Mar
3
2011
Behind-the-Scenes at the Honda Classic: “We Talkin’ About Practice!”
By Stephanie Wei under Behind the Scenes

Spotted on Monday at the Honda Classic: Cheerleaders!

I’m quoting the great Charlie Sheen, who quoted the great Allen Iverson during an interview with Jeff Rossen of NBC’s Today. Sheen, who has been the talk of the town for, well, being Charlie Sheen, the many loony (yet so absurd, it’s addicting) things he’s been saying lately and suing CBS, was asked if he’d ever missed a day of work. “Not a day that cost anybody any money,” said Sheen, rolling his eyes. “I missed practice. I’m talking about practice, to quote the great Allen Iverson. Practice! Come on, guys, we’re talking about practice.”

What the heck does this have to do with golf and the Honda Classic? Um, just about everything! If you ever come out on a practice day (Monday-Wednesday), you see exactly how hard these guys work on their games, particularly with their putting — or on the flip side, don’t work. And of course, I just couldn’t resist throwing in a Charlie Sheen/pop culture reference.

Anyway, from a media standpoint (I mean, you gotta keep the press happy! — so important!), the Honda Classic at PGA National, is one of the best events to cover. I was pretty much sold when I rolled up to media parking and discovered it was next to player parking right next to the clubhouse and media room. Then, there’s the commute, which consists of rolling out of bed, getting in an elevator and walking across the lobby to the other side of the hotel where you pass things like this:

And this:

Which, of course, is just another day in Palm Beach, but if you’re coming from NYC or almost anywhere else in the country this time of the year, it’s a real treat.

Here are examples of golfers practicing and preparing for the event in pictures….Enjoy!

Mondays are always slow, which gives people like me the opportunity to practice while waiting for players to interview.

I mean, it’s so slow that the reps are even trying to sell stuff to me! I tried out a Dead Aim putter, a new line which is currently in pre-production and launches this week.

Ross Fisher (and his caddie Wobbly) practicing his putting before I spoke with him about The Rise of the Europeans.

’09 Masters champ Angel Cabrera trying to get his short game in shape. When it comes down to it, the PGA Tour is a chipping and putting contest, after all:

I’m guessing this is the place where the drunks will congregate — the Heineken Terrace. Not surprised Heinken is the sponsor considering the number of European players in the field (in case you weren’t aware, it’s practically the official beer of the Euro Tour).

Naturally, the tourney does a lot for charity — the signs and banners are omnipresent.

Like I said, things are quiet on Mondays. Just check out No. 1 at PGA National:

Next, a general (poorly taken) shot of the range on Tuesday, which was the place to be, meaning it was PACKED. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it’s pure madness because you’ve got the media stalking the players for quotes, TV guys doing interviews, club reps trying to sell you something, etc.

DJ Brigman grinds on the range with an interesting training aid — it appears that it keeps your head still and helps focuses your eyes on the right swing path.

To get some relief from the humidity, the Tour vans are a great place to check out for air-conditioning and players getting their equipment straightened out and their clubs dialed in. Peter Tomasulo had a new 3-wood made on Tuesday. When Wade, the club-builder, handed the first version of the club to him, it felt open to Peter, so Wade made the necessary adjustments until Peter liked the feel and the way it looked in his hands.

This is what TaylorMade calls the “Player Bag,” which has clubs the pros are waiting for with a piece of tape and their name on the headcover:

Moving on! I also stopped by the Callaway van. It’s actually pretty fascinating to watch the process of club-builders grinding wedges:

Keegan Bradley checked in with Johnny Thompson, the Odyssey rep who makes a mean putter, to get his DART Backstryke belly putter dialed in. Johnny gave Keegs a few options to test out so he could tell Johnny what he wanted adjusted.

Here, Keegan explains to Johnny how he much he’d like the length changed — just a smidgen!

Jamie Lovemark, who finished No. 1 on the Nationwide Tour money list last year, has been battling back problems, which forced him to withdraw from the AT&T National Pro-Am last month. This week will be his first week returning to action after taking some time to do more rehab. He says his back is feeling “okay” and it’ll “hold up.” Check out his position here — I’m not a pro, but I’ve taken lots of lessons in my heyday and I’m pretty sure that’s near perfect — well, maybe his hips are a little ahead of the club?

On Wednesday Ian Poulter tried out the ZENIO putting system — “users can chart their progress over time on all manner of putts (straight, breaking, uphill, downhill) from a variety of different distances, helping to build up a clear picture of putting strengths and weaknesses and how to improve your putting consistency” — developed by Dr. Richard Jaekel from Germany. The takeaway? Poulter is a very consistent putter. Just about perfect and “doesn’t get any better than that,” Dr. Jaekel told Poults, who was sold on the training aid and ordered one.

That’s all for now. Oh, and if you’re wondering whose white Ferrari is parked in front of the hotel entrance at PGA National, it’s Poulter’s. Duh! The guys are keeping a close watch on it for Poults. I mean, I wouldn’t leave that car unattended, either!

One last note — Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy spotted watching the Knicks vs. Magic game on Tuesday evening at the i-Bar, the watering hole/club in the lobby at PGA National. Boo Weekly was in fine form, as well. Flying back from last week’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, the airline lost his luggage, so he played a practice round on Tuesday in the same clothes, which wreaked of tequila. He tried to conceal the distinctive smell, but apparently it didn’t work. When asked where he had dinner, Boo replied, “Here (at the hotel). I’m like a bear — when I’m in my den, I don’t leave.” He’s a beauty!