Tales From The Tour
Wednesday, December 26th 2007, 7:54 am
By: News On 6
Ben Curtis is a glass half-full kind of guy, which is why he saw his 2007 season as one for the history books.
By finishing in last place at the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, he became the first player to receive FedEx Cup points. And with some help from the draw at The Barclays, Curtis was the first to hit a shot in the inaugural PGA Tour Playoffs.
That didn't earn him a bonus, or even an asterisk.
Even so, he played his part in a ``new era of golf'' that featured some familiar themes. Tiger Woods won the most tournaments and the most money by taking the fewest strokes. And for the seventh straight year, someone won a major for the first time.
But there's always something different outside the ropes that make golf memorable beyond the birdies and bogeys.
John Daly got off to a tough start this year, one omen coming at Riviera.
Shortly before he teed off in the first round on No. 10, his sand wedge came loose at the hosel. An equipment rep took it to the truck for a quick repair, telling Daly he would get it back to him as he was walking down the fairway.
Daly hit driver through the green into a back bunker. Looking around, there was no sign of the equipment rep. Left only with a 52-degree wedge in his bag, it took him two shots to get out of the bunker, and Daly started with a bogey.
The rep showed up on the 11th tee.
Tiger Woods' last good chance to win the Masters ended on the 15th hole when the 3-iron he tried to cut around the trees hopped off the bank and into the pond fronting the green. He did well to escape with par, but couldn't make birdie the rest of the way and wound up two shots behind Zach Johnson.
The next day, a group of guests were on the 15th hole when one of the caddies stood on the bank of the pond with his back turned to the green. He looked into the murky water, then back toward the fairway, trying to figure out the path of Woods' errant shot.
Finally, he spotted a ball in the water. He dipped a wedge into the pond, scooped up the ball and balanced it on the face of the club as he slowly lifted it out of the water. Sure enough, there was that unmistakable swoosh.
But the grin faded when the caddie flipped the ball into his hand and noticed a corporate logo.
He tossed it back in the water and went to tend the flag.
Rich Beem showed how a little kindness can go a long way.
He was having dinner in the bar at Maggiano's in Charlotte, N.C., and customers stopped by to either wish him luck or tell him how much they enjoyed his victory in the '02 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
The bartender came over and began spinning a yarn about a distant relative who knew Beem's mother-in-law. Instead of a hollow stare to end the conversation, Beem whipped out his cell phone and called her.
``Mom? Hey, it's Rich. How are you? I'm in North Carolina this week. Hey, listen, there's a guy here who says he's related to someone who you might have known ... hang on, Mom, I'll let you talk to him.''
And with that, Beem handed the phone to a very startled bartender.
``Hello? Uh, yes ma'am, I have an aunt on my wife's side ...'' the bartender said.
This went on for a few more seconds until the bartender's eyes grew wide. ``Right! Right! That's her!''
After a few more minutes, the bartender handed the phone back and was positively beaming.
The bill for dinner arrived later, and Beem was charged only for two glasses of wine for him and his guest. He paid the bill, then left the bartender a $100 tip.
Billy Foster was a popular man this summer.
A rumor began circulating that Steve Williams would retire as the caddie for Tiger Woods, and Foster was the natural replacement. The English caddie usually works for Darren Clarke, and Woods used him at the Presidents Cup in 2005 when Williams stayed home in New Zealand for the birth of his first child.
The British tabloids all but pegged Foster as the new looper for the world's No. 1, but the caddies knew better.
Williams still keeps a text message that Foster sent him in July.
``Based on the strength of the rumors that I'll be caddying for Tiger in 2008, I've put a deposit on a new house.''
Five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson practically handed Tiger Woods the claret jug on Monday of the British Open. Woods was going for his third straight title, the longest streak since Thomson won three in a row a half-century earlier.
``He has a chance to win eight in a row,'' Thomson said at a press conference.
This is the same man who was Presidents Cup captain in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, where he introduced the U.S. team at opening ceremonies as ``the greatest collection of golfers in the world.'' Four days later, the International team celebrated a 20 1/2-11 1/2 victory, the biggest rout ever against an American team.
Thomson was having coffee in the dining area a few hours after his press conference at Carnoustie, and he was reminded of his famous speech at Royal Melbourne. He smiled, and one couldn't help but notice the twinkle in his eye.
``Yes,'' Thomson said. ``We handed it to them pretty good that week.''
Maybe he was up to his old tricks. By the end of the week, Woods tied for 12th, and Thomson's streak was safe.
Zach and Kim Johnson conversed like most young married couples. She told him of an invitation they had for the evening. He took the husband's typical seat on the fence, unwilling to commit, leaving it up to her whether they should go.
``What do you want to do?'' he said. ``I've still got to practice. What time does it start? I mean, if you really want to go, we can go.''
She deferred to his week of work, and they were headed toward an impasse until Johnson cracked.
``I was kind of hoping to watch some football tonight,'' he admitted.
It was Saturday of the Deutsche Bank Championship, the first full schedule of college football. They wound up going, and Johnson ultimately was thrilled with the decision.
The evening entertainment turned out to be a sky box at Fenway Park, the night Boston rookie Clay Buchholz threw his no-hitter.
Clearly, this was a year when a lot of things went right for Johnson.