The Best Worst Week in Golf

By Michael CollinsNovember 30, 2007, 5:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100) Editor's note: Michael Collins has been a stand-up comedian for 15 years and has more than seven years experience as a professional caddie. He currently covers the PGA TOUR as a correspondent with XM Satellite Radio and takes his turn on The Turn Tuesdays on GOLF CHANNEL.
This is one of those weeks where we forget that golf is a game. This is one of those weeks where 160 golfers and 160 caddies have no fun while on the golf course. Even if you found yourself in the lead of this tournament by 30 strokes with one hole to play, standing on the 18th tee would not be a particular time of joy. It would feel more like relief. Last week we gave thanks; this week we give everything else. Welcome to the final stage of Q-school.
The final stage of Q-school is being played just outside Orlando this year. Every year it flips coasts, the past few years its flipped between Palm Springs and Orlando. Ive been unfortunate enough to experience both coasts. Im going to tell you about my good experience.
I start caddying for my friend halfway through the year. Hes struggling a bit, not having fun on the golf course, and for a grinder that is a BAD combination. But we start having fun and (shocker) making cuts, even get a top 10 in there. Sounds great, right? Not on TOUR anymore, nowadays if you make half a million dollars playing for a year you are not guaranteed a job next year. So we have a nice year by pay standards, but not nice enough to keep the card.
My player tells me were exempt till final stage, and that hes NEVER made it through from the west coast site where WE are going in a few weeks. Those who know me know that I am the optimist of all optimists. And having never been to Q, I boldly and brashly tell him, well youre making it through this year! He looks at me like I was going to try and smoke the 30-foot tree I was leaning against. Final stage was almost a month away so I went to the Bahamas to relax and promptly almost broke my ankle/leg jet skiing with my best friend Jose three days before practice rounds were to start.
Now for a caddy, being able to walk is, how should I say this a job requirement?! Being a tough, hardheaded, knucklehead I had not gone to a doctor to examine my ankle/leg, but I had two good reasons. If I didnt go to a doctor he/she couldnt tell me it was broke and at the time caddies had no health insurance (we still dont have a plan, but the TOUR does offer a stipend towards health insurance if you buy it yourself). My player insisted I get an x-ray, so off I went to the clinic. The doctor examined me, and before the x-ray tried to bet me the cost of the exam I had broken the little bone in my leg. I didnt take the bet. But low and behold no break, just a bone bruise.
SHOULDA TAKEN THE BET!!! Doc says if I wear an ankle brace, made for a pro football player, and can stand the pain, I can caddy. Well now I REALLY feel like going into battle. Even writing this I get those feelings again. Hang on, I gotta go spit and rub some dirt on myself.
Selfishly through all thats going on with my leg I am not noticing how abnormally people around me are acting. My player has rented a house on the property the two golf courses are and Im staying with him, his wife, and their little boy. I say I didnt notice until the night before the first round, then at dinner his wife asks me if Id carry the tour bag for the tournament.
My player was so nervous and superstitious he was having a tough time concentrating because the stand bag didnt look right. But being the guy he is, he didnt want me to be in any more pain so he was trying to keep my load light. Two things youve just learned; one, the difference in weight between a tour bag and a stand bag is about 15lbs with everything in it and over 6 miles it makes a huge difference to a guy doing his impression of a yak. And two, and more importantly, something as seemingly insignificant as THE BAG the clubs are in can throw off the top golfers in the world! Now this is my boss, but also my friend and as my friend, if he wouldve asked me to wear a thong on my head because it made him relax shows me where the nearest Victorias Secret is.
I noticed something REALLY eerie when we got to the course for the first round. NO ONE was talking. I am serious when I say this, the hair on the back of my neck stood up when I set the bag down and went to wet the towel to clean the grips. Why, you ask? Because the driving range, even before a major, is a fun place. Yes there is tension but it is UNDER the surface. Not here. Caddies speak to each other about their players, a lot of them come up to me and tell me the latest joke theyve heard or been emailed, but for the next 6 days each caddy and player were ghost teams not visible to other ghost teams. I thought to myself, I have to find a way to make this normal for us.
Aaaaahhhh the power of flatulence. Some people just will never realize how in an extremely tension filled moment, someone releasing air from an orifice can make said tension vanish! Thats right, a caddy/comedian started his first Q-school finals with a fart joke (literally). And you know what it worked. For the first three days in extremely tough conditions we shot three consecutive 69s. But alas, at the end of the third day my player says to me, It just doesnt feel right. WHAT?!?!?!?! Well then wrong feel it around for three more 69s! Were in 7th place and comfortable we should mess this up.
And for the next two days we did. 75-71. And I sat back and watched in horror from a front row seat as cool and confident went right out the window. Doubt and self pity happily strolled thru the door, got comfy on the sofa and turned on the TV.
We step on the first tee for the final round and its already over. You see it in their eyes, they havent quit, but they have accepted the fate. The magic number is -7 to keep our card, all we need is even par. But look in those eyes! What do you do as a caddy? What do you do as a friend? DAMNIT! I promised this wouldnt happen! 3-over after four holes, a bladed tee shot at the short par-4 fifth barely makes it over the water hazard and finds the fairway.
His chin on his chest, shoulders at the belly button, bottom lip on the ground, we get to the golf ball and I walk off the yardage. One hundred and fifteen yards to the pin, little PW. He hits it to 12 feet.
