Quick Round with Brian Gay

By Randall MellJanuary 8, 2010, 12:57 am

Brian Gay could see something grand on the horizon during practice rounds at the SBS Championship in Hawaii earlier this week.

“From out on the golf course, you can see whales on the ocean,” Gay said. “You can see the spray coming off them.”

From up on the hills on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Gay can see other grand events on his personal horizon. At 38, he’ll get to play in his first Masters in April. He’s set for the first time in his career to play in all four major championships. He’s also got his eye on something big at the end of the year. He’s eager to make the Ryder Cup after enduring the disappointment of not making the Presidents Cup last fall.

Kapalua is a reward for his best season on the PGA Tour, for claiming a pair of impressive victories in 2009. Gay won the Verizon Heritage in a 10-shot rout. He won the St. Jude Classic in a wire-to-wire victory.

While Gay isn’t one of the longest hitters on Tour, he has a reputation as a terrific putter and scrambler, skills that have helped him win three PGA Tour events in his career. Gay is sharing the rewards for last year’s success with his entire family this week in Hawaii. His wife, Kimberly, and their two children, Makinley and Brantley, are with him. So is his mom. He took them all on a whale watching expedition Tuesday.

Senior writer Randall Mell caught up with Gay for a Quick Round before the SBS Championship began:

How was the whale watching expedition?

The surf was a little rough, but we saw a giant whale jump up about 50 or 60 yards from the boat. It was pretty good.

As a professional golfer, you’ve seen a lot of the world, but how much do you really see outside the golf course and your hotel room? Do you see the sites?

I’m usually busy. It’s usually the family seeing more than I do, but, occasionally, early in the week, I’ll do something like what we did together this week whale watching. We’re trying to do a helicopter tour of the island. It’s supposed to be great.

My wife, she sees a lot. When I played in China, she went to Tiananmen Square and other sites. I was playing the Asian Tour, but I didn’t do any of that. She did all the touring by herself and she would tell me about it. She’s the cruise director putting together things for the family. I jump in when I can.

You will get to see one exotic destination close up this spring, playing in your first Masters. What will it mean to you to play Augusta National for the first time?

Growing up, I lived in Georgia. My mom’s from near Augusta. I got to go to the Masters when I was 9. It’s always been my favorite tournament in the world. I always dreamed of winning the Masters, and I’m finally going to get to go play in it. I’m excited about that.

What do you remember about that first Masters?

I remember Andy Bean taking me out onto the second tee box. I asked for his autograph, and he waved me out with him. That was pretty cool. I also remember Tom Watson snubbing me two or three times when I asked for his autograph. I hated him for like 15 years (laughing). I tried to get his autograph, and he kept shunning me away. It was a Monday or Tuesday. I was a huge Nicklaus fan, and it just gave me more reason to root against Watson. Since then, I have become a Tom Watson fan.

You’ve visited Augusta National a few times, but you’ve never played the course, right?

Never have. I’m good friends with some members. I certainly could have gone and played, but I’ve always said I was going to wait until I got into the tournament. I’ve never really tried to set up a casual round.

Why not?

I don’t know. I just said I’m going to wait. I didn’t want to be a Tour player just going to play Augusta. I wanted to earn my spot.

You’re such a good putter. You led the PGA Tour in all-around putting last season. How eager are you to test your skill on Augusta National’s famed greens?

It should be interesting. I’m sure there will be a lot to learn in a short amount of time. Short hitters have won there since they made the course longer. I didn’t think it would be that way, but a lot of people are telling me that I can do well there. Zach Johnson is not a long hitter, and he won it. Mike Weir and guys who don’t hit it really far have done well there despite the added length. We’ll see.

How did you get to be such a good putter. Is that a gift, or the reward for hard work?

I think there are people who are born good putters, and people who are born not good putters. But if you aren’t a power player growing up, you strive and work to be a good putter. It’s like in basketball. There are big guys in the middle who aren’t going to be good shooters but they get rebounds and play good defense. It’s like that in golf. I was never a power hitter. When I first started playing junior tournaments at 11 and 12, guys were outdriving me a long ways. Some of the par 4s, I couldn’t reach and I had to chip and putt well. I always had that being a touch and feel player and not a power player.

