Our Intrepid Author Joins the Pro-Am Dawn Patrol
Leaving aside for now the issue of rightness (or not) of my mind, I hauled it out of the rack at this hour at the Hilton in nearby Jackson so I could be ready to play golf two hours later. Now, who in their right mind gets up that early to play golf at zero-dark-thirty?
Nearly a hundred people, as it turns out, who paid for the privilege of playing with a PGA Tour pro the day before the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. A healthy four-digit entry fee gets you into a group with a real professional golfer. Or, if youre a journalist on assignment, someone takes you on as the D player.
Either way, its a kick.
Its not as counterintuitive as it sounds. Sure, the Mississippi event is, in a sense, for the also-rans. The biggest stars (read: top 30 on the PGA Tour money list) are under the bright spotlight at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. No amount of prime rib in the Annandale Country Club restaurant can change the fact that this is the Tours No. 2 event this week.
Also, many of the players who come here know they need to have a good week to get into the magic top 125 in annual money so theyll be exempt for next year. But they may not know yet exactly how good a number they need to shoot or earn. And of course, 143 other guys are trying to do them out of every buck.
So I should expect my pro to be surly and distracted, right?
Mike Sposa, No. 130 on the money list and thereby the possessor of work cut out for him, as they say, probably has blood pressure in the 90/60 range. The guy simply doesnt get perturbed by an early morning with a collection of slicing hack monsters. Two kids, another on the way around Christmas, a big check to makeno problem. As we teed off in the gloaming, he was all smiles and handshakes.
I wont bore you with a blow-by-blow account of the round, but I will say that I was still sufficiently sleepy to stripe my first tee shot down the middle. Then I made the mistake of starting to think, and shots began to spray.
Too much brain, Mike said in condensed diagnosis. Just step up and hit it, like that first tee shot.
That remark dovetailed with something I had read about Ted Ray, the great British turn-of-the-century player. To think when we should be playingits madness, Ray said. How can you argue with that?
Of course, a big part of the pro-am experience is the inevitable tip from the pro. Not until our 16th hole did Mike come across. And tipwise, this guy can bring it.
Ive stood behind you for three driver swings, and when you lose it right, this is what happens, Mike said. And he proceeded to show me a simple move that regulated my shoulders through the swing and helped me into a Monty-like finish. Nothing condescending, just golfer-to-golfer help. On the next tee, I hit the ball so far they served an inflight meal on it ' and that flight didnt connect through the rough, Im here to tell you.
A lot of other fun stuff happened, some of which will be revealed in a TV story on Golf Central in the coming weeks. But heres what I really got out of my pro-am experience: The big-money entry fee for charity is worth it. The pros are, with few exceptions, engaging and fun to be with. The marketing good will for the Tour is immense. And the golf is a blast, no matter how you play.
Think about it: Can you run with Emmit Smith or shag fly balls with Barry Bonds? Exactly. Pro-ams are unique, and one of the best things about the pro game.
Edoardo, other pros congratulate Francesco on Twitter
Francesco Molinari played a bogey-free weekend at Carnoustie to claim Italy's first claret jug.
His rock-solid performance in the final round earned him his share of social media plaudits.
Here's a collection of Twitter hat-tips, and we start off with Frankie's brother, Dodo.
No bogeys on the weekend!!— Thomas Bjorn (@thomasbjorngolf) July 22, 2018
Is it a man or a machine???
No matter what happens
Amazing performance @F_Molinari
What a day— Thomas Bjorn (@thomasbjorngolf) July 22, 2018
What a week
What a year
What a round by @F_Molinari. Played with him Thursday-Friday, not surprised! Guy is the hottest player on the planet currently. Bogey free out there today is a championship round— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) July 22, 2018
Viva Italia...— Gary Player (@garyplayer) July 22, 2018
How good has @F_Molinari been!!! Bogey free for the last 37 holes!— Cheyenne Woods (@Cheyenne_Woods) July 22, 2018
Wow just awesome So happy for @F_Molinari . What a fantastic player, a great person and super role model for aspiring golfers. What an achievement #championgolferoftheyear@TheOpen . So pleased for you and all the team. Enjoy the celebrations cos you deserve it— Ross Fisher (@RossFisher) July 22, 2018
Woods: Fan who yelled had 'tipped back a few'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods stood on the 18th tee and thought he needed birdie to have a chance to win The Open. He pulled driver out of his bag, a sign he wanted to boot the ball as far down the fairway as possible.
Woods took a mighty swat and - right in the middle of his downswing - someone yelled. Woods flinched.
Luckily his ball still found a decent spot just off the right of the fairway.
“I’ve had things like that happen a lot in my career with people who just tried to time it,” Woods said Sunday at Carnoustie after shooting 71 to tie for sixth place. “They tipped back a few, and it’s late in the day.
“Unfortunately, that’s part of what we have to deal with in today’s game. People are trying to yell out things to try to be on TV or be in social media or whatever it may be. That was too close to the game of play.”
Woods hit his approach to 6 feet and missed the birdie putt. He tapped in for par to shoot even par and finish 5 under for the week, in a tie for sixth.
Pros melt down on Twitter as they watch Tiger
Tiger Woods mounted a final-round charge and, for a little while, took the outright lead at Carnoustie on Sunday.
His fellow pros were watching and tweeting like your average fans.
We compiled some of their missives below:
Woods would go on to finish in a tie for sixth at 5 under par for the week.
Starting to wonder how many Tiggy is going to win by here........... #isheback— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) July 22, 2018
Tiger is leading the open pic.twitter.com/MbGnJIt1Jj— Tyrrell Hatton (@TyrrellHatton) July 22, 2018
That FW bunker shot by Tiger tho... pic.twitter.com/Fi3GY6AegO— Scott Langley (@Scott_Langley) July 22, 2018
Tiger back doing Tiger stuff.......— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) July 22, 2018
I love you https://t.co/JovVz2clm2— Braden Thornberry (@tberrygolf) July 22, 2018
Omg lesgo @TigerWoods— Willy Wilcox (@willwilcoxgolf) July 22, 2018
Right now, Tiger is like everyone’s ex who we’ve given way too many 2nd chances to, and he has the opportunity to rip your heart right out of your chest but we’re all ok with it because we tend to only remember the good times— max homa (@maxhoma23) July 22, 2018
Woods shares emotional embrace with his kids
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods missed a birdie putt on the last hole that would’ve vaulted him into a tie for second place at The Open. It was a difficult way to end an otherwise successful week for the 14-time major champion, who is just happy to playing majors again.
Then he walked off the 18th, saw his two children, daughter Sam and son Charlie, and they all took a moment for a long embrace. Turns out, that was the perfect way to end the week.
“I told them I tried and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your pops for trying as hard as I did,'” Woods said Sunday after putting the finishing touches on an even-par 71 to end at 5 under for the week.
“It’s pretty emotional because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me and how much it feels good to be back playing again.”
In 2008, when Woods won his last major, the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, Sam was a year old and Charlie was not yet born. They don’t know how much their father used to dominate this game, especially majors. The last time Woods won a PGA Tour event was five full years ago. Woods has joked in the past that they only know him as a YouTube sensation.
“So, for them to understand what I was doing early in my career,” he said. “The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. Man, it’s just such a great feeling.”