Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

A weird and wacky 2012

Dave Kindred, a pre-eminent sports writer 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.

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 allowed.

Moments after his shot, PGA rules official Brad Gregory told him there might be a problem.

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 received 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. Left-hander 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 ball, was not penalized and still missed the cut.

Those have been well-documented. What follows is the 2012 edition of "Tales from the Tour," obscure moments that keep golf interesting and entertaining.

•••

Kyle Stanley is a quiet man. This was a quiet celebration.

One week after he made triple bogey on 18 at Torrey Pines, then lost in a playoff, he rallied from eight down on the final day with 65 in the Phoenix Open to win his first PGA Tour event. One week, he faced the media after his meltdown and fought back tears. The next, he was a winner.

Stanley was invited to a Super Bowl party that night at the home of Jim Mackay, the longtime caddie of Mickelson. He was late because of media obligations. When he finally arrived, Stanley knocked, then walked in the door holding the oversized winner's check over his head.

He quietly placed it above the TV, 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 late in the day, the 21-year-old often spends close to an hour fulfilling 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 TV stations. A dozen or so reporters form a semicircle 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 a Transitions Championship round at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, going over the clubs he used and shots he hit on nearly every hole — this after shooting 73 that left him 12 shots off the lead.

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. He has been teaching most of his life, working for Sky Sports and traveling the world. He worries about the day when his attention span is short or he doesn't care as much as he once did.

"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 Mickelson to arrive. Gary Christian, a 40-year-old tour rookie from England, 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 that?"

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 minors 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, 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, too.

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. Watney's was the only golf bag there.

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 other day."

•••

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 past 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 language.

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 Dallas: "No. I don't really like the NFL. I'm more of a Lakers fan."

•••

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 after the first two rounds as the leaderboard is taking shape. In the second round, Adam Scott shot 67 to get within one shot of the lead with several players still on the course.

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 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 level.

Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa Bay Tech wins Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament

Tampa Bay Tech wins Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Tech lost some significant players from an offense that averaged more than 40 points per game last season.The biggest departures were in the passing game. Mike Penix, the Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay offensive player of the ...
Updated: 9 hours ago