It was a rainy day at the Phoenix Open but not enough of a downpour to deter me and my first semester classmates at the Golf Academy from showing up at 6:30a to work the driving range at TPC Scottsdale. It was a little eerie to be walking around the property before sunrise. It was my first trip back to the Open since I covered the tournament while a student at Arizona State back in 2002.
When we got there, we got right to work getting name placards ready and handing balls to caddies as players arrived on the range. We had shag bags full of Callaway, Srixon, Titleist, TaylorMade, and Nike golf balls to hand out. Tiger Woods had his own special golf balls that we had to pre-sort and then re-sort after he went through his short game and full swing warm-up. He was playing a Nike RZN BLACK with a dot in between the words RZN and BLACK on the logo. That’s how we knew which one’s were his.
We saw all the big names: Woods, Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, and Bubba Watson. They were all very friendly. We had to keep a sharp eye on the range to make sure that any balls left behind were quickly picked up and returned, and we had to make sure players had name placards where they were hitting so fans could identify them.
I have several golf/sports connections from my days as a Sports Director in South Carolina, so it was a reunion of sorts for me. I spoke to Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open Champion), Kevin Chappell’s caddy Michael Maness (Maness gave me Chappel’s giraffe head cover to return to his clubhouse locker), Kevin Na’s caddy Kenny Harms (who also used to caddy for Hale Irwin on the Champions Tour), and former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice. Rice was there doing an interview with the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive and was kind enough to show off the Super Bowl ring he won last year. I covered him when he went to the University of South Carolina.
I also ran into a former Tucson neighbor of mine, Michael Thompson. I had hoped to get a post-round interview with him, but the weather today made that all but impossible. Still, what a great guy! I hardly recognized him with the beard he’s sporting.
But let’s get back to Tiger Woods. If you haven’t heard by now, you will – Tiger shot a career-worst 82 (+11) to miss the cut. His 13-over-par total left him dead last in the 132-player field. Not only did he miss the cut, it’s just the 2nd time in his professional career Woods even failed to break 80. There is definitely something wrong there! While he was still on the course, I spoke to the Golf Channel’s Curt Byrum. He followed Tiger around the course yesterday and told me he thinks Tiger has the “chipping yips.” His short game is in shambles. Woods isn’t staying around for the Super Bowl.
Despite the wet weather, we all agreed that it was a privilege and an honor to be allowed to work the range for a PGA Tour event. The time went by quickly, and before you knew it, it was 1:00p and time to head for home. These guys really are good.