This is the moment. See, for a pro from 115 yards, 12 feet is just so-so. But for some reason I saw this was the Y in the road, keep your mouth shut and accept fate or say something and risk career and friendship. I cant keep my mouth shut. I actually said nice shot and then dropped an f bomb and in so many words called him a choker. But when he saw the look on my face after I said it, he not only knew I was messing with him, he knew it was gonna be OK.
The funny thing is we missed the birdie putt, but it didnt seem to matter. Throw in three birdies and no bogeys in the next ten holes and we stand on the 16th tee at -7 and ON the number. Long par five with a little bend to the left in it. Tee shot left first cut, cant go for the green in two. MISS the fairway in the right THICK rough with the layup and barely get it on the front green from 85 yards. Now weve got 75 feet uphill for birdie and my boy almost shanks the putt. 8 feet for par and he looks at me and says, I dont see it. That means he doesnt see any break in the putt. But I do. Its almost four inches outside right edge.
Time for another moment.
Now my stomach is in knots and I am having a tough time breathing but there is NO WAY I am gonna let my boy see it. He needs me to be the calm and confident guy he trusts to have his back no matter what. And thats exactly what he sees. I confidently stride up to a spot on the green and say, here. Then walk back to him where he s crouching down looking at the spot. He takes a deep breath, puts the ball down, and says, Ok. When he stands up I put my hand on his shoulder and say, Its just me and you against Todd and Wes.
What the hell does that mean?! Well, Wes is someone we played about a million practice rounds with (and took a bunch of money from) and Todd is a childhood friend of his, he grew up playing golf with. He and I playing golf against two friends, that guarantees good thoughts. As I walked away and he went through his routine I came the closest I have ever come to throwing up on the golf course. I turned back in time to see the putter make contact with the ball and roll over the spot I had pointed at and break right in the hole. It was also at this point where my mom, watching on TV, says she started drinking. Now my boy gives a small fist pump and walks over and hands me the putter and looks me in the eyes. He gets a look of calm, cool, steel. Its nothin. I say, because he needs to stay level. Adrenaline at this point is very bad.
Seventh hole par-3, imagine TPC Sawgrass now back it up 30 more yards and ELEVATE the tee 30 feet! Thats what the hole looks like (stand on your roof and put a quarter in the driveway, good luck). Little bit of a cool breeze into us, 157 yards, front right hole location, island green. Last time we played this hole (two days ago) hit the tee shot in the water. What do you like? he asks. Perfect smooth 7, I say handing him the club. I can tell he likes it too but the look of nervousness is back. Me and you against Wes and Todd. Hell it worked before?!
Now I stand to the side and quietly take a deep breath. I feel dizzy and my stomach is having a serious argument with somebody. The swing is smooth, the ball hangs in the air forever but I like the line its on, just please God dont be too long! When it goes over the flagstick and sits ten feet behind the hole my instincts are to jump up and down, find Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens and do a touchdown dance with them but its the 17th hole we still have a putt and the 18th to play and we are still ON the number. Same as the last hole, when he turns to hand me the club, he sees his caddy and friend looking almost bored like it doesnt matter. And now so does he for the moment. PERFECT.
FAST, downhill putt, no more than left edge we both agree. I step away. This time when the ball comes off the putter I dont think he hit it hard enough, but it just keeps tricklin and tricklin (WATCH THE SPIKE MARK) and dies over the front lip of the hole! BIRDIE!!!!!!!! All 12 spectators around the green go nuts (q-school isnt a big draw) and my players fist pump this time is MUCH bigger. Now I really gotta be cool, but damn I cant help but smile. He hands me the putter and I say, Its nothing.
Eighteenth tee, LONG par-4, slight dogleg left, water left, THICK rough right. Were 8-under inside the number by one. Miss the fairway right in some bad rough close to a bunker. Oh God not now. Weve fought so hard I look at his face and see the doubt creeping back in as he takes a practice swing.
I do have some good news and its not about my car insurance. He looks at me confused. Take your stance and look down please. I ask him. A little smile now is on his lips too. Hes standing on a sprinkler head FREE DROP!!
We get a good drop on top of some dormant Bermuda grass. The hole is on the left part of the green bringing the water into play, the problem is if you bail out right the chip is straight downhill at the water. My boy hits the front of the green with a rescue club leaving us a 65-foot putt with about 8 feet of break from right to left. We go thru our routine together, he doesnt know what the number is, didnt want to know, but I do. Stay cool bro just stay cool. Putts away It finishes 8 inches behind the cup. He walks over to me and asks, Whats the number?
I actually laughed out loud. I looked at him and said, Just go tap that in and lets get the hell outta here. He looked back and said, OK.
After he tapped in for par is when the best moment of the three happened. We shook hands with are playing competitors and then we hugged and he whispered in my ear, Thanks bro. And in that thanks was all the emotion and gratitude I have ever felt from a golfer.
He walked in to the scoring trailer to sign his card; I sat on the floor of a golf cart and cried. I couldnt be cool anymore, couldnt hide my fear, couldnt hide my pride, couldnt hide my heart. The worst and best experience had just come to a close and I was crying on a golf cart. Hell, tears are streaming down my face as I write this and those emotions come back again.
So when you watch final stage of Q-School this week, and those few lucky men get their Tour cards for next year, keep an eye on those carrying their golf bags because I bet EVERY single one couldnt have made it through without their caddy.
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    J. Korda leads M. Jutanugarn by four in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 3:00 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand - Jessica Korda kept an eye on her younger sister while firing a 4-under 68 in the third round of the LPGA Thailand on Saturday to lead Moriya Jutanugarn by four strokes.

