SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Michael Phelps owns a record 22 Olympic medals, but he has perhaps never felt pressure in an athletic arena like he did on Wednesday.
Phelps competed alongside Bubba Watson in the Waste Management Phoenix Open pro-am – and when he got to the famous par-3 16th hole, the 15,000-seat stadium-like stands were at about two-thirds capacity.
“I felt my heart was going to jump out of my chest,” said the star of “The Haney Project” on Golf Channel. “It was something that was pretty cool, something I've never seen before and something I've never experienced. I was very nervous and my club was like shaking as I'm over the ball. I just pretty much had to try to swing the club as fast as I could. But it's wild. I have never heard people boo me, but I'm sure it's happened – my face is just under water. So it was a little different experience.”
So how did he do? Phelps’ tee shot hit the green … only to trickle off the front and stop about 15 yards short of the putting surface. He then hit an indifferent chip to about 20 feet and missed his par attempt. Each of the three shots elicited good-natured jeers from the crowd, until he finally received applause by dropping the ball into the cup.
Even with personal lessons from Haney, the retired swimmer said his game was in rough shape throughout the day.
“I had a couple good ones on the range, but I couldn't find it until probably like 13,” he said. “I started hitting a couple good ones here and there, but it just wasn't as consistent as it was a couple days ago when I was with Hank. Kind of figured out a little bit on the end and started hitting it a little bit better. But it just comes with more practice and more time on the range, and that's what I know I have to do.”