On the back roads of golf, tales from the tour
Dave Kindred, a preeminent American sports writer who has worked
his trade for the better part of four decades, was walking down the
right side of the first fairway at Kiawah Island with the final
group at the PGA Championship when he mentioned he had been
teaching a writing class to college students.
Like most great columnists, Kindred’s strength is his power of
observation, and he has tried to pass that along.
”The one thing I tell them,” he said, ”is that if you really
pay attention to what you’re covering, you’ll see something you’ve
never seen before.”
He stopped and kneeled to watch Carl Pettersson, playing in the
last group that Sunday with Rory McIlroy, hit his approach to the
green. Pettersson was just inside the red hazard line, so he was
careful not to ground his club. Brushing the top of the grass was
Moments after his shot, he was approached by PGA rules official
Brad Gregory and told there might be a problem.
In a bizarre development, Pettersson’s club nicked a leaf on the
way back, a violation of Rule 13-4c for moving a loose impediment
in a hazard. After an exhaustive video review, Pettersson was given
the bad news – a two-stroke penalty – on the fourth hole.
Pay attention and you never know what you’ll see.
That much was true in a wild year of golf. Phil Mickelson lost
his bid at the Masters by hitting two shots right-handed. Rory
McIlroy was confused by the time zone and needed a police escort to
get to the final day of the Ryder Cup on time. Tiger Woods never
found his golf ball, was not penalized and still missed the
Those have been well-documented. What follows is the 2012
edition of ”Tales from the Tour,” the obscure moments that keep
golf so interesting and entertaining.
Kyle Stanley is a quiet man. This was a quiet celebration.
One week after he made triple bogey on the 18th hole at Torrey
Pines and then lost in a playoff, he rallied from eight shots
behind on the final day with a 65 in the Phoenix Open to win his
first PGA Tour event. It was a remarkable turnaround. One week he
faced the media after his meltdown and fought back tears. The next
week he was a winner.
Stanley was invited to a Super Bowl party that night at the home
of Jim Mackay, the longtime caddie of Phil Mickelson. He was late
to the party because of the media obligations that come with
winning. When he finally arrived, Stanley knocked and then walked
in the door holding the oversized winner’s check over his head.
He quietly placed it above the TV, and then sat down to watch
the game, a player at peace.
No other golfer spends more time with the media after every
round than Ryo Ishikawa, who is treated like a rock star in Japan.
When he signs his card, even when it’s late in the day, it’s not
unusual for the 21-year-old to spend close to an hour fulfilling
his media obligations.
That’s where ”The Chair” comes in.
His handlers have a white folding chair for Ishikawa as he
endures two interviews with different television stations. A dozen
or so reporters form a semi-circle around him as they wait and
listen, occasionally jotting down notes. Then, it’s their turn.
They spent close to 15 minutes with Ishikawa after his round at
Innisbrook, going over the clubs he used and shots he hit on just
about every hole – this after a 73 that left him 12 shots out of
Finally, he was finished. He got up from the chair and walked
around the clubhouse toward the parking lot. The Japanese reporters
followed him, walking in a group about 20 yards behind. One of them
was asked where they were going.
”Now we wave goodbye,” the reporter explained.
Indeed, they stood on a sidewalk and waved as Ishikawa’s car
drove by them.
Butch Harmon was talking retirement in the spring. He turned 69
this year. A Vietnam War vet, he has been teaching most of his
life, working for Sky Sports and traveling the world, which is
starting to take its toll. He worries about the day when his
attention span is short or he doesn’t care as much as he once
”It’s not there, but it’s coming,” he said. ”I will never
step away. I’ll always teach. I love to teach.”
The next morning, he was on the range at Quail Hollow waiting
for Phil Mickelson to arrive. Gary Christian , a 40-year-old PGA
Tour rookie from England, walked over and introduced himself.
Christian said he was fascinated to watch so many Americans use the
leading edge of the club on wedge shots. They chatted for a few
minutes and after Christian walked away, Harmon said, ”Who was
Harmon nodded when told about Christian’s back story, how he
came to America on a college scholarship, supported himself by
selling steak knives and toiled in the minor leagues for 15 years
before finally making it to the big leagues.
Still no sign of Mickelson.
A few minutes later, Harmon walked over to Christian. He spent a
few minutes observing, and then pulled a wedge from the bag and
gave an impromptu lesson.
He’ll always teach. He loves to teach.
You’ve seen the sign at the baggage claim to check your luggage
because some bags may look alike. That goes for golf travel bags,
Nick Watney and Angel Cabrera arrived in San Francisco for the
U.S. Open about the same time, on different flights. Cabrera kept
waiting at oversized luggage for his bag to come out, and he began
to think the airlines had lost it. There was only one golf bag
there, and it belonged to Watney.
That’s when the light came on.
Cabrera’s agent called the person in charge of U.S. Open
courtesy cars and asked them to stop Watney on his way out.
Sure enough, Cabrera’s golf bag was in his trunk.
The relationship three-time major champion Padraig Harrington
has with reporters is unlike that of any other player, especially
the Irish media.
He was giving an interview to Greg Allen of Irish radio station
RTE, and after they finished, Harrington began making small talk.
He asked Allen, ”I heard you lost your sunglasses?” Allen’s
shoulders slumped as he told Harrington he had misplaced his
glasses and didn’t know where to look for them.
Harrington didn’t commiserate. He smiled.
”They’re in my locker,” he said. ”You left them behind the
Sung Kang received elite training in South Korea’s national
program that is producing more and more top players, but he worked
equally hard on his English and speaks beautifully for someone who
has played the PGA Tour only the last few years.
Turns out he has been coming to America twice a year since 2002
to work on his golf, and he devoted just as much effort to the
In Florida? California?
”Dallas,” Kang said. ”I went to the Hank Haney schools, so I
would work with Haney and learned English there in Texas.”
Some things, however, still get lost in translation. Kang was
asked if he ever bought cowboy boots from all that time spent in
”No,” he said. ”I don’t really like the NFL. I’m more of a
The British Open has a massive scoreboard in the press center
where a group of volunteers, most of them women in their early 20s,
move ladders on rails from side to side as they post the score of
every hole for every player.
Press officers often check to see which players they should
bring in for interviews the first two rounds as the leaderboard is
taking shape. In the second round, Adam Scott had a 67 to get
within one shot of the lead with several players still on the
The announcement over the intercom: ”Can we see a show of hands
for Adam Scott?”
Six young women posting scores all raised their hands.
About two dozen fans waiting for autographs behind the ninth
green on the Magnolia Course at Disney got more than they expected.
Brian Harman emerged from the scoring trailer after the final PGA
Tour event of the year and said, ”Who’s left-handed?”
One man came forward, and it turned out to be his lucky day.
Harman went over to his bag, removed all the irons and handed
them to the fan. Turns out Harman wanted to try something different
at Disney, so he used irons with graphite shafts. He described it
as the worst ball-striking week he had all year.
”I just wanted to try some different stuff,” Harman said.
”And now I know what was not the answer.”
No other sports organization comes close to the amount of
charity produced by the PGA Tour. Harman took it to a new