Recalling Tough Times

By Michael CollinsSeptember 25, 2008, 4:00 pm
After seeing my friends caddie at the Ryder Cup and celebrate on the 17th green, so much reminiscing went on about the journey to the top of the caddie hill.
 
Fred Sanders kept talking about how he never stopped getting chills all over his body after every shot.
 
John Wood, Hunter Mahans caddie, couldnt stop smiling and saying it was the best experience hes ever had as a caddie. And even more importantly, he now knows these guys are even better than he thought before. Because they not only hit amazing shots, but they did it after waving the crowd on.
 
And as we know most famous last words come after the saying, Hey yall... watch this. Yet time and time again, we watched Anthony Kim, Boo Weekley,
and even Phil Mickelson say, If you thought THAT was cool, check THIS
out!
 
As the night wore I turned introverted, if you can believe it, and thought of my jealousy from my own trip through caddie darkness. I only say jealousy because I have yet to taste victory of the Masters, or the Ryder Cup, as a caddie and now I want it even more.
 
I do remember the bottom. Nothing is worse for a caddie than believing in your player and having them not believe in themselves.
 
Years ago on the Nationwide Tour I remember missing the cut and sitting on the grass of the driving range having a heart to heart with my friend and pro. He told me he didnt have enough money to play the year out and was going to have to go get a job. He had a family at home, bills to pay and was catching nothing but bad breaks on the golf course.
 
It was the most honest moment I had ever seen from a pro. To stand naked ' figuratively speaking ' in front of a mirror and say, Im unsure. It takes more stones than many people have.
 
Tears were shed by both caddie and player that afternoon in Virginia Beach, as caddie said, Youre a golfer, not a salesman, not a teacher, not a garbage truck driver. And Im your caddie. No ifs, ands, or buts. Well find a way. I believe in you. I just need you to believe in you.
 
He didnt even have to answer, being able to look me in the eyes with tears in his, I knew. I didnt have to caddie for free because a friend of his loaned him enough money to keep him going for a bit, and it turns out he didnt even need all of it. Won later that year, and slowly but surely made his way to the PGA TOUR where he won, too. Of course, I got fired way before the win, but thats the nature of the business, and were still very good friends to this day.
 
Its even harder to get a guy out of a funk that decides hes done mentally for the day. Caddying in Tucson one year, my knucklehead is 3-under through 10 on Friday and inside the cut number easy. But after making a bogey on the 11th he mentally shuts it down. Not a bad drive on 12, not long but in the middle of the fairway. Its easy to see, hes walking with his chin on his chest 25 yards behind the sign boy. Shoulders slumped in the 'poor me' position, we were clearly on the path to a missed cut instead of a top 10.
 
Drastic measures were needed. I whistle to him and waive him to come on. Chin back on chest. Well if that didnt work...OK, you asked for it. So with 200 people following along outside the ropes, the two guys playing with us, their caddies, the walking scorer, and the sign boy all walking ahead of us, I loudly drop the bag and as they all turn around to see whats going on, I basically throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the fairway.
 
Stomping my feet up and down, flailing my arms to the side, sticking my bottom lip out. Five seconds of this and even he had stopped walking and was looking at me like I was nuts. I stopped and looked at him, What, you gonna cry when you get in the car? An infamous line from the movie Friday that I know he knew. Now get your ass up here and lets go!
 
A quick sheepish smile and the message got home. Birdied that hole and finish the weekend tie for 12th. Pardon me while I pat myself on the back... uh wait... he fired me, too, a year later.
 
Cest la vie, I wouldnt change a thing for a second, I can see the top of the mountain, just gotta keep walking.
 
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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    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

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    Koepka still has chip on his chiseled shoulder

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 3:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Brooks Koepka prepared more for this Open than last year's.

    He picked up his clubs three times.

    That’s three more than last summer, when the only shots he hit between the summer Opens was during a commercial shoot for Michelob Ultra at TPC Sawgrass. He still tied for sixth at The Open a month later.

    This time, Koepka kept his commitment to play the Travelers, then hit balls three times between the final round in Hartford and this past Sunday, when he first arrived here at Carnoustie.

    Not that he was concerned, of course.

    Koepka’s been playing golf for nearly 20 years. He wasn’t about to forget to how to swing a club after a few weeks off.

    “It was pretty much the same thing,” he said Tuesday, during his pre-tournament news conference. “I shared it with one of my best friends, my family, and it was pretty much the same routine. It was fun. We enjoyed it. But I’m excited to get back inside the ropes and start playing again. I think you need to enjoy it any time you win and really embrace it and think about what you’ve done.”

    At Shinnecock Hills, Koepka became the first player in nearly 30 years to repeat as U.S. Open champion – a major title that helped him shed his undeserved reputation as just another 20-something talent who relies solely on his awesome power. In fact, he takes immense pride in his improved short game and putting inside 8 feet.

    “I can take advantage of long golf courses,” he said, “but I enjoy plotting my way around probably - more than the bombers’ golf courses - where you’ve got to think, be cautious sometimes, and fire at the center of the greens. You’ve got to be very disciplined, and that’s the kind of golf I enjoy.”

