Colsaerts happy being The Dude

By Jason SobelAugust 7, 2013, 12:14 pm

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – There are certain expectations when you go to dinner with a man called The Dude. He should arrive on Dude time. He should be wearing sunglasses. Maybe a robe. He should partake in many alcoholic beverages. He should eat nothing but red meat. He should swear, repeatedly and charmingly and unforgivingly. He should eventually leave with a winsome waitress. Or two.

Life, though, is full of unfulfilled expectations. And so what occurs instead can’t be categorized as disappointment so much as disillusionment in the first place.

Because this is what actually happens when you go to dinner with a man called The Dude. He arrives three minutes early for a 7:30 reservation. He wears a t-shirt and jeans. He drinks Coca-Cola. He eats creamed spinach. Yes, creamed spinach. He is polite and refined and easygoing. He casually thanks the waitresses when he leaves. Alone.

Nicolas Colsaerts doesn’t know the precise moment he went from being a dude to The Dude. He does, however, offer a Dude-like explanation for the nickname. “I was in Europe and I was kind of saying dude to everyone and I’m kind of like a dude.”

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His fellow professional golfers have their own reasons for how it came about. Ian Poulter: “The guy is great fun.” Paul Casey: “He’s just a fun guy.” Lee Westwood: “He’s a nice lad, he’s good fun.”

It’s been a fun last few years for the 30-year-old Colsaerts, who also answers to The Belgian Bomber, The Muscles from Brussels and plainly Coels – or as his Twitter handle states, @Coelsss. (“I added three s’s,” he says. “I don’t know why. I thought it would look cooler, like a triple-x kind of thing, you know?”)

He won his first two European Tour titles. He starred -- for one afternoon, at least – on the European Ryder Cup team. He claimed top-10 finishes in two major championships. He ascended into the top-50 on the world ranking. Fun stuff, indeed.

There was a time in his career when The Dude was too much fun. He turned professional on Nov. 14, 2000 – his 18th birthday – and promptly breezed through European Tour Q-School. In his rookie season, though, he made the cut in just eight of 25 starts, never finishing better than 27th place. One year later, he was back to playing lesser tours, still a teenager who was maybe more interested in the nightlife than devoting himself to golf.

“All of a sudden I had no tournaments to play,” he explains. “I was just nowhere. I found myself going from 30-odd events a year to playing maybe 10 or 15 on Tour to then down to five and a couple more on the Challenge Tour and in France. That’s basically a calendar of 12-15 tournaments a year. Just a lot of time to kill.

“At the time, I was really into house music, so I started going out at night a bit, but even though I started this downward spiral, I knew it wasn’t my life. I knew my life was made of something else. I never lost sight that one day I was going to be back. I didn’t think it would be this quickly and I’d achieve so much in two years, but I had dreams that I knew I was going to live one day.”

A recent article in the Daily Record quotes Colsaerts as saying that if he hadn’t changed his hard-partying ways, “I thought I’d be dead by 30.” He refutes that insinuation, though. “That,” he promises, “got a little blown out of proportion.”

It’s easy to connect the dots here: Golfer has talent. Golfer parties too much. Golfer wastes talent. Golfer stops partying as much. Golfer fulfills talent. But Colsaerts contends there’s more to his recent success than just becoming more disciplined.

“No, the biggest secret to where I am right now is putting little pieces together,” he explains, “and believing in the little things that will get me to there, then to there, then to there. Before I was like, oh, that’s not important. But now I understand that the little things might only make a little difference, but could be a big difference later.”

It was never going to be a linear climb. When he was 12, Colsaerts told his parents that he wanted to quit school and become a professional golfer. He stuck with his studies, but wiled away class time staring out the window, daydreaming about playing field hockey, tennis and golf.

For a kid from the municipality of Schaerbeek to even consider a career on the links is akin to a young American boy claiming he wants to be a world famous cricketer. To call Belgium’s history in elite golf limited is an understatement. Flory Van Donck won more than 50 professional tournaments between the years 1936 and 1960, twice finishing runner-up at The Open Championship. Since then, there’s been an occasional Philippe Toussaint or Nicolas Vanhootegem, but no major presence until Colsaerts.

“There’s certainly pride to putting Belgium on the map wherever you go,” he says proudly. Even as he utters these words, though, you can sense they’ll be attached to a preemptive “but…”

“When it comes to golf in Belgium, the crowds are not very knowledgeable. Therefore I’ve pretty much put what people say aside, because I know they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ve never been to big events, they don’t know the life I’m living. Most of the time, I still get, ‘Oh, you’re traveling? That’s pretty cool.’ They don’t really understand that traveling the way I travel isn’t like going on holiday a couple of times. So I never really pay a lot of attention to it.”