    A day after a course-record 62 at Siam Country Club, Korda fought back from a bogey on the front nine with five birdies to finish on 20-under 196 overall. The American was on the 18th hole when concerns over lightning suspended play for 30 minutes before play resumed.

    ''(I) was playing really well at the end of the season, but I haven't been in this (leading) position. Being back, it just takes you a little bit of time,'' said the 24-year-old Korda, who won her fifth and last title at the LPGA Malaysia in 2015.

    Her 19-year-old sister Nelly Korda (65) is eight shots off the lead.

    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

    ''I'm definitely a leaderboard watcher. I love seeing her name up there,'' said Jessica Korda, who was playing her first tournament since jaw surgery.

    Propelled by eight birdies and an eagle on the par-4 No. 14, with three bogeys, Moriya signed off with a 65 and a total of 16-under 200.

    ''Everybody has the chance to win as all the top players are here this week,'' said Moriya, who has a chance to become the first Thai winner in her home tournament.

    Australian Minjee Lee (68) is third on 15-under 201, followed by former top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn (65) on 202. Lexi Thompson (69), the 2016 champion, is a stroke further back. Michelle Wie (69) is tied for sixth.

    Brittany Lincicome was in second place after the second round, four shots behind Jessica Korda, but the American dropped down the board and is tied for ninth after a 73.

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    The Tiger comeback just got real on Friday

    By Randall MellFebruary 24, 2018, 1:11 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Slow play was a big storyline on the PGA Tour’s West Coast swing, but not so much anymore.

    Not with Tiger Woods speeding things up Friday at the Honda Classic.

    Not with Woods thumping the gas pedal around PGA National’s Champion Course, suddenly looking as if he is racing way ahead of schedule in his return to the game.

    The narrative wondrously started to turn here.

    It turned from wondering at week’s start if Woods could make the cut here, after missing it last week at the Genesis Open. His game was too wild for Riviera, where a second-round 76 left him looking lost with the Masters just six weeks away.

    It turned in head-spinning fashion Friday with Woods climbing the leaderboard in tough conditions to get himself into weekend contention with a 1-over-par 71.

