The Life of an Alternate Part 1

By Mercer BaggsSeptember 1, 2003, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series on the life of an alternate on the PGA Tour. Read Part 2 Tuesday.
NORTON, Mass. -- Michael Clark walked through the front door of his Orlando, Fla., home Thursday, straight off an all-day practice session, expecting little more than a burst of air conditioning to soothe his sun-soaked and sweat-drenched body.
What he received altered more than his body temperature.
I got to the house at 5:00, my phone rings; the tour calls and says, Youre first alternate, he recounted Friday.
I thought they were talking about next week, in Canada. I was clueless. I thought they were trying to give me a spot in the Monday pro-am. So we went round-and-around for a second on that. I didnt have a clue it was about here.
Clark was told that there would likely be a spot for him in the Deutsche Bank Championship, which was played Friday through Labor Day Monday. You can better understand his surprise once you realize that he was the 14th and final alternate to make the 156-man field.
Everyone had already been registered ' a very important fact. Once players are registered to compete, they must somehow miss their tee time ' oversleep, become injured, etc. ' in order to be replaced.
The replacement has to be ready at a moments notice, or forgo the opportunity. Even if that means being on site, waiting ' and waiting.

Clark had twice before, in his rookie PGA Tour season of 2000, played the waiting game. And twice before he had been shutout.
That happens maybe 30 percent of the time ' maybe not even that much, he said of winning the waiting game.
So he vowed never again. And instead of traveling to the New England area this week, he stayed at home with his wife and two children.
Then he found out Nick Price would most likely withdraw from the tournament prior to Fridays first round due to a wrist injury. And that he was now first alternate.
Clark used his contacts to make sure that if he made the sudden and expensive trip that if would not prove to be Strike 3.
He discovered Prices exit probability was high, and the trip worth making.
I expected fully to be at home with my family through to next Tuesday, then I knew I was going to be on the road a couple of weeks after that. But they called; I got to go. You have to play when you can, he said.
Ive played so bad for so long, at some point Ive got to play good.
So the 34-year-old Tennessee native bought a plane ticket ' he flew up with fellow alternates Grant Waite and Tom Scherrer, packed his bags, and finally arrived in his hotel around 2:00 a.m. Friday ' all totaled, he shelled out in excess of $1,500. He got a couple of hours sleep, headed out to the TPC of Boston ' which he had never laid eyes on ' and began preparations for his 7:30 tee time.
Clark hasnt had a steady bagman this season, so the caddie master grabbed hold of Rick Hamilton ' a volunteer who was busy attaching the Velcro names onto the back of caddie bibs.
It was certainly a surprise, Hamilton said after their round. Its been a dream day.
At least for awe-struck Hamilton.
Playing the par-71, 7,415-yard course blindly, Clark managed a 1-over-par 72, which put him nine off the lead, but with a chance to make it past the first two rounds. Not bad for a man who had made only three of 13 prior cuts and was mired in 224th place on the money list.
Really, it was the best Ive felt all year, Clark said. I had no pressure, was relaxed. I just approached it as going out with one of the best players in the world, Darren Clarke.
It was so early; I knew there weren't that many people around, so I knew even if I embarrass myself it wouldnt be in front of that many people.
Lunch, a practice session and a sufficient amount of rest later, and it was time to try and validate his visit.
Clark teed off Saturday at 12:40 p.m. Three straight bogeys midway through his round dropped him to 3 over ' two shots on the wrong side of the projected cutline. He was still on that number when he approached the 543-yard, par-5 18th. After a perfect drive, he had about 200 yards to the pin.
At that point, I knew I had to make eagle, he said.
The only obstacle to overcome was the wetland guarding the green. With the pin located in the front, left portion of the kidney bean-shaped putting surface, Clark did what he had to do.
And did what he literally couldnt afford to do.
Clarks approach shot landed short, and finished lost.

I had to hit it high and soft, and all this week Ive been hitting it low. It really wasnt meant to be, he rationalized.
Clark took bogey for a round of 3-over 74. As it turned out, even an eagle wouldnt have helped his cause. His total of 4-over-par 146 left him four back of the cut, which eventually fell at even par.
I played well; I didnt make any putts. Maybe it was meant to be for me to come up here, get a little confidence in my game; I definitely did. Maybe itll carry over for the next few weeks, he said.
Clark is the third alternate for this week's Bell Canadian Open.
Read more on the life of a PGA Tour alternate Tuesday.
Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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?

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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