Notes The Story of Bambi

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2004, 4:00 pm
TROON, Scotland -- Ron Levin is called 'Bambi' by his peers because he first went to work as a tour caddie when he was 17 and looks young compared with most other loopers. He has spent half his life as a caddie, working on just about every tour imaginable.
 
Still, he would not have been on the 18th green at Royal Troon hugging his boss - British Open champion Todd Hamilton - if not for a freak encounter a dozen years ago at Muirfield, and visa problems involving another caddie.
 
The strange sequence of events started when Hamilton won the Asian Tour money list, which got him into the 1992 British Open at Muirfield. Levin was working for D.A. Weibring that week, but Weibring didn't make it through final qualifying.
 
'He had met a girl that was working at a bed and breakfast that we were staying at,' Hamilton recalled. 'She mentioned to him, 'There's a golfer staying at our place that is looking for a caddie.' I was told to look for him in the parking lot.'
 
Hamilton missed the cut with Bambi on the bag, although they stayed in touch over the years.
 
Now, fast-forward to the start of the season. Hamilton got his PGA Tour card through Q-school, but his regular caddie in Japan (a Canadian resident) has been having trouble getting his visa sorted out.
 
'I saw him (Levin) out earlier this year and I told him the situation,' Hamilton said. 'I said, 'You're more than welcome to caddie for me if you'd like for the rest of the year.''
 
The rest is history. They won together at the Honda Classic, which got Hamilton into the Masters and secured his PGA Tour card for two years. And they won the biggest of them all at Royal Troon, which makes Hamilton exempt on tour and for the majors the next five years.
 
'He was very instrumental,' Hamilton said Sunday. 'He kept me calm. He knew what today was all about. If I could saw that claret jug in half and give him half, I'd gladly do it.'
 
SILVER CONSOLATION
British Amateur champion Stuart Wilson was flirting with the lead in the first round of the British Open, but ended his week at Royal Troon with rounds of 75-77-76 and tied for 63rd.
 
Still, he wound up with the silver medal as the low amateur, and the only one to make the cut.
 
'This is what I came here to achieve, and to pick up the silver medal is a special honor,' he said. 'I've played alongside a lot of good players. The reception from the crowd has been fantastic. And to play all four rounds was really special.'
 
The only tough moment came during the practice round, when security made him park in a different lot.
 
'I think the marshals were looking for something a bit plusher than a Ford Fiesta,' he said.
 
Next up for Wilson is the Masters, which gives an invitation to the British Amateur champion. He also wants to play in the Walker Cup next year before deciding whether to turn pro.
 
LANGUAGE BARRIER
K.J. Choi is trying to speak English in more of his interviews, a noble effort considering it makes the amiable South Korean feel uncomfortable.
 
He has lived in the United States the last five years, moving to Houston in 2001. His best teacher is 7-year-old son David, who is in school and speaks English better than Korean.
 
'David tries to teach me a few phrases, and I try to catch them,' Choi said. 'He's like an American kid. He's forgetting his Korean. I'm worried about it. English is perfect. Korean, 40 to 50 percent. Sometimes, he doesn't understand me.'
 
AMATEUR DAYS
As more college players are leaving school early to turn pro, two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Ryan Moore says he will stay at UNLV all four years.
 
'It's always been something I thought about,' Moore said of playing on the PGA Tour. 'But I really want a team championship. That's what you play college for. You don't go there for all the individual titles. This is your one time, four years of your life, you get to play as a team.'
 
Moore now has even more reason to stay in school. His second victory in the Publinx gets him back to the Masters, where he made the cut two years ago.
 
That's also where he played a practice round with Arnold Palmer, who had a word with Moore's father about not rushing into professional golf.
 
'He said that too many guys make the mistake of going a little early instead of kicking back and enjoying themselves ... which is what I'm looking forward to next year,' Moore said.
 
MAKING THE GRADE
Going into the PGA Championship, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are the only players who can finish in the top 10 in all four majors this year.
 
A dozen others will try to make the cut in all majors, still exclusive company. They are K.J. Choi, Vijay Singh, Chris DiMarco, Nick Price, Retief Goosen Charles Howell III, Steve Flesch, Shaun Micheel, Scott Verplank, Jerry Kelly and Tiger Woods, who has never missed the cut in a major as a pro.
 
On the other side are the five players who have missed the cut in all three majors - Thomas Bjorn, Brian Davis, Nick Faldo, Australian amateur Nick Flanagan and Chad Campbell, who missed the last two by a single shot.
 
DIVOTS
Ernie Els looked distraught after losing the British Open in a playoff. Imagine how the guy felt who placed the largest single wager ever in the Open - 62,500 pounds on Els at 8-1 odds at the start of the week. He stood to get about $935,000. ... Mark Calcavecchia, who made birdie out of the rough just to make the cut, had a chance to finish in the top 10 at the British Open, but he was knocked out when Tiger Woods made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole. ... Most people commonly refer to hybrid fairway metals as the Rescue club, which is made by Taylor Made and was the first prominent product on the market. Todd Hamilton is sponsored by Taylor Made. So what was that club that he used to save par on the final hole of the playoff? A hybrid club made by Sonartec. ... Fred Funk, who skipped the British Open so he could try to get Ryder Cup points at the B.C. Open, tied for 40th.
 
OF THE WEEK
Phil Mickelson, who leads the money list, would be 12th based on his performance in the three majors alone. He has earned $2,350,965 from the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
 
FINAL WORD
'This course has a lot of history.' - Fred Funk on En-Joie Golf Club, site of the B.C. Open, which he played instead of the British Open.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 133rd Open Championship
  • British Open Photo Gallery

  • Full Coverage - 133rd Open Championship
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

    Honda leaders face daunting final day

    By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

    Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

    “It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

    Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

    That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

    Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

    “Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

    At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

    List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

    “You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

    Amen.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Crazy things have happened here.

    Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

    Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

    That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

    Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

    List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

    List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

    “You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

    There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

    Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

    Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

    “It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

    Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

    Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

    “I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

    Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

    Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

    “I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

    That’s the theme around here.

    Getty Images

    Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

    Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

    The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

    “I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

    “It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

    “A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

    Getty Images

    Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

    Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

    Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

    Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

    Getty Images

    List leads Honda; Thomas one back

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

    Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

    Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

    What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

    Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

    Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

    Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

    Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

    Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).