    He is just four shots off the lead.

    “I’d be shocked if he’s not there Sunday with a chance to win,” said Brandt Snedeker, who played alongside Woods in the first two rounds. “He’s close to playing some really, really good golf.”

    Just a few short months ago, so many of us were wondering if Woods was close to washed up.

    “He’s only going to improve,” Snedeker said. “The more time he has, as the weather gets warmer, he’ll feel better and be able to practice more.”

    Snedeker has had a front-row seat for this speedy Tiger turnaround. He played the third round with Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open last month. That was Woods’ first PGA Tour start in a year.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    How much improvement did Snedeker see from that Torrey Pines experience?

    “It was kind of what I expected – significantly improved,” Snedeker said. “His iron game is way better. His driver is way better. I don’t’ see it going backward from here.”

    This was the hope packed into Friday’s new narrative.

    “I’m right there in the ballgame,” Woods said. “I really played well today. I played well all day today.”

    Tiger sent a jolt through PGA National when his name hit the top 10 of the leaderboard. He didn’t do it with a charge. He did it battling a brutish course in wintry, blustery winds, on “scratchy” and “dicey” greens that made par a good score.

    When Woods holed a 25-foot putt at the ninth to move into red numbers at 1 under overall and within three shots of the lead, a roar shook across the Champion Course.

    “It got a little loud, which was cool to see,” Snedeker said. “It’s great to have that energy and vibe back.”

    Woods sent fans scampering to get into position, blasting a 361-yard drive at the 10th, cutting the corner. He had them buzzing when he stuck his approach to 9 feet for another birdie chance to get within two of the lead.

    “I thought if he makes it, this place will go nuts, and he could get it going like he used to,” Snedeker said.

    Woods missed, but with the leaders falling back to him on this grueling day, he stuck his approach at the 12th to 10 feet to give himself a chance to move within a shot of the lead.

    It’s another putt that could have turned PGA National upside down, but Woods missed that.

    “It really is hard to make birdies,” he said. “At least I found it hard. It was hard to get the ball close, even if the ball is in the fairway, it's still very difficult to get the ball close, with the wind blowing as hard as it is. It’s hard to make putts out here.”

    Patton Kizzire, a two-time PGA Tour winner who won just last month at the Sony Open, could attest to how tough the test at Honda has become. He played alongside Woods this week for the first time in his career. He shot 78 Friday and missed the cut.

    Kizzire had a close-up look at what suddenly seems possible for Woods again.

    “He’s figuring it out,” Kizzire said. “He hit some nice shots and rolled in some nice putts. It was pretty impressive.”

    Woods could not hide his excitement in getting himself in the weekend hunt, but his expectations remain tempered in this comeback. He knows the daily referendums his game is subject to, how we can all make the highs too high and the lows too low.

    “We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.

    Woods lost a tee shot in a bush at the second hole and made bogey. He hit his tee shot in the water at the 15th and made double bogey. He three-putted the 16th to make bogey. He knows this course can derail a player’s plans in a hurry, but he knows his game is quickly coming around.

    “I’m right there where I can win a golf tournament,” Woods said. “Four back on this golf course with 36 holes to go, I mean, anybody can win this golf tournament right now. It’s wide open.’”

    Woods hit his shot of the day at the 17th to right his game after the struggles at the 15th and 16th. He did so in front of the Goslings Bear Trap Party Pavilion, cutting a 5-iron to 12 feet. It was the hardest hole on the course Friday, with nearly one of every three players rinsing a shot in the water there. Woods made birdie there to ignite an explosion of cheers.  He got a standing ovation.

    “I was telling you guys, I love Riviera, I just don't play well there,” Woods said. “So here we are, we're back at a golf course I know and I play well here.”

    So here we are, on the precipice of something special again?

    Woods seems in a hurry to find out.

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    List, Lovemark lead; Tiger four back at Honda

    By Associated PressFebruary 24, 2018, 12:41 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Even with a tee shot into the water for another double bogey, Tiger Woods could see the big picture in the Honda Classic.

    He was four shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

    Luke List delivered a round not many others found possible in such difficult conditions Friday, a 4-under 66 that gave him a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark (69). They were at 3-under 137, the highest score to lead at the halfway point of the Honda Classic since it moved to PGA National in 2007.

