Tryon Makes the Big Time
William Augustus Tryon IV ' Ty ' shot 66 on the final day of the Qualifying Tournament to slide in by two strokes. What was unimaginable as little as a month ago now has become believable. He did it, going through three qualifiers, passing every one, and now look whats happened. What ' or who - is going to stop this kid, anyway?
Well, this same things been done before. Fifteen-year-old Bernhard Langer turned pro in Germany back in 1972. But Langer didnt have much choice. He was from a poor family, school wasnt much of an option, and Germany only had a handful of professionals. Even Bernhard didnt get his European Tour card until the age of 19. This Tryon kid made his first cut at a PGA Tour event when he was 16, at the Honda Classic this year. And the PGA Tour is certainly tougher to crack than the European Tour.
Tyron is a junior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla. I wonder what the reaction has been from his teachers. Three stages of Q-School have cost him nearly three weeks in absences all ready. I cant imagine the faculty being cooperative as he progressed though first one stage and another ' and another. Ty had a book report on To Kill a Mockingbird due shortly after the final stage when he dazzled in the final round. I havent much time to read, Ty confessed, leading to speculation that the book report may slide a little.
If Tryon hits the jackpot on the Tour, of course, the world will little note the book report. That reminds of a conversation I once had with Moses Malone, who leaped right from high school to a million-dollar contract in professional basketball.
Mo, I asked, did you ever receive your high school diploma?
No, he replied. And no one has ever asked for it.
Meaning, of course, that basketball players arent normally asked for diplomas as they are about to enter the professional draft. Neither, for that matter, are golfers who enter the professional Qualifying Tournament. Tryon certainly is bright enough to matriculate from Dr. Phillips ' if he gets enough days in. The nagging question, though, is ' so what? Normally, about the most important thing a kid does is get at least a high school education. With Tryon, that is becoming less and less important.
He already has million-dollar contracts with Callaway Golf and Target Stores. The reason for the Callaway contract is fairly obvious. And the Target contract is to promote a line of Mossimo clothing.
Two million-dollar contracts while a kid is still in high school? Well, that just follows a trend Tryon set. He has a personal trainer. He has a sports psychologist. He, of course, has an instructor ' David Leadbetter, who worked wonders with Nick Faldo 15 years ago. And he has a mega-corporation to sort out the business deals ' Mark McCormacks IMG.
Oh ' did I mention that he is just 17? I did? Did I mention how many high school kids have such a cozy little business arrangement at 17?
One thing is certain, though. He is mature for 17 years old. He deals well with the adults. He deals well with the press. He seems totally unfazed by the golf phenomena, participating in pro tournaments and qualifiers like they were just another Saturday morning hit-and-giggle session.
Tryon will not have the chance to earn a paycheck that counts until June. That is because of a rule that he cannot become a PGA Tour member until he has reached his 18th birthday ' a rule, incidentally, that was rushed through the Tour in September of this year. No one ever dreamed that someone younger than 18 could actually make it through Q-School. As a caddie, maybe; as a player ' no.
Its that rule, though, that probably ensures him staying in class, at least this year. If his paychecks dont count on the PGA Tour, whats really the point? Might as well dabble in a few books until you have to make a decision ' which is next year during his senior season, by the way.
Tryon even has a website all his own ' www.tytryon.com. On it, we find such interesting tidbits that his father wasnt surprised that Ty made the field as a Monday qualifier at the Honda Classic ' Ty has attempted 16 such Monday qualifiers since the age of 13. Dad owns a mortgage business in Orlando. Dad, a 2-handicapper himself, rigged a net in the garage and gave 3-year-old Ty a plastic club. And Ty developed into a very respectable junior golfer.
Of course, the PGA Tour is light years away from junior golf. But Tryon has qualified for six rounds, in the finals, against a group of tour veterans. He did better than Blaine McCallister, Robert Gamez, Tommy Tolles, Ted Tryba, Jim McGovern, Nolan Henke and Gary Hallberg, to name a few.
