Will Shoots Personal Best: 68

I ended up caddying for Will on Saturday in the first round of the qualifier for Club Championship. He shot an outstanding 35-33 for his own personal best at Hackensack, 68.

He was hitting the ball so well, it was just a privilege to be able to watch it. But to actually play a part in it was an honor. Will and I were really working together throughout, with me providing valuable insight into exact distances to the flag. Will trusted my every judgment, and the swings he was making out there were perfect – he had approaches land between 8 inches and 6 feet about eight or nine times.

He had a 25-footer for eagle on one. Chipped to four feet on two. Blasted out of the sand to 10 feet on three (his first of only two bogeys). Knocked it to 6 feet on four, 5 feet on five, 6 feet on seven, 8 inches on 12, 5 feet on 13 (a rare miss), four feet on 16, 8 feet on 17 (another miss, sadly). He rolled it in from 20 feet for birdie on 15. It was just an all-around fabulous display of professional-level golf. His was the low round of the day by four strokes.

I wasn’t going to carry for him originally. I planned on letting him qualify on his own, leaving me free to make some money on Saturday and then head down the shore that night. Besides, I knew he could qualify no problem and that where he really needed me was in the matches the next two weekends. But I had no ride up to the club to make the early loops – so I took the train and got there in the middle of qualifiying rounds. What was I going to do? Pick up the bag of some random joe against Will just so I could make a lousy 60 or 80 bucks? No way.

But the shore plans remained in effect, which meant I would not be on the bag Sunday. This lead to a little experiment. What would the difference be between Will having me by his side and playing alone off the cart? Although it’s not exactly scientific, with only one round of testing, the result turns out to be: 13 strokes.

Yeah. Boy went out on Sunday morning leading the field by four and ended up with an 81 – a match of cards put him as the fourth seed. No big deal; he’s in the tournament. But the word around the club now is that I am like a natural force of Looper and that, without me on the bag, the Golden Boy Will turns magically into the duffer Bill. As Denis put it, “Thank God you’re going to be out here for him next weekend.”

Bory Cup All Tied Up

Friday night’s match was dead even going into the last hole. After an auspicious start for myself, birdieing the first hole while Will doubled, to give me a 7-shot lead (getting five strokes), I managed to stumble, as I usually do. There were a few lost balls. Will, meanwhile, just continued to make pars. We ended up on the 9th tee tied.

I drove the ball right down the center of the fairway, and Will sliced it OB. That pretty much ended it. We couldn’t find his ball and he played his provisional into the trap. Though it was near complete darkness, I absolutely pured a 5-iron right at the stick to about 15 feet. A simple two-putt par, and a vital victory in the Bory Cup matches.

The points are now all tied at 4 each. I need 3 and a half to win the cup; Will needs 3 to defend it.

The Bory Cup

The Bory Cup
The Bory Cup

This year’s competition for the Bory Cup is heating up as it enters its final stages.

Conceived as a ten-match summer event between Will and I last year, the format of the Bory Cup underwent some alterations this year. It also acquired an actual cup (above) to be held by the champion. Will was the inaugural winner.

Rather than ten matches, the event has been extended to a maximum of 14. But it could be over in as little as seven. Each match is worth one point, with a halve awarding half a point to each competitor. The defending champion needs seven points to retain the cup; the challenger needs 7.5 to wrest it.

This year started off more evenly than last year, when Will basically ran away with it. (Though I don’t remember the exact score, as I was not documenting it, I think I only won one or two points). The first match of 2008 was held May 3, right after Will got back from school, and was halved. The second match, which I wrote about for its lopsidedness, was a decisive victory for the elder brother. But in a stretch from late May to the end of June, Will was dominant, with three victories and a halve. Just when it was looking awful, I came back with a narrow victory in a 9-hole match in which Will gave me 5 shots (these matches are handicapped, naturally, since our indexes vary by about 10 shots).

