Standing on the tee at the infamous 16th hole, you really feel like you’re at a stadium, and it is nothing like I’d ever experienced.
All things considered, Wednesday was a pretty productive day at the course. I walked four holes with Ryan Moore, who was playing with comedian George Lopez, actor Andy Garcia, former baseball superstar Mark Grace and some powerful business dude (according to Google, CEO of Viacom Outdoor) Wally Kelly.
The plan from the start was to find Ryan and I saw on the pairing sheet who he was paired with, but it took a while to register. I had begun walking out, but then I kept going back and forth between finding the few friends he has on Tour. An hour later, suddenly it dawned on me. You moron! Did you not see who Ryan was playing with? /punching-self-in-face
I caught him on the 15th hole — just in time for the 16th. Phew. Right away, Lopez caught my attention as he was serenading fans and signing autographs. I’m told on the first tee that he gave a few speeches, including one that mocked Tiger’s apology. He never used any names, but he made it pretty clear. Boy, wish I would have caught that. Seriously, I don’t know how Lopez is so obliging to fans. He stands on every hole and signs autographs, jokes with the fans — he’s an entertainer, but hell, I’d be exhausted after two holes. After he hit the green on the 16th, he instructed his caddy, Mike, to break out the Mexican wrestling masks (see pic above — he’s obsessed with Mexican WWE and had those made). Lopez did his par-save dance, then he tackled Mike on the green.
Lots of funny tidbits in just four holes, but I can’t share them all — because, well, I don’t have time. Here now, Lopez is pitching a golf ball to Mark who belted it to short of left-center green.
Gracie sure has a ton of fans in Arizona for obvious reasons (he was the first baseman when the Diamondbacks won the World Series in ‘01 and is now a broadcaster for the team). On the 18th, a lady fan was following him down the side of the fairway, yelling, “Mark, Mark!” Finally in a bout of desperation, she screeched, “Don’t make me stalk you, Mark! Because I will.” Long story short: She got his autograph.
Now, I’ll say, the most annoying question to ask players is about what their opinion on other players, especially if they don’t know them very well. It’s one thing if they’re BFF, but it’s totally different when they aren’t and you want them to say something, you know, interesting and quotable. J.B. seems like one of the nicest guys out there. I could tell he did his best to say something thoughtful and give me what I needed. I will never make fun of him taking eight minutes to hit a shot. Okay, I can’t promise that, but he’s a good dude. As for Charley, he doesn’t sound like what you’d imagine — which, to me, was a surfer dude (I don’t know, something about the long, wavy blond hair).
Meanwhile, the five other dudes I stopped in the practice area weren’t as helpful. They tried, I guess.
During my stalking session, I saw Anthony Kim hitting range balls and chipping with one arm as he talked on the phone for the past half hour. New practice drill! It sounded like he was arguing with someone, like a girlfriend, but I might be making that up in my head.
Now for the favorite part of my day. I hate to report I have to refrain from calling Phil Mickelson any names for at least the next two days. During his press conference, I asked him about Moore. I prefaced it with something like, “Sorry, I know this is really annoying, but…” I really do have to credit how good he is with the media. I knew he’d give me some sort of usable answer, even if he was BS-ing. Thanks, Phil! (See, Shane, now I’ve written something nice about him.)
Oh, I also have a new nickname. Mr. Geoff Shackelford came up with this one. It feels like, he’s, oh I don’t know, maybe hazing me? (Surprise!) Apparently, my question was a “rally killer” — something he warned me to steer clear from before the presser. Whoops!
Sorry, guys, rookie mistake.