings plenty of positive experience in Australian golf as the reigning Australian Open champ and runner up in last winter’s ISPS Handa World Cup in Australia with teammate Roberto Diaz.
Vallely, Ancer’s caddie of over three years who’s a veteran player on the Canadian Tour and 10-year veteran looper, also sees a bright outlook.
“It’s incredible what we’ve been able to set up for our schedule,” Vallely said. “It’s amazing, obviously, because we’ve never really had any of that (security) before. So to be able to know exactly what we’re playing all year (in 2020) is awesome.”
Team Ancer will play in four WGCs, likely four majors, and The Players in addition to December’s Presidents Cup.
“We’re not going to have to play in some of these events that we used to play in just to try to get into the bigger events,” Vallely said. “So it’s amazing.”
Ancer started the the Tour Championship at 4 under, six shots behind FedExCup leader Justin Thomas in the new staggered scoring format that saw Rory McIlroy come from five behind to win. Ancer shot 2-over 72 in Thursday’s first round to stand at eight back of Thomas, Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka. He bounced back with a 69 Friday and then had a pair of 72s on the weekend for his T21 finish.
But Ancer sees getting into the Tour Championship as a big step forward in his progression.
“It’s huge,” he said. “That was pretty much my main goal starting the season, make it to the Tour Championship and that makes next year easy to plan. I know what tournaments I’m in. I can pick and choose whichever ones I want, so that’s definitely big and I’m really happy about that for sure.”
Ancer is also happy with Vallely and the tandem they make on the course.
“I think we make a great team. We’re very different, but I think that’s why we don’t get really tired of each other,” Ancer said. “I think we have a really good relationship and he’s definitely been fundamental to our success.”
So, how exactly are they different?
Well for one, Vallely is often full of energy and bringing that to the tee box, while Ancer says he’s more even keel.
“(Dale’s) personality is very go-go-go and he’s always different during a practice round because his personality is all over the place and he’s always telling stories all the time and he’s just a loud guy, but once we’re in tournament mode he keeps it very, very mild and keeps me entertained so that if I get a little down, he pushes me to stay in it,” Ancer explained.
And Vallely likes that they’ve stayed in it for three years together and gone from working the last seven PGA Tour events together in 2015-16, a year on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2016-17, to now finishing their second season back on the PGA Tour.
“It’s nice to progress with someone from there all the way to where he is now and so the relationship we’ve built is obviously really good,” Vallely said.
And these two will get a shot at their first Masters coming up in April, an event that Ancer says he’s watched on TV since he was in diapers.
“It’s been my dream to play in the Masters ever since I was a little kid so I’m looking forward to that for sure,” he said.
Vallely is pretty pumped for the big event as well, and who can blame him?
“It’s going to be the greatest week ever,” Vallely said. “We’re definitely going to go early. It’s going to be awesome.”
In the meantime, there’s a fall season and Presidents Cup just ahead as Ancer and Vallely continue to rise this wave of success.