Good Times and Good Guys

By Michael CollinsJune 5, 2008, 4:00 pm
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 Mondays on GOLF CHANNEL.
So this week Im gonna write a little about everything thats happened to me so far. Since I was approached to do this column last year I have to say, some weeks are much easier than others to write ' I didnt realize the impact it would have on people. Players, caddies, players wives, caddies girlfriends, volunteers, fans, and even PGA TOUR big wigs have read this.
Who knew?! I had no idea the amount of new friends and enemies you could make writing. I want to thank all of you for reading it, and even when you dont agree with what Ive written, most understand that its in fun. I think more than anything most of you have been surprised when I respond to your e-mails. I guess most real writers dont read and respond to their e-mail, something I learned since talking to some of the writers that follow the TOUR. I always figured I was being polite, but Ill tell yall this, people who hate me, REALLY hate me.
What has made me giggle the most about the angry people is they keep reading and writing me. That to me would be like getting milk out of the fridge, taking a sip, realizing its sour and has chunks in it, but putting it back in the fridge. I got bad news for ya: that milk is not gonna go good, but they just keep drinking.
This week the boys are in Memphis, which incidentally has one of the best practice tee cookouts all year, ribs (dry or wet!) from Rendezvous that are good enough for a caddie to miss a tee time. OK, player, too, but it was just a practice round. I wonder if this week well have a Sunday charge like Woody put on em last year? I mean Adam Scott did crash and burn, but still, Woody was impressive and I love it when a guy whos as nervous as a cat in a dog pound has a great round. Its almost like watching figure skating; were waiting for the fall but impressed when that 12-year-old Romanian girl lands the reverse triple toe loop with a decaf twist. There just isnt much better than watching someone who admits how freaked out they get when they know theyre near the top of the leaderboard, because at some point theyre either gonna snap or reel off four birdies in a row ' either way its entertaining. Unless youre caddying for the guy.
Speaking of caddies
Last week I had to print a retraction for a friend of mine and I want to tell you my best friend/broadcast/interview moment last year because it happened with/to this man.
Last year at The Honda Classic Chris P. Jones (caddie nickname Crispy) had a brain freeze on a par 3 on Friday and told another player what club his boss Mark Wilson had just hit. Mark called a two-stroke penalty on himself (going from a par to a double bogey) and continued on. You all know Mr. Wilson went on to win the tournament and into legend for sportsmanship and keeping this game at a level of honor that separates it from all others. What you probably dont know is what happened right after the round.
See as most caddies know, costing your player two strokes during a round is grounds for IMMEDIATE dismissal and in some cases, a caddie wouldnt make it through the round! Not Mark and Crispy, though. Mark had to console Crispy on the course and tell him, lets just finish this round strong. Well thats like a girl saying, We need to talk tonight. You know whats coming. But in this case they actually did finish strong and made the cut, but that was no consolation to Crispy, who I saw visibly upset and shaken on the practice green after the round.
Now as my friend I had to go to him to find out what was wrong and after he told me what happened I put my hands on his shoulders and told him, Listen, everything happens for a reason, you guys were loafin out there all day and it took this to get your focus right. You shot -66 after it happened so believe me when I tell you: Something special is happening.
I shook him, and made him look at me and said it again. Now, I have to go tell everyone on XM what happened, because I am an on-course reporter and they need to know. So I break the story on air Friday night before our broadcast is over. Friday night GOLF CHANNEL relays the story on TV with props to XM for breaking it (first time wed ever broken a story). Saturday morning NBC runs the story again, but I dont care about that; Im at the practice green looking for Crispy.
When I find him before he and Mark go play, we have another heart-to-heart. Hes feeling a little better now since he didnt get fired last night but still doesnt expect to work for Mark after the week is over. I just keep telling him, stop worrying, stay focused and let it happen on the course. Sunday morning, same thing. Now I didnt cover Mark in the playoff so when he won I was free to head back to the booth. I asked my producer if I could interview Crispy and he said thatd be cool. As I walked over Crispy saw me and a BIG man hug was exchanged. I told him I wanted to talk to him on air and as the tears started to well up in his eyes as he took the flag off the flagstick (thats the caddies trophy for a win, the flag from the final hole) and we started.
It was his first win as a caddie and to have it happen the way it did was just too much to handle. But hearing the emotion in his voice and the gratitude towards Mark for staying with him through the incident and then he thanked me (which I neither expected nor wanted on air) and now we were both crying and laughing at the same time. Ill admit it, when it comes to stuff like that I have a hard time being professional.
It was the third time Ive seen a caddie cry when their player was holding their emotions in check. The other two times were me. Shut up. Anyway, afterwards, I go back to the broadcast booth and three people were crying as the interview was being played on the air. The next week, a good friend of mine who works for the TOUR told me she was crying in her car driving as she was listening, then she slapped me and told me, dont ever do that to me again! Crispy and Mark got a flag from the course and both signed it for me. It hangs in my house with pride, just to remind me that no matter what else, sometimes the good guys do win!
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    After Further Review: Haas crash strikes a chord

