Tales From the Tour: 2016’s Overlooked Golf Stories
Jason Day ends the year at No. 1 in the world ranking, another indicator of how much and for how long Tiger Woods dominated golf.
This is the eighth straight year that a different player was at No. 1 in the final world ranking – Woods in 2009, Lee Westwood in 2010, Luke Donald in 2011, Rory McIlroy in 2012, Woods in 2013, McIlroy in 2014, Jordan Spieth in 2015.
Dating to 1998, Woods was at No. 1 in the final ranking in 11 out of 12 years.
Woods ends this year at No. 652, because he didn’t play for 15 months until the Hero World Challenge in December. What happens next year?
“He’s got to go play,” Jack Nicklaus said. “If he plays, he’ll find out if he can come back or not.”
In the meantime, there was still plenty of action without him, and an endless supply of entertainment. From inside and outside the ropes, here is this year’s collection of Tales from the Tour before moving on to another year.
Gretzky’s other career
During the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, an Australian journalist was at Spyglass Hill following Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson, along with their amateur partners, country singer Jake Owen and hockey great Wayne Gretzky. At the end of the round, the journalist couldn’t find a shuttle back to the main press centre at Pebble Beach. Gretzky spotted him and offered a ride.
Gretzky grinned as he recounted the conversation.
“Mate, I’ve never seen a hockey match, but I trust you were better at hockey than you are at golf?” the journalist inquired.
“Well,” Gretzky replied, “I did well enough that they invited me to play in the tournament.”
“Oh, that’s great, good for you,” said the journalist, oblivious to Gretzky’s sport, his career or that his nickname is The Great One.
Club bends rule for caddies
Nothing annoys PGA Tour caddies more at the Sony Open than a sign with large block letters outside the clubhouse door at Waialae Country Club.
Caddies are not allowed in the clubhouse at other tournaments, though none has such a contemptuous sign on the door.
The club had no choice but to bend the rules by the end of the week.
Fabian Gomez of Argentina won the Sony Open in a playoff over Brandt Snedeker. A tradition at the Sony Open is for the winner to speak to members in the clubhouse dining room. Gomez doesn’t have a great command of English, and so he summoned Jose Luis Campra, a fellow Argentine, to help him with the speech.
Campra is the caddie for Emiliano Grillo.
Grandpa Phil’s revenge
Patrick Reed isn’t afraid to dish it out to anyone, and neither is Phil Mickelson.
They were paired at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and during a backup on the par-three 14th hole at Monterey Peninsula, Reed noticed the watch on Mickelson’s wrist.
“Isn’t it time for an upgrade?” Reed said.
Lefty looked at his Rolex and then stood on his soap box to explain to this youngster the way of life and watches.
“You’re right,” Mickelson said. “This is a classique. This is 10 years old. See, what young people don’t quite understand is that new doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes style is found in the classic, elegant look.”
Reed waited for Mickelson to finish and replied, “Thanks, Grandpa.”
As usual, Mickelson had an answer. He smiled at Reed and said, “Yeah, well, Grandpa just blew it by you 20 yards on the last two holes.”
When a pro is a pro
Bob Ford is one of the most respected golf professionals in the country, with more than 40 years in charge at Oakmont Country Club while spending the winter months in South Florida at Seminole Golf Club. He retired this year as director of golf, a few months after Oakmont hosted its ninth U.S. Open.
Ford made the cut in two U.S. Opens, including at Oakmont in 1983, and he decided to give it one more try. He did so without a hint of privilege.
The host pro is exempt into the final stage of qualifying. Ford, however, gave Oakmont’s spot to his successor, Devin Gee, and instead went off to local qualifying. He failed to advance and later joked he wanted no part of Oakmont.
Because an uneven number of players made the cut in the U.S. Open, Justin Hicks played the final round as a single with a noncompeting marker, which typically is the head pro. It would have been the perfect retirement gift for Ford, except that he turned it over to Gee.
Palmer tells it like it is
The day after the U.S. Open, Arnold Palmer drove his cart to the back entrance of his office in Latrobe, Penn.
It had been a rough year. Palmer declined to a do his news conference or a TV interview at Bay Hill, instead taping an interview for the NBC telecast. For the first time, he did not hit a ceremonial tee shot at the start of the Masters the following month.
But he was sharp on this day. Dustin Johnson had won the U.S. Open, but only after playing the final seven holes not knowing if the USGA was going to penalize him one shot for his ball moving on the fifth green.
“What did you think of the Open?” Palmer said.
“Interesting,” came the fence-sitting reply.
Palmer grinned and, as always, got straight to the point.
“The USGA really [messed] this one up, didn’t they?” he said.
Believe me, folks, Herman’s first backer was huge
The golf shirt of Jim Herman told the story of a celebrity businessman who once played golf with him and saw enough of Herman as an assistant pro to back him financially in a final attempt to make it to the PGA Tour.
Herman still wears Donald Trump’s logo on his shirt.
Early in the year, however, those block letters “TRUMP” started getting plenty of attention, especially when Trump emerged as the leading GOP candidate. So when Herman arrived at Bay Hill in March, the letters were replaced by the Trump golf crest, which is hard to read except from very close range.
Herman won for the first time two weeks later in Houston.
By the end of the year, Trump was elected president and Herman was wrapping up his best season. It was 10 years ago that Herman was an assistant at Trump National in Bedminster, N.J., when the pro told him he was playing with the boss one day. Herman became Trump’s regular partner. Trump became his biggest supporter.
But at his final event of the year, Herman no longer had the Trump logo on his shirt.
“We have a new clothing company and they haven’t had time to put the club crest on it,” he said with a smile. “It’s still on my bag. I know I’m going to do something great this week, get some press and I’ll get a phone call asking about the logo.”
He tied for 13th and managed to avoid any attention … and a phone call.