The Fire Hydrant Speaks
As I pulled up to the iron-gated entrance, a man in a dark-blue uniform emerged from a small brick hut. The badge on his chest was a flimsy gold star pinned under block letters that spelled SECURITY. “This is a private community,” he barked. Undaunted, I tried to explain that I’d flown a thousand miles to interview the hydrant that took down the greatest golfer who ever lived.
“We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of Tiger’s crash,” I pleaded.
“Better get yourself one those helicopters the paparazzi use,” the human guard dog howled, cracking himself up as he walked back to his post. “Besides, that hydrant’s been gone for months. Try the junkyard.”
By mid-afternoon, the trail had led to a smelly, cluttered lot on the north end of town – let’s just say they don’t toss 25-year-old refrigerators in a bin next door to the Magic Kingdom. Stacks of beat-up old Pontiacs, dumpsters full of useless metal ... and just off a dirt path in an area full of dog cages and busted picnic tables, there sat a fire hydrant, its mangled lid hanging from a chain, its squat round frame streaked in black paint.
And you thought Woods took a tumble. “Pretty bleak, huh?” the hydrant moaned, as if he knew exactly why I’d come to see him. “From the nicest neighborhood in central Florida to this! Hey buddy, you got a cigarette?”
I told him I didn’t smoke, then introduced myself. “Call me Harvey,” the hydrant replied. “As I was telling the reporter from the National Enquirer yesterday, I don’t have a whole lot to say about what happened. I mean, it was 2 in the morning. When you help put out fires for a living, you sleep when you can. You never know when a hook and ladder is gonna come roaring down the street and put you to work for three or four hours.”
Details of that fateful incident weren’t what I was looking for, although Harvey did mention that he suffered a broken chin during Woods’ reckless spree. When the Escalade finally came to a halt moments later, Harvey said he saw Tiger fall to the ground in a half-conscious daze and immediately tried to call 911, but was unsuccessful.
“Lousy cellphone reception,” he sighed. “Happens all the time around here.”
Having spent all those years just outside Woods’ home, no more than 100 yards from the Isleworth driving range, the hydrant got to know Tiger’s golf swing better than anyone alive. “The whole Butch-vs.-Hank thing is a joke,” Harvey said with a hint of disdain. “Do you honestly think Tiger Woods needs somebody to help him hit a golf ball? If you ask me, he has gotten too reliant on guys like Harmon and Haney – and now this new coach, what's his name?”
“Yeah, Foley. I’m not a fan. The hydrant that took my spot over there called me last week and said Foley parked his car right in front of him! That’s a $200 fine in some states nowadays! Can’t the guy show us a little respect?”
As our conversation continued, I was reminded yet again how much things changed in the wake of Woods’ accident last Nov. 27. In terms of its impact on golf’s competitive landscape, it is difficult to imagine a more dramatic upheaval. Tiger’s wife and swing coach would leave him in the spring, his form soon thereafter, and though it is ridiculously easy to blame all his problems on the course to his behavior off it, the true impact of the crash – and subsequent snowball effect – won’t be known for years.
Translation? Maybe the guy’s just not as good as he used to be.
As for the public’s obsession with Tiger’s personal life during the Great Downward Spiral, it seems like an indictment of modern culture, perhaps even a social perversion, until you realize that just about everyone – you and me included – paused at some point to stare at the wreckage. We call it the price of fame. We rationalize our interest with only slight traces of guilt, but when a sleazier and more sordid story comes along, we run from the old news as if it were a live grenade and gather around the water cooler to discuss the latest.
“I got hate mail!” Harvey shrieked. “Tell me, was it my fault the guy was living a double life?”
There was no point in my sticking around any longer. Like a lot of people, the little hydrant was guilty of fate’s only crime: Wrong place, wrong time.
“Nice meeting you,” I said, heading toward my rental car.
“Hey buddy, have a great Thanksgiving,” Harvey said, his voice suddenly full of hope. “Appreciate everything you’ve got – you don’t want to wait until it’s gone.”
Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open
IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.
Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.
Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.
Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.
Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.
Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way
Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.
Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.
And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.
Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.
Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.
Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.
Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.
“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.
Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.
A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.
It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.
There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.
Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.
The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.
Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.
“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”
Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why
In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.
Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.
With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.
"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.
So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.
"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.
Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away
Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.
On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.
And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship.
"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.
"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."
Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.
He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).
Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.
But he isn't celebrating just yet.
"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.
"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."