Son of Ray Floyd Making Use of a Free Pass

By Associated PressFebruary 9, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Robert Floyd's name is in bronze on the wall of champions that leads to the first tee at Pebble Beach, a reminder of one of his proudest moments in golf.
OK, so he was only a teenager when he and Dudley Hart won the amateur portion of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. And it was so long ago that Johnny Miller won the tournament by one shot over a group that included Tom Watson.
'That's my claim to fame among my friends, that I won Pebble Beach,' Floyd said with a laugh.
Still aiming for greater glory, Floyd at least caught a whiff of it Friday when he got around Poppy Hills in 2-under 70 to finish one shot behind Tim Herron going into the third round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Toward the end of an interview, a cell phone began to ring, and the 32-year-old Floyd smiled when he saw a man reaching into his pocket.
It was his father, Raymond Floyd, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and four-time major champion, one of those the 1976 Masters when Robert was 3 months old.
The connection is strong.
Ray Floyd has a longtime endorsement deal with AT&T, which helped Robert when it came time to hand out sponsor exemptions. He also played in the tournament last year, and Robert Floyd already has received an exemption to the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
He does not apologize for this.
It can be tough playing golf as the son of a famous father. Jack Nicklaus' son, Gary, made it to the PGA TOUR for a couple of years and came close to winning only once, losing to Phil Mickelson in a rain-shortened playoff. PGA TOUR winners include Brent Geiberger (son of the original Mr. 59, Al Geiberger) and Guy Boros, whose father Julius is the oldest man (48) to win a major.
Expectations are high, but Floyd never minded them. Being the son of Raymond Floyd is all he has ever known.
'Obviously, look at my career and how many sponsor's exemptions I've had,' he said. 'I'd like to say it's because they think I can play, but after a certain amount of time, you know why you're getting them.'
Floyd began to excel late in his teenage years and was an All-American at Wake Forest, but he hasn't quite made it to the big leagues. He played the Nationwide Tour in 1998, then drifted to the smaller tours such as the Golden Bear Tour and Gateway Tour.
When he got married, he realized playing the mini-tours was no way to support a family, so he earned his real estate license and even now keeps office hours. But he never quit playing, or dreaming.
'I don't think I ever really gave up,' he said. 'It's always been there. It's just that you kind of get sick of playing bad. It's just a question of when am I going to feel like I'm playing well enough to where it's worth going out and trying to compete.'
He spent late last year on the Gateway Tour to get ready for Q-school, but he failed to advance. He kept working on his game for the Father-Son Challenge with his famous father. And along the way, something clicked.
After opening with a 68 at Pebble Beach, he finished an up-and-down round at Poppy on a high note with birdies on the tough par-3 15th and the severe dogleg 16th.
But the tournament is still one round away from taking shape because of the three-course rotation.
Herron, who was at 7-under 137 after a 69, and Floyd go to Spyglass Hill on Saturday, which is regarded the toughest of the three courses, unless the wind howls. Then it's Pebble Beach that becomes the burden.
Three others, including FBR Open winner J.B. Holmes, were tied with Floyd at 138. Another shot back was 20-year-old Jason Day and Hart, who won the pro-am with Floyd. Three dozen players were within four shots of the lead.
'Everyone who makes the cut is going to be right in the tournament,' Herron said.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson wasted numerous opportunities at Spyglass and shot a 72, although he's still only six shots behind as he tries to become the first repeat winner at Pebble in nearly two decades.
How long Floyd stays in the mix is anyone's guess.
He played last year, and it must have felt like a vacation because he was paired with his brother, Raymond Floyd Jr.
'This year, I viewed it kind of differently,' Floyd said, knowing he had two straight PGA TOUR events to test his game. 'It's very rare, if you don't have a tour card, to be able to play two weeks in a row. My goal here was to play four rounds, and if I played well, top 25 was kind of my goal to get comfortable and then see what I could do next week.
'I'm here because I think I can play, you know?' he said. 'If you asked me that in the last four years, I couldn't look you in the eye and have said that without lying.'
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