Now the score stands Will 4, Rindy 3. The next match is scheduled for this evening around 6pm, where we will hope to get in 18 before the light closes us out. With sunset scheduled for 8:18, we may only have room for nine. But every match is a match. And with Will going back to school in three weeks, we have to get them in where we can!

Open-sourced Banter

DAN HICKS: Let’s go to thirteen.

BOB MURPHY: Well, just a moment ago – we have to show you this to appreciate the difficulty… right on the front of the green, it’s up the hill about 39 feet, Phil Mickelson’s third…

JOHNNY MILLER: Uh-oh… that was a big uh-oh

MURPHY: Down the hill…

MILLER: This is like six flags, right here…

MURPHY: This is his fourth.

MILLER: This is a tougher shot than the last one.

MURPHY: Really really clipped it – watch out. Back … down…

MILLER: Might go in his own divot

HICKS: He makes it a habit to play here once twice a week, especially preparing for the US Open in his back yard, so he knows what this is all about, Murph

MURPHY: Playing five…

MILLER: Was that heavy?

MURPHY: That sounded heavy

HICKS: Oh my goodness…

MURPHY: This was a moment ago… this was a lot of moments ago! It takes a long time to do all this…

MILLER: You know what’s amazing? He’s hit the ball three times and he’s farther than when he started…

HICKS: Can you imagine how he feels, the local favorite here, just, throwing it away at 13 here, Murph

MURPHY: Yes, and just utter dejection. This is number six, and it’s finally on the green.

MILLER: Last time we had something similar was that tenth hole at Shinnecock. Remember that Bob?

MURPHY: Yes I do!

MILLER: But it wouldn’t come back this far.

MURPHY: This is for seven.

MILLER: Well you don’t see too many snowmen at the beach, but…

MURPHY: Johhny, he hammered it.

HICKS: Well, he’s gonna be hoping for a snowman. This is amazing…

MURPHY: This is nine-ten feet past the hole. Now you’re just not thinking, are you, Johnny? You’re just in another zone.

MILLER: Yeah your hands get – get – you know – sort of sweaty?

MURPHY: This is eight … makes, a quad – nine on the par 5.

HICKS: Murph, yesterday was Friday the 13th … … Saturday, at 13 … is a nightmare for Mickelson.


MURPHY: You know you hate to see it, you hate to see anybody do it.

MILLER: And this gallery’s been so loyal and so strong in its support… Well, back to Ernie Els on that, uh, par 3…

The US Open

Torrey Pines is on fire this year.

I’m watching the end of yesterday’s second-round coverage (love DVR) and it is such a thrill. Tiger and Phil are paired together with Adam Scott (who is being ignored, more on that later) and they are going shot for shot down the stretch. The USGA really did a great thing putting the number one and number two (and number three) players together for the first two rounds.

Tiger started off the first round with a double-bogey – after all the speculation about his knee (just coming off surgery 8 weeks ago) it was hoped not to be a harbinger of disaster in the offing. Tons of coverage means cute little features about things like Phil Mickelson growing up nearby in Rancho Santa Fe, where his well-off parents had a real green and sand trap in their backyard. The evidence of how many hours he spent out there chipping has been his amazing recovery shots from all over the place – including what looked like certain doom when he flew the 3rd green Friday and went downhill into the hazard. His flop shot was great but left him a long putt of at least 30 feet – which he drained with authority.

That was just a few holes after he’d flew another green and gone under the grandstands, taken a drop in the deep deep rough and plopped it out masterfully to about 2 inches. Nearly bloody drained it!

The crowds have been amazing – only getting bigger as times goes on. Just now (on my viewing schedule, at least) at the third, Tiger had to read his putt while a phalanx of photographers looked on from directly behind the hole. It underscores how good these guys are, Tiger more than anyone – that they not only pull off amazing feats of golf but they do it while being totally distracted by monstrous crowds. Especially at the US Open, there is not one shot hit without someone, immediately after ball contact, screaming “Get in the hole!!!” This is not Augusta National. This is America’s National Championship – the people’s championship.