A wise old bear named Jack Nicklaus could hardly believe the orbs when he saw Tryon while following son Gary at Q-School. Obviously, its pretty phenomenal for a young man, said Nicklaus. Jack, admittedly, never was one to go overboard on a new prospect.
Its quite possible, though, that like the rest of us, he couldnt really believe that what was happening ' was actually happening. Neither, it is suspected, could Tryon.
I just feel so relieved, he said after it was over. I dont know how to feel yet.
Then he used the word that has become a mantra for those who have yet to reach full manhood. Wow, he said simply.
After a 66, Woods has a chance
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As one of his idols charged into a share of the lead Saturday at The Open, Shaun Norris took note of the quality of shots and offered the type of informed analysis that can only come from those inside the ropes, in the heat of battle, with everything on the line.
“I don’t think he’s very far away from really taking everybody on again,” Norris said.
He was talking, of course, about Tiger Woods.
On a warm, windless afternoon that turned Carnoustie into a cupcake, Woods torched the ancient links for 15 mistake-free holes. He said afterward that he didn’t know that he’d joined the logjam at 6 under par … which seems hard to believe, because there was a massive yellow leaderboard to right of the 14th green that he appeared to be studying intently. But no matter. At 4:13 p.m. local time Saturday – 458 days after undergoing a fourth back surgery – Woods shared the lead in a major. Again.
He wasn’t about to reflect on the long, arduous journey to get here. Not with 18 holes left to play. Not with the need for another stellar round Sunday in high wind. Not with the bevy of contenders between him and the lead. A reporter tried to ask Woods where he’d rank a 15th major title, after his scandal and his injuries and his DUI arrest. The no-brainer answer is the very top of the list – it’d be the greatest comeback in golf history, if not all of sports. But Woods wasn’t ready to go there, not right now.
“I know what you’re trying to say in asking,” he said, breaking into a smile, “but let me try and get there first.”
Norris could have answered for him.
Just two weeks ago, he was playing in something called the Shigeo Nagashima Invitational SEGA SAMMY Cup, losing to two guys named Brad Kennedy and Hyung-Sung Kim, taking home 5,400,000 yen (or just shy of $50,000).
Toiling these days in Japan, Norris is a 36-year-old journeyman who is enjoying his best year as a pro, rising to No. 125 in the world. It’s rare that Woods’ playing partner is more fit than he is, but there stood Norris on the first tee Saturday, ready to rumble, his 200 pounds of muscle stacked on a 6-foot-2 frame.
Intimidated by Woods, he was not, but Norris walked away wholly impressed.
Impressed by Woods’ driving, perhaps his greatest bugaboo in this comeback.
Impressed by the precision with his irons.
Impressed by his lag putting.
Impressed by his course management and his golf IQ and his interaction with caddie Joe LaCava.
No, Norris has never won a major – in fact, this is just his second career appearance – but watching his playing partner dissect Carnoustie on Saturday, he knows that what he saw was good enough to win one, maybe more.
“I wouldn’t put it past him,” Norris said. “I think he’s got a great chance.”
Knowing that Saturday’s benign conditions offered the best scoring of the week, Woods wanted to stay in touch with the leaders. Getting up-and-down for par from 83 yards on the last preserved his 5-under 66 – his lowest score in a major in more than seven years. He’s four off the lead.
“It certainly is possible,” Woods said. “I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming into Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to be fun.”
In the recorders’ office after the round, Woods asked Norris if there was anything he could do for him – other than offer him this memory of a lifetime, 18 holes on a major Saturday, with the crowd in full throat. Norris has a few friends back home in South Africa who are diehard Tiger fans, so he asked whether Woods would sign a few gloves for them. Woods emerged from scoring, toweled off his balding head and then scribbled his signature on the palm of four brand-new Nike gloves, handing each to Norris’ caddie for safekeeping.
“Nice presents to give to my mates,” Norris said.
They’d be even more valuable if Woods went on to win Sunday, a scenario that seemed impossible a year ago but now, with the dodgy weather forecast, is not totally unrealistic.