    Which is why Koepka once again fancies his chances here on the type of links that helped launch his career.

    Koepka was out of options domestically after he failed to reach the final stage of Q-School in 2012. So he packed his bags and headed overseas, going on a tear on the European Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalent of the Web.com circuit) and earning four titles, including one here in Scotland. That experience was the most fun and beneficial part of his career, when he learned to win, be self-sufficient and play in different conditions.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “There’s certain steps, and I embraced it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s where a lot of guys go wrong. You are where you are, and you have to make the best of it instead of just putting your head down and being like, 'Well, I should be on the PGA Tour.' Well, guess what? You’re not. So you’ve got to suck it up wherever you are, make the best of it, and keep plugging away and trying to win everything you can because, eventually, if you’re good enough, you will get out here.”

    Koepka has proved that he’s plenty good enough, of course: He’s a combined 20 under in the majors since the beginning of 2017, the best of any player during that span. But he still searches long and hard for a chip to put on his chiseled shoulder.

    In his presser after winning at Shinnecock, Koepka said that he sometimes feels disrespected and forgotten, at least compared to his more-ballyhooed peers. It didn’t necessarily bother him – he prefers to stay out of the spotlight anyway, eschewing a media tour after each of his Open titles – but it clearly tweaked him enough for him to admit it publicly.

    That feeling didn’t subside after he went back to back at the Open, either. On U.S. Open Sunday, ESPN’s Instagram page didn’t showcase a victorious Koepka, but rather a video of New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. dunking a basketball.

    “He’s like 6-foot-2. He’s got hops – we all know that – and he’s got hands. So what’s impressive about that?” Koepka said. “But I always try to find something where I feel like I’m the underdog and put that little chip on my shoulder. Even if you’re No. 1, you’ve got to find a way to keep going and keep that little chip on.

    “I think I’ve done a good job of that. I need to continue doing that, because once you’re satisfied, you’re only going to go downhill. You try to find something to get better and better, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

    Now 28, Koepka has a goal of how many majors he’d like to win before his career is over, but he wasn’t about to share it.

    Still, he was adamant about one thing: “Right now I’m focused on winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot, and I’m just tired of it. Once you win, it kind of propels you. You have this mindset where you just want to keep winning. It breeds confidence, but you want to have that feeling of gratification: I finally did this. How cool is this?”

    So cool that Koepka can’t wait to win another one.

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    Despite results, Thomas loves links golf

    By Jay CoffinJuly 17, 2018, 2:48 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Despite poor results in two previous Open Championships, Justin Thomas contends that he has what it takes to be a good links player. In fact, he believes that he is a good links player.

    Two years ago at Royal Troon, Thomas shot 77 in the second round to tie for 53rd place. He was on the wrong side of the draw that week that essentially eliminated anyone from contention who played late Friday afternoon.

    Last year at Royal Birkdale, Thomas made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 sixth hole in the second round and missed the cut by two shots.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I feel like I’ve played more than two Opens, but I haven’t had any success here,” Thomas said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I feel like I am a good links player, although I don’t really have the results to show.”

    Although he didn’t mention it as a reason for success this week, Thomas is a much different player now than he was two years ago, having ascended to the No. 1 position in the world for a few weeks and now resting comfortably in the second spot.

    He also believes a high golf IQ, and the ability to shape different shots into and with the wind are something that will help him in The Open over the next 20 years.

    “I truly enjoy the creativity,” Thomas said. “It presents a lot of different strategies, how you want to play it, if you want to be aggressive, if you want to be conservative, if you want to attack some holes, wait on certain winds, whatever it might be. It definitely causes you to think.

    “With it being as firm as it is, it definitely adds a whole other variable to it.”

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    Reed's major record now a highlight, not hindrance

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 2:46 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The narrative surrounding Patrick Reed used to be that he could play well in the Ryder Cup but not the majors.

    So much for that.

    Reed didn’t record a top-10 in his first 15 starts in a major, but he took the next step in his career by tying for second at the 2017 PGA Championship. He followed that up with a breakthrough victory at the Masters, then finished fourth at the U.S. Open after a closing 68.

    He’s the only player with three consecutive top-4s in the majors.

    What’s the difference now?


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “The biggest thing is I treat them like they’re normal events,” he said Tuesday at Carnoustie. “I’ve always gone into majors and put too much pressure on myself, having to go play well, having to do this or that. Now I go in there and try to play golf and keep in the mindset of, Hey, it’s just another day on the golf course. Let’s just go play.

    “I’ve been able to stay in that mindset the past three, and I’ve played pretty well in all three of them.”

    Reed’s record in the year’s third major has been hit or miss – a pair of top-20s and two missed cuts – but he says he’s a better links player now than when he began his career. It took the native Texan a while to embrace the creativity required here and also to comprehend the absurd distances he can hit the ball with the proper wind, conditions and bounce.

    “I’m sort of accepting it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a little more comfortable with doing it. It’s come a little bit easier, especially down the stretch in tournament play.”