Nice guys, big mistakes: Answering oft-asked questions

By Brandel ChambleeJune 8, 2016, 3:20 pm

In the hundreds of pro-ams I’ve played in during my days as a Tour player and television commentator I believe I’ve seen every bad shot and bizarre occurrence imaginable. From Darius Rucker’s over-the-top, topped 3-wood that popped 20 feet straight up in the air and then backed up 20 yards when it hit the ground, to a man whose tee shot somehow managed to hit his left forearm (!!), without having hit anything other than the face of his club.

Almost without exception, the amateurs have been apologetic and quite sure I’ve never seen anything so appalling as their golf – even after I assure them that I have, to set them at ease and because it happens to be true. Besides the array of bad shots I’ve seen and great company I’ve enjoyed in those pro-ams, there is another common thread amongst these amateurs: the never-ending fascination with the life of a Tour player and behind-the-scenes TV, causing them to ask a lot of the same questions week in and week out. So on the odd chance that I have not played in a pro-am with you or that we don’t run into each other somewhere in an airport, here are the answers to the most often asked questions I’ve had over the years.

Who is the nicest guy on Tour?

When I played, it was toss-up between Dan Forsman, who was Sean Connery cool and Jimmy Buffet laid-back, and Joey Sindelar, who was incapable of anything but the most gracious behavior. In the TV world that I now inhabit – where we the media ask so much of the players – and social media, the Niagara of undiluted criticism, invites a hell’s stew of haters into their lives – Jason Day, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood pass every test with an enviable civility.

What is your favorite Tour event?

This is a lot like picking your favorite Instagram filter; in varying degrees they are all good, but you have to choose one, so for me it was the L.A. Open, as it was originally known. It is my favorite event for two reasons: Riviera Country Club and Rudy Durand.

Riviera is an old George Thomas design that for some reason stirred my imagination and on a few occasions brought out the best in me.

Rudy Durand is a Hollywood producer, writer, dealmaker and philanthropist, whom I met on a pilgrimage to Riviera in 1983. He moves in and out of the tightest circles in Tinseltown, but never plays favorites, once telling an athletic star of almost unimaginable popularity to get out of his cart and leave his course, because the star told a little kid he’d sign his autograph “later,” meaning on the odd chance the kid just happened to be in the right place at the right time, five hours later. Rudy looked at the star and said “You piece of s---, when do you think you’ll ever see that little kid again? Take two seconds and sign that autograph or get out of my cart and leave the club.” The star signed the kid’s hat.

In that cellphone zombie wonderland full of ethical and existential hurdles, Rudy holds spellbound all who are lucky enough to call him a friend, with fiercely loyal rhetoric and an original take on every business deal that has gone down in that town over the last 50 years, including a lawsuit he brought against Warner Brothers. Rudy, with no legal training, represented himself against a team of $500-an-hour lawyers, took his case all the way to the California Supreme Court and won. On the tape of the trial you can hear the lead lawyer for Warner Brothers becoming so unnerved by the questions from the judge that he got sick on the courtroom floor.

Rudy’s common refrain when holding court with current or would-be Presidents, mega movie stars or the waiter who stops at the table, is that “Friendship is serious business,” and so when I find myself in L.A., I always find myself involved in the serious business of friendship with one of the greatest friends any man could have, Rudy Durand.

Brandel Chamblee at this year's WGC-Dell Match Play bracket reveal show (Getty Images)

Have you ever played with Tiger Woods?

Yes, twice, both times in 1998 and it was the most fun I ever had while being made to feel as if I had no business doing what I was doing for a living. He was a walking virtuoso, even in that year when he was supposedly in a slump. He hit it as far as he wanted, as high or as low as he needed and in any shape the hole called for. He did things no one had ever done before and stretched the limits of what we now imagine as possible, just as the bard Shakespeare did in another art. But 400 years later, nobody has come close to writing anything like Hamlet; centuries from now Tiger’s golf will still be the apex of achievement in our sport. I was grateful to have seen it up close, twice.

What is the best shot you ever hit?

One year I was playing the Northern Trust Open (I told you Riviera brought out the best in me) and I needed a birdie to make the cut. I was playing the long par-4 ninth hole with a narrow, deep bunker on the left side of the fairway about 270 yards off the tee, which is exactly where my tee shot ended up. I had a steep bank to get over and about 180 yards to the hole, which was cut in the back left of the green. I needed the loft of at least an 8-iron to get over the lip but the distance of a 5-iron to get to the green as the shot played all uphill. After chewing on the dilemma for a bit I thought if I could somehow blade a 6-iron, with all my weight on my back foot, it might just get over the lip and make the green. It was a one-in-a-thousand shot that I had never tried in my life but I didn’t have anything to lose, so I set up with the ball well forward in my stance and my weight back and swung as hard as I could. I absolutely spit-roasted the shot and it landed in the middle of the green, whereupon I promptly made the 30-foot putt to make the cut on the number. Making that shot even sweeter was the fact that on the weekend I shot rounds of 67 and 69 to finish 15th and made $40,000.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made on air?

It is a rare show that I don’t feel like something I did could have gone better, either in phrasing or in demonstrating a point with a video or graphic. Each breakdown is like a two-minute movie, and specific words have to be used to get to a graphic or to cue a video. The words matter as much as the timing. Everybody, in front of and behind the camera, is working to get it right but sometimes no matter how good the support is, you get the words wrong.

In Las Vegas one year, all the players were wearing pink ribbons on their hats for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it was my job, as the director was slowly zooming in on the hat of one player, to talk about the significance of the pink ribbon. Which I did perfectly until it came time to give the name of the cause, which I said was Breast Awareness Month. “Cancer” was a fairly important word to leave out in that title, and unaware I had done so, I had no idea why I was hearing uproarious laughter and corrections in my ear from the production truck.

Do you still get nervous?

Before every show, I remind myself to have fun, but we are all just seconds away from saying something stupid.

Will Tiger break Jack Nicklaus’ record?

Most legendary sports comebacks happen over the course of a few minutes. When it seems all hope is lost, an individual or a team somehow does the unthinkable or even what seemed impossible, and stuns the world. Americans can beat the Russians in Olympic hockey, or in golf, they can overcome, but also lose, a four-point margin on a Ryder Cup singles Sunday.

In the course of a game or a match, anything truly is possible. But for Tiger to beat Jack’s record, at a minimum, he needs five years, to say nothing of the fact that he needs to repair his body, his swing and his mind, and do all of this at an age that has been historically cruel to golfers. For Tiger to beat Jack’s record his career would have to be snatched from the flames. Add to that the newly stated fact from Tiger that breaking Jack’s record never really was his goal, and more than what he is physically capable of doing, it seems he’s not mentally interested in pursuing it.

If Tiger does go on to break Jack’s record, however, one thing is for sure: It will go down as the greatest comeback in the history of sports, not just golf. 

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x