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2018, 2:39 am

    Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

    On the horrifying car crash involving Bill Haas ...

    I spent a lot of time this week thinking about Bill Haas. He was the passenger in a car crash that killed a member of his host family. That man, 71-year-old Mark Gibello, was a successful businessman in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a new friend.

    Haas escaped without any major injuries, but he withdrew from the Genesis Open to return home to Greenville, S.C. When he’ll return to the Tour is anyone’s guess. It could be a while, as he grapples with the many emotions after surviving that horrifying crash – seriously, check out the photos – while the man next to him did not.

    The entire Haas clan is some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Wish them the best in their recovery. – Ryan Lavner

    On TIger Woods' missed cut at the Genesis Open ...

    After missing the cut at the Genesis Open by more than a few car lengths, Tiger Woods appeared to take his early exit in stride. Perhaps that in and of itself is a form of progress.

    Years ago, a second-round 76 with a tattered back-nine scorecard would have elicited a wide range of emotions. But none of them would have been particularly tempered, or optimistic, looking ahead to his next start. At age 42, though, Woods has finally ceded that a win-or-bust mentality is no longer helpful or productive.

    The road back from his latest surgery will be a winding one, mixed with both ups and downs. His return at Torrey Pines qualified as the former, while his trunk slam at Riviera certainly served as the latter. There will surely be more of both in the coming weeks and months, and Woods’ ability to stomach the rough patches could prove pivotal for his long-term prognosis. - Will Gray

    On the debate over increased driving distance on the PGA Tour ...

    The drumbeat is only going to get louder as the game’s best get longer. On Sunday, Bubba Watson pounded his way to his 10th PGA Tour title at the Genesis Open and the average driving distance continues to climb.

    Lost in the debate over driving distances and potential fixes, none of which seem to be simple, is a beacon of sanity, Riviera Country Club’s par-4 10th hole. The 10th played just over 300 yards for the week and yet yielded almost as many bogeys (86) as birdies (87) with a 4.053 stroke average.

    That ranks the 10th as the 94th toughest par 4 on Tour this season, ahead of behemoths like the 480-yard first at Waialae and 549-yard 17th at Kapalua. Maybe the game doesn’t need new rules that limit how far the golf ball goes, maybe it just needs better-designed golf holes. - Rex Hoggard

    On the depth of LPGA talent coming out of South Korea ...

    The South Korean pipeline to the LPGA shows no signs of drying up any time soon. Jin Young Ko, 22, won her LPGA debut as a tour member Sunday at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, and Hyejin Choi, 18, nearly won the right to claim LPGA membership there. The former world No. 1 amateur who just turned pro finished second playing on a sponsor exemption. Sung Hyun Park, who shared Rolex Player of the Year honors with So Yeon Ryu last year, is set to make her 2018 debut this week at the Honda LPGA Thailand. And Inbee Park is set to make her return to the LPGA in two weeks at the HSBC Women’s World Championship after missing most of last year due to injury. The LPGA continues to go through South Korea no matter where this tour goes. - Randall Mell

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    Nature calls: Hole-out rescues Bubba's bladder

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 2:20 am

    LOS ANGELES – Clinging to a one-stroke lead, Bubba Watson had just teed off on the 14th hole at Riviera Country Club and was searching for a bathroom.