His competition is taking keen notice of what the astronomically long hitter has accomplished so far. His first European Tour victory came at the Volvo China Open two years ago. He then prevailed at the Volvo World Match Play Championship last year, defeating a murderer’s row of opponents that included Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Paul Lawrie and, in the final, Graeme McDowell.

“He’s always had that raw talent,” McDowell says. “He hits it a long way, but he’s got great hands. Just kind of a long, loose, languid golf swing. Just a really good all-around ball-striker. He’s one of these guys who when he applies himself, he’s a hell of a player. I think he can certainly be a top-10 player in the world.”

Despite his prior success, Colsaerts was largely introduced to the world at last year’s Ryder Cup. It isn’t often that a player breaks through at the biennial intercontinental competition; by its very definition, most players see a breakthrough prior to taking part in the event. In the case of Colsaerts, though, he had only made eight career starts in the United States before arriving at Medinah Country Club, making him ripe for such burgeoning status.

Named to Europe’s team by Jose Maria Olazabal as a captain’s pick, he paired with Westwood in a Friday afternoon fourballs match against Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. In a word, Colsaerts’ performance was epic. He singlehandedly earned a point for his side, posting an unfathomable 10-under-par score for the day.

It may have qualified as the most auspicious debut in the event’s storied history.

“You can see he handles pressure well,” Westwood says. “He hit it fantastic that day and putted great.”

Stricker concurs. “He hit it longer than any guy I’ve ever seen. He made every putt that he looked at. He’s got a lot of offense. I was pretty impressed with what he has.”

While much of the world learned Colsaerts’ name during that match, it was when he was questioned about the pressure of the moment afterward that people came to know The Dude.

“You have just got to go with what's in your pants,” he explained to the delight of twisted minds everywhere.

When Europe clinched an improbable come-from-behind victory two days later, it called for a celebration. The Dude abided.

“You basically have a drink in your hand from the moment you get off 18 until you pass out,” he reveals. “I mean, we’re talking European style, so we’re talking from 7:00 at night until 4:00 in the morning, nonstop. Like, not one drop on the ground. I was the last player in the room. Everybody else went to bed.”

“I thought I could drink,” Westwood sighs, “but he went to bed after me that night. He was definitely the last man standing.”

When asked whether he can still party, The Dude shoots back the same glare he might give if you’d inquired whether he could drive a golf ball 300 yards.

“Oh, yeah. You never lose it. I probably get down to business about five or six times a year,” he says, proffering his own unique euphemism for partying. “I need to. Because of the life we live. We’re always on the road and physically you can’t allow yourself to let it go most times.”

The next progression in his maturity may be settling down, but while Colsaerts maintains that he’d like to get married and have children, he’s not in any rush, either.

“It’s very difficult to spend my time with somebody,” he knows. “It’s not one of my priorities right now. I feel like I still have so much left to achieve. I just feel like it would be excess baggage right now.”

Not that he is without admirers. “My wife is totally in love with him,” Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano smiles sheepishly. “Does he know? I don’t know. He might be aware of it. He’s a magnet for women.”

Part of the problem – if you can call it a problem – is that Colsaerts’ life is up in the air, often quite literally, like the George Clooney film of the same name. Technically, his home is an apartment just outside of Brussels that he shares with a roommate “basically rent-free.” This season, though, he’s also playing the PGA Tour full-time, currently struggling to keep his card for next year.

He has yet to buy a home in the U.S., but does have a membership. When he spends time in the country working on his game, he can be found at The Bear’s Club, a posh Jack Nicklaus design in the elite golfer hotbed of Jupiter, Fla.

Colsaerts enjoys life on this side of the pond, even if he doesn’t always feel like he completely fits in.

“I definitely think the social skills of people over here are not the same as people over in Europe,” he surmises. “I’m pretty easy. I’m pretty cool with everyone – players, caddies, staff, guys in the locker room. I talk to everybody the same way. It’s not like I change the way I talk just because of what someone does.”

If there’s a story that epitomizes his coolness, it happened at last month’s AT&T National.

“We heard there’s this chicken place like five minutes from the golf course. I was going to try it, so I told the guys with Callaway, ‘Don’t get lunch.’ So I come back to the truck with like six or seven chickens. They all looked at me like, ‘No one has ever done this.’ I’m like, ‘Really?’”

This is how The Dude operates these days. He may not be the hard-partying wild child of his late-teens and early-twenties, but he still conducts himself with a certain flair. Call it a combination of swagger and spirit that allows him to play the role of The Dude without it adversely affecting his golf game.

Besides, that part of his life isn’t done. It’s just on hiatus.

“When this is all over,” he boasts, “I’m probably going to go back to the fun part. When I’m 55 or 60. Hey, you see some cool dudes around that age.”

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Teenager Im wins season opener

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Tour.

Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Tour event at age 20.

Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

The reward now?

''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

And not the Masters.

He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

Except for that first week in April.

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The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

Yeah, you heard that right.

“I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

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Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

“I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

Here's two more just for good measure.

Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.