More to Jungle Bird than meets the eye

By Jason SobelDecember 18, 2012, 2:19 pm

It is nearing dusk when Webb Simpson is finally crowned U.S. Open champion. Every child who plays golf dreams of holing the winning putt and raising his arms triumphantly on the final green. At the year’s second major, though, the game’s greatest battle of attrition, such storybook finishes often don’t come to fruition. So it is on this occasion, as Simpson wins the title while sitting in the clubhouse with his pregnant wife, Dowd, watching the proceedings unfold on television like most other observers around the world. He sheepishly gives her a hug and kiss, then slowly starts to make his way down to The Olympic Club’s final green for the trophy ceremony.

At the very same moment, a 41-year-old man from Liverpool, England, named Andrew Dudley is heading in the same direction. Shimmying and excusing his way past rows of spectators that run twenty-deep around the 18th green, Dudley finally makes it to the ropes which separate the gallery from the stage. He slips under those ropes, but looking decidedly out of place in a wool hat that is part Union Jack flag and part faux bird feathers, he’s quickly shooed away by security personnel. He leaves momentarily, only to watch security turn their gaze elsewhere. That’s when Dudley makes his move.

What happens next is one of golf’s ultimate YouTube moments. Gaggles of groups imitating the Gangnam Style dance and countless tweens belting out the lyrics to “Call Me Maybe” and aww-inspiring videos of babies playfully wrestling with puppies are about to be joined by Andrew Dudley’s defining moment. The clip will be clicked and reclicked over and over by thousands of Internet savants, his 15 minutes of fame wrapped neatly in a span of 15 seconds.

:00-:02 >> Webb Simpson is being interviewed by NBC announcer Bob Costas. Holding the trophy while wearing a first-place medal around his neck, Simpson leans into the microphone and explains to Costas: “That was kind of the difference. I got off to a slow start, but I…”

It’s a familiar scene – not Simpson specifically, but a major championship winner painstakingly describing his keys to victory in front of a camera. In these brief few seconds, there is no sign that something shocking is about to take place. It’s about as normal as a post-round interview with a winning golfer can be.

Perhaps that’s what makes the next few seconds so jarring. So unexpected. And yes, so hilarious.

:02-:06 >> A man pops into frame screen left. He is wearing a wool hat that is part Union Jack flag and part faux bird feathers. His name is Andrew Dudley, but we don’t know that yet. What we do know is that he looks lost. Like a baby bird crying for his mother, Dudley coos and caws, holding his position in front of Simpson as the new center of attention.

The champion continues talking to Costas, a bemused grin washing upon his face. As if we needed further proof of Simpson’s coolness during arduous conditions after topping the field through 72 holes, he shows it by continuing to proffer his answer while a man screeches bird calls just a few feet in front of him.

“My first thought was I thought he was a streaker. The first thing I did – and don’t take this the wrong way – is I looked to see if he had on pants,” Simpson later says. “Honestly, my next thought after that was this must be part of the ceremony.”

Just about everyone else’s thought is that he’s a drunken yahoo. Some unassuming fan who’d partaken in a few too many at the beer tent and inexplicably wandered into history. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

No, Dudley has been planning this for a while. In fact, contrary to popular belief, he’d only had “a couple of beers” – an important distinction because he doesn’t want to be charged with the more serious crime of drunk and disorderly conduct. But getting into the spotlight is no accident.

Top 10 of 2012: Bizarre moments | Images

Two years earlier, he began taking up the cause to stop deforestation. Targeting companies that produce too much paper or use rain forest material within their packaging, Dudley has protested at retail stores, started petitions and generally tried to make consumers more aware of the world around them.

“I’m concerned with the state of the planet,” he explains. “It’s especially annoying when you see companies taking advantage of the situation. The planet is suffering from climate change and trees are getting chopped down. It’s a disaster in the making.”

It’s a noble cause, but begs one important question: What does any of this have to do with the U.S. Open? Well, the answer is nothing.

Dudley’s real job – his work to stop deforestation comes strictly as a volunteer – is social media consultant. In an effort to incorporate his profession with his passion, he decided to stretch the limits of what can be accomplished virally to help spread the word. Going by the name of Jungle Bird, his initial foray into public appearance came when he jumped in front of the queen’s motorcade – an act that elicited virtually no reaction from the masses. “That’s when I realized,” he recalls, “that it would need to be a live television thing.”

Enter the U.S. Open.

A trophy ceremony on live television at a major championship is about as high-profile as it gets. In a game with global appeal, his actions are seen on screens around the world, his cause gaining greater traction, even if people didn’t know it at the moment. Then again, it all would have been forgotten, would have been written off as a drunken yahoo spoiling someone else’s celebration if not for what happened next.

