Un­der­cover Tour Pro

Why I don’t like play­ing at the home of­fice

Golf Digest Middle East - - The Golf Life -

y least- favourite tour­na­ment is the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship. Ask around the locker room, and you’ll find some guys with the same an­swer. This might sur­prise you given the money— the $1.8 mil­lion first prize and $10.5 mil­lion purse are tied with the PGA Cham­pi­onship as the largest we play for. But a slightly more lu­cra­tive T-20 or T- 40 doesn’t change the vibe. For me, that week at TPC Saw­grass is a guar­an­teed bad mood.

I’m a fan of firm and fast, but golfdigestme. com there they bake out the fair­ways so much that it’s Mickey Mouse. If your ball lands on the fron­tright fringe at 18, there’s a good chance it’ll kick all the way into the wa­ter over the green, which is just ridicu­lous. The course plays com­pletely dif­fer­ent the other 50 weeks a year. When I play there out­side of the event, I al­ways move up two sets of tees so I can prac­tice hit­ting the same irons into greens.

But the setup is only the start. The main prob­lem is, it’s the of­fice. PGA Tour head­quar- may 2016 ters is right there in Ponte Ve­dra Beach, so it’s like you have 300 peo­ple run­ning around who all think they’re your boss. And the golfers aren’t the only ones who feel this. Last year I was hit­ting balls on the range, and in the span of 40 min­utes I wit­nessed three dif­fer­ent suits tell the same as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent to rear­range the prac­tice area three dif­fer­ent ways. Our tour is a bu­reau­cracy like any big or­gan­i­sa­tion. Peo­ple who are over­paid and un­der-worked try to as­sert power in point­less ways. And the Play­ers is a ma­jor for it.

I’ve made over $5 mil­lion in win­nings. Frankly, I don’t re­ally have the looks or per­son­al­ity, or de­sire, to sup­ple­ment my in­come with lots of off-course ac­tiv­i­ties. The PGA Tour does an amaz­ing job of pro­vid­ing a sys­tem that al­lows any­body who’s good enough to com­pete. If you shoot low scores, there’s no way they can keep you out. It’s just that if you’re not one of the top-30 guys, some­times it feels like you’re play­ing un­der dif­fer­ent rules. Pref­er­en­tial treat­ment makes for bad feel­ings in any line of work. Be­cause all the faces are there that week at the Play­ers, you’re re­minded of all the bad things.

I was once told I couldn’t prac­tice when I’d with­drawn from a pro- am. I’d hurt my back step­ping in a hole and had limped to the range to see if I could even swing, or if I should just with­draw. “Looks like you’re hit­ting it pretty good to me,” this of­fi­cial tells me. He ra­dios an­other guy, who’s just as snide, and pretty soon it de­vel­ops into this big deal. I’ll play in 28 proams a year. The one time I miss, they try to em­bar­rass me in front of every­body. That no one can skip pro-ams is sup­posed to be this hard rule, but the stars get out of them all the time.

When I was a rookie, I was paired with a Masters cham­pion on a week­end. We were putting out on 16 as the group ahead was shak­ing hands. I’m run­ning down the 17th fair­way. Mr. Green Jacket is tak­ing his sweet old time, same as he’d been all day. I’m like, “Come on, man, I can­not af­ford a 20-grand fine.” The guy’s like, “Dude, we’re good. If a rules of­fi­cial comes over, I’ll take care of it.”

My group once got dinged for slow play when we were ac­tu­ally un­der the time par for the course. We ap­pealed, and in the end the er­ror was ad­mit­ted, and we didn’t have to pay any­thing. If you’re part of the mar­ket­ing cam­paign, you don’t get these sorts of headaches. Tell me how Jim Furyk doesn’t get 10 slow­play fines ev­ery year.

Drug test­ing and med­i­cal leaves of ab­sence? Don’t even get me started. I’ve got all sorts of sto­ries, more than can fit in this col­umn. But I prom­ise you this: If I win the Play­ers, I’ll tell a few more when they hand me the tro­phy and the mi­cro­phone.

— with Max adler Illustration by Brian Cronin

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