    “I asked Cameron [Smith], ‘where's the bathroom?’ He said, ‘On the next tee there's one. Give yourself a couple more shots, then you can go to the bathroom,’” Watson recalled. “I said, ‘So now I'm just going to hole it and go to the bathroom.’”

    By the time Watson got to his shot, which had found the bunker left of the green, his caddie Ted Scott had a similar comment.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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    “When he went down to hit it I said, ‘You know you haven’t holed one in a long time,’” Scott said.

    Watson’s shot landed just short of the hole, bounced once and crashed into the flagstick before dropping into the hole for an unlikely birdie and a two-stroke lead that he would not relinquish on his way to his third victory at the Genesis Open and his 10th PGA Tour title.

    “I looked at Teddy [Scott] and said, ‘You called it.’ Then Cameron [who was paired with Watson] came over and said I called it. I’d forgotten he and I had talked about it,” Watson said.

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    Bubba Golf takes long road back to winner's circle

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 19, 2018, 1:55 am

    LOS ANGELES – Bubba’s back.

    It’s been just two years since he hoisted a trophy on the PGA Tour, but with a mind that moves as fast as Bubba Watson’s, it must have felt like an eternity.

    Since his last victory, which was also a shootout at Riviera Country Club in 2016, Watson was passed over for a captain’s pick at the 2016 Ryder Cup, endured a mystery illness, lost his confidence, his desire and the better part of 40 pounds.

    He admits that along that ride he considered retirement and wondered if his best days were behind him.

    “I was close [to retirement]. My wife was not close,” he conceded. “My wife basically told me to quit whining and play golf. She's a lot tougher than I am.”

    What else could he do? With apologies to his University of Georgia education and a growing portfolio of small businesses, Watson was made to be on the golf course, particularly a golf course like Riviera, which is the canvas that brings out Bubba’s best.

    In a game that can too often become a monotonous parade of fairways and greens, Watson is a freewheeling iconoclast who thrives on adversity. Where others only see straight lines and one-dimensional options, Bubba embraces the unconventional and the untried.

    For a player who sometimes refers to himself in the third person, it was a perfectly Bubba moment midway through his final round on Sunday at the Genesis Open. Having stumbled out of the 54-hole lead with bogeys at Nos. 3 and 6, Watson pulled his 2-iron tee shot wildly right at the seventh because, “[his playing partners] both went left.”

    From an impossible lie in thick rough with his golf ball 2 feet above his feet, Watson’s often-fragile focus zeroed in for one of the week’s most entertaining shots, which landed about 70 feet from the hole and led to a two-putt par.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

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    “His feel for that kind of stuff, you can’t go to the range and practice that. You can’t,” said Watson’s caddie Ted Scott. “Put a ball 2 feet above your feet and then have to hold the face open and then to swing that easy. That’s why I have the best seat in the house. That’s the essence of Bubba golf.”

    There were plenty of highlight moments on Sunday for Watson. There were crucial putts at Nos. 11 (birdie), 12 (par) and 13 (par) to break free of what was becoming an increasingly fluid leaderboard, and his chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the 14th hole extended his lead to two strokes.

    “It was just a bunker shot, no big deal,” smiled Watson, who closed with a 69 for a two-stroke victory over Kevin Na and Tony Finau.

    A player that can often appear handcuffed by the most straightforward of shots was at his best at Riviera, withstanding numerous challenges to win the Genesis Open for his 10th PGA Tour title.