:06-:12 >> Dudley is in front of the camera for exactly four seconds before USGA executive director Mike Davis decides to take action. Because of his position within one of the game’s governing bodies, Davis is one of its most powerful people. Not that you’d know it by looking at him. He bears a noticeable resemblance to a younger version of the actor Tim Conway. Which is to say, he isn’t exactly the most physically intimidating man you’ll ever see.

Of course, a man’s physical prowess – or lack thereof – doesn’t matter when you mess with his children. And this tournament is Davis’ baby. He has been charged with the unenviable task of setting up U.S. Open courses since 2005. When he took on the role of executive director in March, 2011, it was with the understanding that he would also be able to continue in this capacity. To compare this with another sport, it’s analogous to being the general manager, head coach and offensive coordinator for a professional football team.

When Davis saw Dudley painting an ugly mustache on his baby, he didn’t have time to wait for the proper authorities or allow him to steal the spotlight any longer. “My thought was this guy is ruining Webb Simpson’s moment in the sun,” Davis remembers. “It happened so quickly, I didn't think twice.”

Davis is at least six inches shorter than Dudley and dressed in a coat and tie, but none of that stops him. He violently locks onto the Jungle Bird’s left arm and throws him. The YouTube video shows him being thrust out of frame, but on-site observers watch with delight as the party crasher tumbles into a nearby bunker. Without saying a word, one of the most powerful people in golf has made a vivid statement: Don’t mess with the USGA.

Not that it was anything but instinctive. In the moments after a takedown straight out of WWE, Davis thinks to himself, “I cannot believe that just happened. What did I just do?” He immediately receives hundreds of text messages to his cell phone, none more knowing than that of his wife, Cece, who tells him from the clubhouse: “I’ve seen that look before.”

In an ironic twist, Dudley – a jack of all trades if there ever was one – is also in the process of authoring a book on sarcopenia, a gradual decline in muscle performance that affects all people with age. He is especially targeting golfers, whom he says can maintain skeletal muscle and core strength through weight training and other activities. If he ever needs a case study, Davis’ takedown could serve as Exhibit A.

But what would have happened if Davis hadn’t intervened? Dudley contends he was done.

“That was the end of it,” he says. “That’s what I wanted to achieve, but I didn’t get a chance to shout anything about stopping deforestation, because Mike Davis has great reflexes.”

:12-:15 >> Jungle Bird lays in a jumbled mess just a few yards from Simpson, while the camera remains glued on the champion, his buoyant smile growing even wider. He feels compelled to address the situation. Good idea. After all, nobody wants to hear about the keys to his victory when a guy in a bird hat is still rolling around in the sand.

And so Simpson turns to his left and with that smile still affixed to his face, tells Dudley for all the world to hear: “Enjoy the jail cell, pal.”

The words imply irritation, but he never seems irritated by the situation. Not in the moment and not months later when reliving it.

“People thought it might have taken away from the moment,” he says. “I loved it. I mean, more people talk about that than me winning the tournament. I thought it was cool. It was fun to be a part of something that I think the 2012 U.S. Open will be remembered by.”

Simpson thought it was so cool that his first tweet after the win wasn’t a word of thanks to his fans or personal exaltation from the win. It was three words: “My new friend.” Attached was a picture of Dudley.

Davis can laugh about the situation, too. He is now the proud owner of more Jungle Bird hats than he can even count, including one that came as a present from 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell. Though he doesn’t condone Dudley’s actions, he holds no ill will toward him, either.

“Obviously we wouldn't want something like this to happen again in the future, but my understanding is he was trying to get attention for something he believes in,” he says. “It’s not as if he was a danger, but we don’t want to encourage things like that.”

Too late. At the USGA’s recent holiday party, Davis stood on the stage and began his prepared speech. He had barely uttered an introduction when Dick Rugge, the organization’s senior technical director, stormed the stage wearing a Jungle Bird hat and producing loud bird calls. Davis was laughing too hard to throw him to the ground.

As for Dudley, the stunt was a rousing success. By the next morning, TMZ had located him, followed by CNN, NBC and a bevy of other media outlets. His 15 seconds of fame had transcended 15 minutes. It turns out the drunken yahoo in the funny hat was neither drunk nor a yahoo. Just a man trying to find an original way to draw more eyeballs to an issue.

“People are bogged down with a lot of information,” he maintains. “You have to do something to get their attention.”

He later surfaced at the Women’s British Open and the Notre Dame-Navy football game played in Dublin, Ireland. And Dudley promises you haven’t seen the last of Jungle Bird, as he holds no regrets from the U.S. Open trophy ceremony.

“I just didn’t want to upset anyone,” he says. “Webb Simpson sent me a picture with one of the Jungle Bird hats on. So it’s really come full circle. That’s a bit of a relief.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''