Third Leg

That brings me back to Adam Scott, an Australian who has become more popular on tour in the last few years, winner of this year’s Byron Nelson Championship in Texas. He also happens to be the third-best golfer in the world, but you wouldn’t know it from the treatment he’s getting from the coverage. There have been more than one instance where they show Tiger and Phil hit, and then move on to some other hole, neglecting to show Scott’s approach or drive. He’s a few shots back, but so is Phil, and I feel like they could be giving him more respect. Then again, Tiger just made 5 threes in a row – including four birdies – so Scott’s repeated missed putts aren’t really providing any excitement in comparison.

I’m off to Kent now for my ten-year reunion, and then tomorrow golf with Dad and the boys for Father’s Day – after which we’ll retire to Dad’s to barbeque and was the finish – it promises to be an exciting weekend at Torrey Pines and here on the East coast…

One more note – it’s nice to see quite a few amateurs who are going to be sticking around for the weekend. This Fathauer kid is really deadly around the greens and there’s some 19-year-old college freshman who qualified as an alternate and was lucky enough to have some other player drop out.

UPDATE: As if he were reacting to my words, Adam Scott just hit the flagpole on the 8th hole and nearly had an ace. Nice kick-in birdie and let’s see him continue the momentum into the weekend. I really like this guy – his swing is beautiful. And something else that draws me to him is that he’s almost exactly my age. He makes me wonder if I ever could have been that good…

Triumphant Victory

Hackensack Sunshine
Hackensack Sunshine

Will is a player. He always beats me. But yesterday the golf gods were on my side, because I whipped him good, and took $28 off him in the process.

To be fair, the kid had just had a lesson, and so was in the process of fixing his swing. It really showed. He sprayed it all over the course, especially on the first nine (the back). And he gave me four shots a side, as he has for years. But it wasn’t all his collapse. I had one of the best rounds of my career, shooting 42-42, with some absolutely fantastic shots along the way.

Some of the bagroom dudes watched me tee off #10, our starting hole, and I duffed a couple real good, which drew howls of laughter. But I was laughing later, crushing 270-yard drives, striping hybrids to the green, chipping solidly and rolling it beautifully on the green.

I think I had four or five double bogeys – meaning I could have broken 80 for the first time if I had had my game together from the start. I won the first nine 6/4/2 and the back two-up. Closed out the match at 4 and 3. Took all four greenies on the last par 3 and had a birdie somewhere along the way – I think? What’s not in dispute is that I thrashed him after years of losing. It felt like justice.

Tiger Mania


We witnessed Tiger in the flesh on Sunday at the HSBC Champions tournament at Sheshan Golf Club here in Shanghai. Here you can see him lining up a putt on the 9th, but when I get my next role developed I expect to have a much better shot of him, which I shot up close after he finished his round.

It was really a great event. I, who love golf, was bound to have a good time – no surprises there. But many doubted that my lady would be amused at walking around a vast expanse of land for hours on end watching large men hit little balls at faraway targets. The doubters were wrong; she loved every minute.

In fact, this was not her first golf tournament. She accompanied me to the 2004 China Open, also in Shanghai, which gave tickets away for free because Chinese people don’t care about golf Tiger wasn’t there. The biggest name at that event was Thomas Bjorn.

But this one was huge. I guess there were over 10,000 people there Sunday. And media were all over the place, as were the corporate sponsors. They had an area set up to play games, and I took shots of her playing mini-golf and getting a free ten-minute lesson.

The Chinese love Tiger, and some will say it is because they love a winner. All Chinese F1 fans (that I have met) love Michael Schumacher. All basketball fans love Jordan. And all golf fans love Tiger. People become golf fans because they love Tiger. This is not limited to the Chinese at all; it’s a worldwide phenomenon.