    That he did so on a frenzied afternoon that featured four different players moving into, however briefly, at last a share of the lead, Watson never appeared rattled. But, of course, we all know that wasn’t the case.

    Watson can become famously uncomfortable on the course and isn’t exactly known for his ability to ignore distractions. But Riviera, where he’s now won three times, is akin to competitive Ritalin for Watson.

    “[Watson] feels very comfortable moving the ball, turning it a lot. That allows him to get to a lot of the tucked pins,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished tied for sixth after moving to within one stroke of the lead early in round. “A lot of guys don't feel comfortable doing that and they end up accepting a 15 to 30 footer in the center of the green. He ends up making a lot more birdies than a lot of guys.”

    It’s the soul of what Scott calls Bubba Golf, which is in simplest terms the most creative form of the game.

    Watson can’t explain exactly what Bubba Golf is, but there was a telling moment earlier this week when Aaron Baddeley offered Watson an impromptu putting lesson, which Bubba said was the worst putting lesson he’d ever gotten.

    “He goes, ‘how do you hit a fade?’ I said, ‘I aim it right and think fade.’ How do you hit a draw? I aim it left and think draw,” Watson said. “He said, ‘how do you putt?’ I said, ‘I don't know.’ He said, ‘well, aim it to the right when it breaks to the left, aim it to the left when it breaks to the right,’ exactly how you imagine your golf ball in the fairway or off the tee, however you imagine it, imagine it that way.”

    It’s certain that there’s more going on internally, but when he’s playing his best the sum total of Watson’s game can be simply explained – see ball, hit ball. Anything more complicated than that and he runs the risk of losing what makes him so unique and – when the stars align and a course like Riviera or Augusta National, where he’s won twice, asks the right questions – virtually unbeatable.

    That’s a long way from the depths of 2017, when he failed to advance past the second playoff event and dropped outside the top 100 in the Official World Golf Ranking. But then, Watson has covered a lot of ground in his career on his way to 10 Tour victories.

    “I never thought I could get there,” he said. “Nobody thought that Bubba Watson from Bagdad, Fla., would ever get to 10 wins, let's be honest. Without lessons, head case, hooking the ball, slicing the ball, can't putt, you know? Somehow we're here making fun of it.”

    Somehow, through all the adversity and distractions, he found a way to be Bubba again.

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    Spieth: 'I feel great about the state of my game'

    By Will GrayFebruary 19, 2018, 1:43 am

    LOS ANGELES – Jordan Spieth is starting to feel confident again with the putter, which is probably a bad sign for the rest of the PGA Tour.

    Spieth struggled on the greens two weeks ago at TPC Scottsdale, but he began to right the ship at Pebble Beach and cracked the top 10 this week at the Genesis Open. Perhaps more important than his final spot on the leaderboard was his standing in the strokes gained putting category – 12th among the field at Riviera Country Club, including a 24-putt performance in the third round.

    Spieth closed out the week with a 4-under 67 to finish in a tie for ninth, five shots behind Bubba Watson. But after the round he spoke like a man whose preparation for the season’s first major is once again right on track.

    Full-field scores from the Genesis Open

    Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

    “I was kind of, you know, skiing uphill with my putting after Phoenix and the beginning of Pebble week, and really just for a little while now through the new year,” Spieth said. “I just made some tremendous progress. I putted extremely well this week, which is awesome. I feel great about the state of my game going forward, feel like I’m in a great place at this time of the year as we’re starting to head into major season.”

    Spieth will take a break next week, and where he next tees it up remains uncertain. He still has not announced a decision about playing or skipping the WGC-Mexico Championship, and he will have until 5 p.m. ET Friday to make a final decision on the no-cut event.

    Whether or not he flies down to Mexico City, Spieth’s optimism has officially returned after a brief hiccup on the West Coast swing.

    “For where I was starting out Phoenix to where I am and how I feel about my game going forward the rest of the year, there was a lot of progress made,” he said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out what the best schedule is for myself as we head into the Masters.”