AT&T National at Congressional: Smokin’ Hot

Hunter Mahan had a manly round in the stifling heat at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. The boys expected Friday’s second round of the AT&T National to be oppressive, but it was worse than that. And in that heat, Mahan managed to tie for the low round of the day (with Cameron Tringale), 6-under, 65, when nobody thought that was remotely possible given the heat and the course setup. That gives him a one-stroke lead at 7-under.

You said yesterday that when it gets physical and you have to kind of grind it out, it becomes a mental test, as well. Are you good in those situations normally?

I think so. Golf is a challenge in itself, and when the conditions and the weather comes into play, it’s a whole ‘nother factor. I’ve got to stay mentally strong. Once your mind goes, the body is going to go with it. It’s very important to be mentally strong.

That’s why these guys work out all the time and try to keep our bodies in shape for days like this when it’s tough out there and it beats you down and stuff. We’ve got two more days of this, so it’s going to be important to take care of yourself every night and every day when you’re out on the golf course, or it’s going to cost you shots.

John Daly shot 68 at Southern Hills in heat like this drinking Diet Cokes all the way around. If you would’ve done that today, you would’ve shot…?

I think I would have passed out. I would not have completed the round. I would not have completed the round. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, so I don’t know how that would have gone. The Diet Cokes, I just can’t imagine how your body would feel. I think my body would shut down is probably what would happen.

Did you hear any tales of caddies struggling or players struggling?

Yeah, Chris Couch. We were curious about what was going on up there, and then my wife told me that he called the, I don’t know if it was the paramedics or somebody, out there to kind of take a look at him. I mean, it can be dangerous out there. If you don’t take care of yourself a little bit from the night before and during the day, it’s going to catch up with you and it’s going to hit you hard. I heard one caddie was struggling out there. Carrying the bag today, I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine.

Tiger managed 3-under on the day which got him to 2-under and T11 for the tournament. And he had virtually the same thing to say about playing in that kind of heat:

We talk about rain a lot on the PGA Tour, wind on the PGA Tour. We don’t get this kind of heat very often. What’s the most challenging part of that?

Just trying to stay patient the whole day. That’s why I train, that’s why I run all those miles. If you’re carrying a little bit of body fat, it’s going to be a little insulation out there. This is when fitness does help, and I figured that’s one of the reasons why I’ve had the success I’ve had in the elements.

Is this more of a mental test or a physical test?

Well, both, absolutely both. You have to hit the golf ball well, but then also there’s the mental test. You’re going to be out here for probably six hours, seven hours, and it’s a long day, and it’s going to be tough.

What was it like playing in the humidity for four and a half hours?

I live in it. I live in Florida, so it’s not quite this hot, but it’s definitely more humid than this every day.

Is that why you train, two more days of this?

Absolutely. I think it’s one of the reasons why I had success at Southern Hills, because I felt physically fit, didn’t have a problem with it. I’ve played some of my good tournaments over the years in Malaysia and other places where it’s hot, and certainly fitness, running all those miles and lifting all those weights, it comes into play when you get days like this, and consecutive days like this.

Robert Garrigus managed an impressive 4-under to get himself to 5-under for the tournament and T2. This was his take on the heat conditions:

Is the heat more of a mental test or a physical test?

I think it’s a mental thing because we’re all physically fit for the most part. I’m a lot more physically fit than I used to be. If you can just mentally just put it out of your head my caddie was telling me yesterday, hey, man, just think of the tournaments you’ve played well in; Tampa it was smoldering; Memphis it was smoldering. You play well in the heat because you don’t think about it. It’s one of those things where if you can just get past the fact that you’re dripping sweat all over your golf ball, you can block it out. It makes a big, big difference.

And now that I’ve lost 25 pounds I’m not carrying around that much weight anymore.

I’m looking forward to this weekend. Should be fun.

Jimmy Walker was tied with Garrigus after a bogey-free 2-under. Here was his take:

Talk about how the heat affected you.

It’s hot. I haven’t played in this much heat since last year. I played that tournament in Malaysia, and it was the hottest I’ve ever been. But we’re coming into summer and it’s hot, and it’s going to be real humid here this weekend. You’ve just got to stay hydrated.

We’ve been doing this a long time. We know how to battle through the heat and stay hydrated, take your hydration pills and little mixed drinks. Lots of guys are really into that. So I think everybody out here does a good job. It’s the fans you’ve got to worry about because they’re out walking around and they don’t get into this type of stuff and get out and walk in it too much. They’re the ones that have really got to do a good job about hydrating, and I think the tournament is doing a good job, too, because you look at the leaderboards and they keep putting up reminders about drink, stay hydrated, you’re going to need it. I saw one lady that went down today, and I’m pretty sure it was probably from dehydration.

Brendon de Jonge was the Third Musketeer. He too managed a 2-under on the day:

How hot is it here compared to where you grew up [in Zimbabwe]?

It got hot, but as I said, not quite the humidity. It was so still this morning and very, very humid, so it was kind of draining. It’s starting to get just hot now, really, really hot.

Do you get tired? This your 19th event and you haven’t missed the cut since Bay Hill.

When you’re as fit as I am, it’s easy. (Laughter.) [de Jonge is, to be kind, portly]

Yeah, yeah, I am. I do. I’ve always played a lot, though. It’s what I’m used to. I do a pretty good job of taking Monday and Tuesdays off, try and get home for a couple days, which breaks it up, which is always nice.

So enough about the heat. But I thought is was important to get all of these takes on it because, except for the perspiring players, you really don’t see heat. But after the rock-hard golf course they’re all looping around, its the biggest story for the field.

As a footnote, can I just exercise writer’s discretion and tell you about the hottest round of golf I ever played? We all have one.

It was in a Champions Tour Monday qualifier in, of all places, Minneapolis. The Heat Index was somewhere between 105 and 110 degrees. The saving grace was that we were in carts. But we were also in long pants.

By the time I finished — and running six miles a day, I was in shape — my pants were completely soaked with sweat from my waist to down below my knees. And so, of course, was my underwear…and my shirt. I had been rotating between four golf gloves every four holes. It was brutal.

At this point in my qualifying career, I tried to book my flight home for Monday night around 6 PM. If I got in I would be only too happy to pay a change fee. Since I wasn’t getting in, it made sense to do it this way to avoid the change fee.

So what I normally did was shower at the course, change into jeans and head for the airport. The only problem was that this daily fee course didn’t have a locker room…or a shower. So I had to peel off the soaking wet clothes in a toilet stall and then take a “Marine bath” [when water is scarce, an upturned helmet becomes a wash basin] in the sink.

Bad as that was, I was grateful to have had some way to get comfortable…and not gross out my fellow travelers. Felt like a million bucks, I tell ya.

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