    So bunched were the scores that Woods was four shots out of the lead and four shots from last place among the 76 players who made the cut at 5-over 145. More importantly, he only had 13 players in front of him.

    ''This is a difficult golf course right now,'' Woods said. ''Making pars is a good thing. I've done that, and I'm right there with a chance.''

    And he has plenty of company.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Tommy Fleetwood, who won the Race to Dubai on the European Tour last year, scratched out a 68 and was one shot out of the lead along with Webb Simpson (72), Russell Henley (70) and Rory Sabbatini (69).

    Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger each shot 72 and were in a large group at 139. They were among only 10 players remaining under par.

    Fleetwood laughed when asked the last time he was at 2 under after 36 holes and only one shot out of the lead.

    ''Maybe some junior event,'' he said. ''It's good, though. These are the toughest test in golf. Generally, one of the best players prevail at the end of weeks like this. Weeks like this challenge you to the ultimate level. Whether you shoot two 80s or you lead after two rounds, you can see what you need to do and see where your game is. Because this is as hard as it's ever going to get for you.''

    The difficulty was primarily from the wind, which blew just as hard in the morning when List shot his 66 as it did in the afternoon. More aggravating to the players are the greens, which are old and bare, firm and crusty. It's a recipe for not making many putts.

    Defending champion Rickie Fowler had six bogeys on his front nine and shot 77 to miss the cut.

    ''It's unfortunate that the greens have changed this much in a year,'' Fowler said. ''They typically get slick and quick on the weekend because they dry out, but at least there's some sort of surface. But like I said, everyone's playing the same greens.''

    It looked as though List was playing a different course when he went out with a bogey-free 32 on the back nine, added a pair of birdies on the front nine and then dropped his only shot when he caught an awkward lie in the bunker on the par-3 seventh.

    ''It's very relentless,'' List said. ''There's not really too many easy holes, but if you hit fairways and go from there, you can make a few birdies out there.''

    List and Lovemark, both Californians, have never won on the PGA Tour. This is the third time List has had at least a share of the 36-hole lead, most recently in South Korea at the CJ Cup, where he shot 76-72 on the weekend.

    ''It's kind of irrelevant because there's going to be 30 guys within a couple shots of the lead,'' List said. ''It's going to be that type of week.''

    He was exaggerating – there were 11 players within three shots of the lead.

    And there was another guy four shots behind.

    Woods brought big energy to a Friday afternoon that already was hopping before he overcame a sluggish start and holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to make the turn at 1 under for his round, and leaving him two shots out of the lead. Everyone knew it just from listening to the roars.

    Woods had his chances, twice missing birdie putts from inside 10 feet at Nos. 10 and 12, sandwiched around a 12-foot par save. His round appeared to come undone when he found the water on the 15th and made double bogey for the second straight day.

    Then, he hit out of a fairway bunker, over the water and onto the green at the dangerous 16th hole and faced a 65-foot putt. He misread the speed and the line, so badly that it was similar to a car driving from Chicago to Denver and winding up in Phoenix. A bogey dropped him to 2 over.

    The big moment was the 17th hole, 184 waters into the wind and over water. That's where Rory McIlroy made triple bogey earlier in the day that ruined his otherwise solid round of 72, leaving him seven behind. Making it even tougher for Woods is the Brandt Snedeker hit 5-iron before him to about 6 feet. Woods got to the tee and the wind died, meaning 5-iron was too much and 6-iron wouldn't clear the water.

    He went with the 5-iron.

    ''I started that thing pretty far left and hit a pretty big cut in there because I had just too much stick,'' Wood said.

    It landed 12 feet below the hole for a birdie putt.

    Thomas made 17 pars and a double bogey when he three-putted from 6 feet on No. 16. He felt the same way as Woods.

    ''I'm in a good spot – really good spot – going into this week,'' Thomas said.

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    Woods to play with Dufner (12:10 p.m.) in third round

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 12:10 am

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Tiger Woods will play alongside Jason Dufner in the third round of the Honda Classic.

    Woods and Dufner, both at 1-over 141, four shots back, will tee off at 12:10 p.m. ET Saturday at PGA National. They’re in the 10th-to-last group.

    Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Co-leaders Luke List and Jamie Lovemark will go at 1:40 p.m.

    Some of the other late pairings include Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger, who will be playing together for the third consecutive day, at 1 p.m.; Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters (1:10 p.m.); and Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, in the penultimate group at 1:30 p.m.