Torrey Pines: Playing Like a Kid

As everybody probably knows, the third round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines was obliterated by a fog bank that just would not go away. And it teased all day long. At one point, the first group went off three hours late when it started to lift. They played one hole and had to come back in again.

Some, like Brandt Snedeker, had a really long day: 

Yeah, you get out there, 5 AM ready to go for a 7:30 tee time, and to be here at 2 o’clock doing nothing, it’s tough when you prepare one day, and then it’s one of those days where preparation is going to be kind of thrown off.

I’ve warmed up three times already.  I’ve putted for three hours, probably.  [But] I’ve gotten a good practice session in.

But it also gave Billy Horschel, who’s paired with Tiger Woods, a lot of time to check in and catch up with friends. He said yesterday that he was avoiding doing that because “I can talk your ear off for days and days,” and it distracted him from what he was supposed to be doing. Probably the most valuable ones were tips from other guys who had been paired with Tiger:

Never have [played with Tiger].  It’s going to be exciting.  I’m excited to play with him.  I’ve got a lot of good advice from other players who have texted me who have played with him before and given me some good advice.  So I’m just going to do my own thing, take a couple of things that some guys have mentioned to me and just go about that.

Like who? Who gave you advice and what did they tell you?

Jim Furyk texted me this morning and said just play your game.  Do your thing.  Don’t try to do anything that you wouldn’t do if you were playing with him or you weren’t playing with him.  And Snedeker gave me a little advice and said just focus on yourself.  It’s going to be a crazy atmosphere.  You’re going to have to grind some stuff out.  Don’t try to match him or anything that he does.  He’s going to be making some incredible shots, whether he’s 8‑over par or 8‑under par, it doesn’t really matter.

I think the gist of it comes down to that everyone just said play your own game.  Don’t focus on anything he does, and go about everything that you would do.

They’re going to try to get all 36 holes in on Sunday knowing that a 5:17 sunset will probably be too tight. Because the Tour is setting the day up like a freight train, once they get it started they don’t want it to stop. They need to get as many holes in as possible so that if it has to roll over into Monday, fewer guys will have to hang around.  So they’ll be playing threesomes without re-pairing after the third round is complete; no stopping, grab a sandwich on the fly and keep playing. (There was a report that 17 guys in the field have to be in Phoenix for the Monday qualifier, so Phoenix is going to give them all late afternoon tee times in hopes that as many as possible can get there.)

It will be very interesting to watch Horschel’s face as the day unfolds on Sunday. He’s super excited that he’s not only getting to play with Tiger, but to play the final 36 holes with him too. It’s a great attitude, but the face will tell the tale of how he’s holding up.

There’s no rain in the forecast, but they are predicting clouds through 11 AM. With the temperature and dew point within 4 degrees of each other until then, that’s the classic definition of foggy conditions. Hopefully the higher winds will keep it aloft and moving rather than on the ground and opaque.

One of the fun things during the telecast was watching all the players just fooling around trying to kill time because there was no clue when the day was going to start for them. As it dragged on and on, they started showing off their trick shots.

The most interesting one was Lucas Glover and Jerry Kelly. Glover lined up two balls close together and aimed down range, made a full swing with his wide open lob wedge, driving the first ball into the back of the second. Because the first ball had a lot of backspin on it, when it hit the second ball it went straight up in the air — at least twenty feet judging by how long it took it to come down. And when it came down, Kelly whacked it down range with one of his clubs with a baseball swing…left handed.

We all remember the Nike commercial where Tiger bounced a ball on his wedge as he does in the most recent one with Rory McIlroy. After a bunch of bounces behind his body and through his legs, he’d hit one high bounce and then whack it down range with a full swing. There was a lot of that without Tiger’s panache.

Wily old veteran that he is, Tiger never showed up Saturday. With the last tee time of the day and a three hour delay, he presumably stayed comfortable ensconced and rested in front of the television wherever he was staying.

But the most fun trick shot exhibition took place between Graham DaLaet and Michael Thompson. It is memorialized in this 2½ minute video from the Golf Channel where they engage in a game of P-I-G. It’s basically the same as HORSE in basketball with fewer shots. It was “University Day,” so the video begins with a shout out to their respective schools and then gets down to the challenges. Treat yourself.

The video is important, not because all the shots got pulled off, but because of the kid-like way that they called out the shots and then tried to make them. It was largely unselfconscious and willing and experimental and creative; hit a 6-iron like a lob wedge and no further than thirty feet.

None of these were golf shots that anyone would ever use, but what they did do for them when they used to work on them regularly, was teach instinctively the relationship between body, club, hands and motion.

A lot of learning in those failures and a good lesson for all of us about how to approach the game like a kid, filled with wonder.

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