I have to admit, the guy is MAGNETIC. Just knowing that I was on the same course as him made me feel electric. When I saw him up close, I felt magic. I can’t describe it. Star power, I guess.

I got tickets by playing up the media angle, getting a pass to the media tent and a free lunch. That meant that I got to go to the press conference the Tuesday before the tournament started, at which Tiger made an appearance and answered some questions. I tried to ask him if he would ever design a golf course in China (he recently announced the formation of a design company), but the moderator never called on me and eventually a Chinese journalist asked my question. Tiger answered in his usual loquacious, noncommital, and media-savvy way.

On Friday he shot the course record, 64, but in the end he didn’t have enough to win, and came in second – the same as last year. And again, a relative unknown won. This year the champ was Yang Yung-eun of Korea, who beat out third-round leader Retief Goosen in the final holes. Cool finish.

Lord Byron, RIP

Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson

The great Byron Nelson is dead. At the ripe old age of 94, one of golf’s greatest legends has passed on. The New York Times did a great obituary on this giant of the game, in which they said

Nelson won the Masters twice, the P.G.A. Championship twice and the United States Open once. His triumphs in those five majors were among his 52 tournament victories, placing him No. 6 on the PGA Tour career list. His 18 tournament victories in 1945 remain a single-season record. During a seven-year stretch in the 1940’s he made 113 consecutive tournament cuts, a total exceeded only by Tiger Woods, who passed him in 2003. He was named male athlete of the year for 1944 and 1945 in an Associated Press poll of sportswriters and broadcasters.

They should have added there (they did later) that part of those 18 victories in 1945 made up a stretch of 11 consecutive wins. Both records still stand, and will probably stand for all time. No golfer has come close to either. The great Sam Snead “only” managed 11 in one season, and Tiger, in all his glory, has only gone as far as six straight – impressive feats, nonetheless. And I believe Tiger has gone 6 in a row twice. But nobody has touched 11 and 18, and I doubt they will.

Another noteworthy part of the article says that Byron Nelson was once an assistant pro in my hometown of Ridgewood, NJ, at the storied Ridgewood Country Club. Actually, the RCC is in Paramus, but hey, what can you do.

Here is my favorite part of the article, which I think sums up the way that I want to look at my own life, whether in golf, music, business, study, or anything:

“”What I did in 1945 was mostly a mental achievement”,” he recalled. “”In those days, I could drive the ball so well that I would really get bored. I just decided I was not going to hit one careless shot. Plus, I had the focus of the ranch.”” Nelson needed $55,000 to purchase ranchland, something he had long coveted. In his memoir “How I Played the Game,” his recalled: ““Each drive, each iron, each chip, each putt was aimed at the goal of getting that ranch. And each win meant another cow, another acre, another 10 acres, another part of the down payment.””

Nelson’’s winnings in 1945 —- about $63,000 in war bonds -— enabled him to buy a 740-acre spread in Roanoke, near Dallas, that he named Fairway Ranch. It became his home for the rest of his life.

I’ll raise my glass to that.

UPDATE 9-28: NYT has a new piece on Nelson here (requires subscription) which includes this anecdote about Ridgewood:

Nelson hit the ball so straight, the caddies there once challenged him to try to hit the flagpole about 100 yards away across the practice green from the slate deck outside the pro shop. Together, the caddies put up about 55 cents. They put down three balls on the deck and gave Nelson three shots to hit the flagpole, which was about six inches wide.

“I used my 3-iron,” Nelson often recalled with a smile. “My first ball just missed the flagpole, then my second clanged off it. I picked up the 55 cents.”

Damn. And here’s what kind of a guy Lord Byron was, in the words of Ken Venturi:

“I once asked Byron why, wherever we went, he would always go into the pro shop and ask, ‘’What is the course record and who holds it?’’”” Venturi recalled. “”He told me: ‘‘If the home pro owns the course record, you don’’t break it. The home pro lives there. We’’re just visitors.’’ Now that’’s class.”