A Hard Walk Remembered

By Michael CollinsOctober 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
The worst, and hardest, walk for caddies is this week at the Valero Texas Open.
Some guys will argue that Reno is worse because of the altitude but, even though the walk at Reno is tough, its usually in the upper 50s to mid 60s temperature wise which makes it comfortable.
But the average ' over/under if youre a betting man ' for this tournament is 3. Thats the number of caddies who wont make it through the week. Not because they get fired, not because they quit, but because they end up in a medical tent or hospital getting fluids put into them.
Remember when Bart Bryant won here a few years ago? His caddie doesnt. Mr. Clean (well just use his nickname this week) went down three times that week. He did get to carry the bag up 18 on Sunday after following along in a golf cart with an IV stuck in his arm. He wasnt going to miss his mans win for anything.
You may wonder why this tournament is so hard to walk. The lowest point on the course is at the top of a roller coaster on the eighth tee. And when you are standing on the 11th tee you are so high up you can see the eighth tee, but can't see the people. And thats not the worst part. Its usually 106 degrees with 85 percent humidity.
Now before yall go thinking, Man does he hate this tournament, let me set the record straight. I love this tournament. It has a very special place in my heart. It has the best Tuesday driving range party on Tour.
What started out as a small (30 people) cook out, thrown by Omar Uresti (his dad still cooks the fajita meat, and his mom still hand makes the enchiladas) and his family, has become so big the tournament just asked them to do it on the range.
Theres a huge caddie putting contest with a cash prize and more importantly... bragging rights. And even though Ive never won the putting contest and have never gone down during the tournament, the event means so much to me because it was my first time caddying a PGA Tour event.
I caddied for Steve Hart, older brother of Dudley. I was doing comedy shows all week downtown at the Rivercenter Comedy Club, and on Tuesday morning was hanging out at the clubhouse with Omar when another caddie came up to me and said, Funny Man, you working this week?
Yeah, I got shows Wednesday through Saturday downtown.
Naw man! You got a bag?
Uuuh, no.
I got a guy youd be perfect for! You wanna day job? Sly smile, probably because he saw the size of my eyes, and knew I had never walked the course before.
I hustle down to the driving range, meet Steve, and after some small talk, he says, You ready? And away we went to the first tee. We get to the first green and he says, Can you read greens?
Yeah, I said, trying to sound as confident as possible.
Read this one.
Oh blank. I didnt mean right now or in a PGA Tour event. Well, thats what I was thinking, but as I looked at it I thought, if I read it wrong so what, hes the pro. Ignorance was truly bliss. I read it correctly, and he just made a kind of 'humph' sound when the ball went in the hole. You know, we didnt even talk money until after we made the turn, and by that time I was just trying to remember how to breathe and walk at the same time so he couldve really got a bargain.
I remember Friday the clearest because we had a late tee time and I had two shows that night. One of the guys playing with us tried to hit a flop shot from behind nine green and completely whiffed it. I turned my back to him and was trying not to laugh when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the golfer who had just whiffed.
He whispered in my ear, Youre gonna put that in your show tonight arent you? Now I did laugh out loud and say, Yep! (I could never get away with that now).
He promptly chipped in for par and yelled, You better put that in too!
Steve and I finished 45 minutes before the start my show and Ill never forget ' he snuck me in the locker room so I could take a shower. He then drove me to the club and said, I wish I could come see you but weve got an early tee time, that OK?
Are you serious? Man, go get some sleep, and Ill see you in the morning.
I fell asleep between the first and second show (both nights), but the week was good. Great comedy shows, and we tied for 21st. Steve asked me to caddie for him the rest of the year, but me (the happy idiot) was still doing comedy full time, so I had to say I couldnt.
Steve if youre reading this, I shouldve caddied for you the rest of that year. I dont remember any of the comedy clubs I did the rest of that year, but I know I wouldve remembered every hole.

Michael Collins has been a stand-up comedian for 15 years and has more than seven years experience as a professional caddie. He currently covers the PGA Tour as a correspondent with XM Satellite Radio and takes his turn on The Turn Mondays on Golf Channel. He also has his own Web site, www.funnycaddy.com
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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”