What about your putter? Are you loyal to a putter, or are you a love'em-and-leave‘em kind of guy who likes to try different putters?

I don’t change putters that much. I’ve kind of used that old Anser style, if you will, which turned into the Scotty Cameron Newport. That same look, I’ve probably used 90 percent of my golfing life. I’ve used different models or brands but the same style. I got into grooves on the face a few years ago. It’s been the same head, but I’ve used different materials on the face for feel but pretty much the same look for a long time.

What are you using now?

Bettanardi. It looks like the old Anser style, but I have grooves cut in the face, which help the ball get turning over fast. It gives you better roll. I like the feel better. It feels a little softer coming off the face. That seems to help me on faster greens. The ball doesn’t jump off the face as fast.

Your wife, Kimberly, loves to watch you play and is out there a lot. Didn’t you play an Asian tour event on your honeymoon?

I went over to Asia at the beginning of ’97. I was playing the Golden Bear Tour in South Florida, wherever I could play. I decided to go to Asia just for somewhere to play. It was decent money and more experience. I flew home for the week of our wedding, and we left the day after. She flew with me to the next tournament in Singapore. She caddied for me that week. I shot 68 the first round together, which was nice.

Yeah, but after that tournament, she has never caddied again. What happened?

We got in a big argument. I forget which round. I hit it in a bunker left of the pin. I finished the hole, and she didn’t go back and rake the bunker. I told her she had to go back and rake it. She said no, the group behind was ready to go. I said you have to go back and rake it. I told her they would rather wait for her to rake that bunker than hit in one of my footprints. She wouldn’t go back, and I ended up going back to rake the bunker myself. I was a little sore at her about that.

Your wins last season were dominant performances. You won Verizon by 10 shots and St. Jude in a wire-to-wire win. Winning is supposed to be hard, but did it feel easy that week?

At the time it might have seemed like it, but it is not easy to win. It was a pretty unbelievable magical week (at Verizon). All parts of my game were sharp. The talent out here is deep. There’s a fine line being in the middle of the pack and on the cut line and leading a golf tournament. It’s humbling. People ask me, `How did you do that?’ I say I didn’t do anything I normally can’t do. It was a matter of staying in the zone for four straight days. I didn’t pull off some extraordinary shots I’ve never done before. It’s hard to explain.

As good as last year was, there was disappointment not making the Presidents Cup team on points and then not getting picked by Fred Couples. I know you had a back injury that you tried to play through late in the year that hurt you. How did not making the team affect you?

It stung for a little bit. I felt like I had a good enough year to be on the team.

I hurt my back right before going to Scotland. I was playing really good golf, but I tried to play through the back problems and I couldn’t get it done. I had a tough stretch on some tough courses, like Hazeltine (at the PGA Championship). I probably should have taken some time off to get my back right, but I was pressing through to try to make the team. If I had not been hurt, I think I would have made that team and not had to worry about being picked.

I had hoped winning twice by big margins that I would get selected, but I understand it’s hard to pick a guy who has never been on the team.

How focused on making the Ryder Cup are you this year?

That’s my big goal for the year. So is winning again. If I play the way I’m capable of playing, I think I’ll be in the running for that team.

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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?

A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

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.

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Spieth selected by peers to run for PAC chairman

By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 6:43 pm

Jordan Spieth may still be relatively young, but he has gained the confidence of some of the PGA Tour's most seasoned voices.

Spieth is one of two players selected by the current player directors of the Tour's Policy Board to run for Chairman of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). Spieth will face Billy Hurley III in an election that will end Feb. 13, with the leading vote-getter replacing Davis Love III next year on the Policy Board for a three-year term through 2021.

Last year's PAC chairman, Johnson Wagner, replaces Jason Bohn as a player director on the Policy Board beginning this year and running through 2020. Other existing player directors include Charley Hoffman (2017-19), Kevin Streelman (2017-19) and Love (2016-18).

The 16-member PAC advises and consults with the Policy Board and Tour commissioner Jay Monahan on "issues affecting the Tour."

In addition to Spieth and Hurley, other PAC members for 2018 include Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Chesson Hadley, James Hahn, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Geoff Ogilvy, Sam Saunders, Chris Stroud, Justin Thomas, Kyle Thompson and Cameron Tringale.