Even if Woods comes up short, Norris didn’t hesitate in offering his own prediction.
“He’s close. Very close,” he said. “He’s definitely going to be at the top in a couple of months.”
Tiger putts way into contention at The Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – When Tiger Woods benched his trusty Scotty Cameron blade putter last month at the Quicken Loans National for a new TaylorMade mallet-headed version some saw it as a sign of desperation, but if his performance on Carnoustie’s greens on Saturday were any indication it could end up being a calculated success.
Woods stormed into contention on Day 3 with a 5-under 66 to move to within shouting distance of the lead at The Open, thanks in large part to his vastly improved putting.
“I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I've had really good feels,” said Woods, whose 29 putts on Saturday belies his performance on Carnoustie’s greens. “Even as this golf course was changing and evolving, I've maintained my feels with the putter. I've made a couple of putts from about 40 to 60 feet, which is nice. I just feel like I've been able to roll the ball.”
The highlight of Woods’ round came at the par-4 ninth hole when he charged in a 40-footer for birdie from the front edge of the green to begin a run of three consecutive birdies. Perhaps more impressive, he didn’t have a three-putt, and has only had two all week, which is always a bonus on links courses.
Woods temporarily took a share of the lead with a lengthy birdie putt at the 14th hole and scrambled for a par save at the last after his drive nearly found the Barry Burn.
“I hit a few putts that I think should have gone in from 20, 30 feet today," he said. "So that's always a good sign.”
TT postscript: A 66, he's in contention - awesome
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods went berserk Saturday and shot 5-under 66 to vault up the leaderboard at The Open at Carnoustie:
• THAT WAS AWESOME!
At 4:13PM here in Scotland, when Tiger two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole, he held a share of the lead in a major championship. It was once unthinkable, but it happened. I saw it with my own eyes.
• Tiger’s last two weekend rounds in the 60s in The Open both happened at Carnoustie and both happened on July 21. In 2007, Woods shot 69 here. On Saturday, that score was clipped by three shots. Tiger shot 65 in the second round of The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2006. He won his third claret jug that week. Tiger last shoot 66 in a major during the second round of the 2011 Masters.
• This is the sixth time that Tiger has recorded three consecutive rounds of par of better to start The Open. He went on to win three of the previous five times.
• One bad swing, the only bad swing of the day according to Tiger, produced the luckiest of breaks. Standing on the 18th tee with an iron in hand, Tiger pulled his tee shot that hit on the top of the Barry Burn and very easily could’ve ended in a watery grave. Instead it ended in thick rough, some 250 yards from the pin. Tiger punted it up the fairway, but got up and down from 83 yards to save par and shoot 66. “I hit my number,” he quipped about hitting wedge to 2 feet.
• On the other hand, the lone bogey came from one poor putt. On the par-3 16th hole, with half of Scotland screaming his name, Tiger missed a 7-footer for par. It was deflating at the time because the last three holes are so difficult. Pars on the last two holes were stellar.
• Final stats: 12 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and 29 total putts. Tiger hit six drivers and one 3-wood, proving that he was way more aggressive. He hit four drivers on Friday and only one on Thursday.
• One of the aforementioned drivers that he hit on the ninth hole was well left and in some thick round, 170 yards from the hole. A safe approach to 40 feet set him up for and easy two-putt par. But he slammed the putt home and made an improbable birdie. “I hit so many good putts out there today, and this week from distance, I’ve had really good feels,” he said.
• In his own words about his chances of winning: “It certainly is possible. I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year. Given what happened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever happen again, but here I am with a chance coming Sunday in a major championship. It’s going to fun.”
Yes, yes it is.
Watch: Guy sleeps next to many beers at Open
It's Moving Day at The Open Championship for all but one sedentary fan.
Cameras caught this potentially browned-out man having himself a Saturday snooze on the browned-out grasses of Carnoustie:
Browned out. That's a great term. Glad it's in the public domain. We've been using it all weekend. I imagine we'll continue to use it. A lot.