AVONDALE, La. – If you can look past the shirtless rounds and the board shorts, the Styrofoam cups and the leaps into the marina, the dancing on the carts and the announcer impressions, there was an unmistakable message emanating from the Bahamas last week:
These guys needed a break.
“It was nice to be able to get away,” Rickie Fowler said Wednesday, “to recharge, reset, and especially to get ready for the stretch that we have coming up.”
The ringleader of #SB2K16, Fowler attempted to downplay the Baker’s Bay boondoggle when he met with the media at the Zurich Classic. That was no surprise. He was back at work.
He had just finished his pro-am round. Corporate sponsors adorned his shirt and hat. A 7:50 a.m. tee time loomed. Party time was over.
But the larger point remains: Top players must find their own ways to hit the refresh button during a marathon season. It just so happened, Fowler said, that their “schedules were friendly” and they could organize a weeklong extravaganza at a luxury golf and beach resort.
“It felt like the right time to be able to get everyone together,” he said.
Of course, they aren't the first or the last players to go on vacation.
Justin Rose flew to the Bahamas after the Masters, as well, though every hour of his trip wasn’t documented on social media.
“I just find it therapeutic,” he said.
It’s nothing new for him to shelve the clubs and get away from the game, whether he’s boating, fishing or snorkeling. When he’s home, he unwinds while chasing after his two kids (ages 4 and 7) on the soccer field or on the range.
Fresh off his only two-week break of the season, Rose said his time away is always a mix of relaxation and preparation.
“I feel like sometimes in a sense we’re actors,” he said, “and at home we’re learning our lines, and then we come out on Tour and we’re delivering a performance. A lot of work is done at home to get ready to compete. It’s not like we play 20 weeks a year and we’re in the Bahamas the other 32 weeks of the year enjoying ourselves.
“There are certain times of year where I think it’s important to blow off some steam, and certainly after Augusta is one.”
Charley Hoffman, a winner last week in San Antonio, is playing for the eighth time in nine weeks. He has three getaways planned this year, including one next week in – you guessed it – the Bahamas. Unlike Rose or golf’s frat brothers, though, his days will be wide open.
“I’m pretty good sitting around the pool drinking beer and hanging out, to be completely honest with you,” he said.
But that doesn’t work for everyone. Jason Day prefers to get lost in his work, even when he’s not on Tour.
Yes, he’s in a different place in his life than the spring breakers, with a wife and two young kids, but prior to last week, the world No. 1 had been home in Akron, Ohio, for only 10 days since Dec. 28. (During the West Coast swing, he stays at the Vintage Club in Palm Springs, and when the Tour moves east he sets up shop at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla.) That’s a window into the life of the modern Tour player, who oftentimes still works a 9-to-5 on non-tournament weeks, except his days consist of grueling 90-minute workouts and hours spent on the range, putting green and short-game area.
“If you want to be the best in the world,” Day said, “you have to work harder than everyone else, and you have to be in front of your competition. If I decrease that volume of practice, sooner or later it will catch up to my game. Not straight away, but down the road it will catch up and then my level of play will come down. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is.”
To which there is an obvious follow-up: Isn’t there an inherent danger of pushing too hard, of burning out?
“I know mentally, deep down inside, that if I don’t work, I’m going to play bad golf, and there’s nothing worse in this world right now than me playing bad golf,” he said. “I hate it. I’m trying to win as much as I can. I don’t know if it’s in my nature, but I need to do that. That’s just me.”
Interestingly, it was Day who admitted recently that he was worried about Jordan Spieth, his friend and rival. He said that Spieth’s game hadn’t been as sharp since he spent a few months playing and spreading his brand across the globe; that he didn’t want the 22-year-old to get run-down at such a young age.
And that’s why Spieth’s presence in the Bahamas was so refreshing – he was letting loose, trading in soft spikes for sandals, punching his own refresh button. Though he had a whirlwind stretch to start the new year, Spieth is now in the midst of a full month off between the Masters and The Players. This break couldn’t have come at a better time, either, after his shocking final round at Augusta.
That Smylie Kaufman – who played alongside Spieth on Masters Sunday and shot 81 – rounded out the glamorous foursome in the Bahamas was merely a coincidence. He said he received the invite more than a month ago.
Earlier this year, Fowler had advised Kaufman, a Tour rookie, to find two-week breaks throughout the season: one week of relaxation, the other spent working and training. You probably can guess which week #SB2K16 fell under.
“We had an unbelievable time, decompressed,” Kaufman said. “Obviously the golf world got to see everything we did, and it was really fun for us. But it’s over now, and we’re all looking forward to the rest of the year.”