Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Day at The Colonial

It's VERY early Friday morning, and for starters it's odd to get up at five o'clock in the morning, and to be heading to a golf course, but to not be worrying about how I'm going to be playing today. But the Colonial is in town, and JD is going out in one of the very first groups, so I need to hit the road. As I'm enjoying my breakfast burritos the moon is clear and full in the sky. If it's that clear in Texas at the end of May, I'm thinking it's going to be hot. I was right. I get to the grounds around 7:30, and head straight for the practice tee. The course looks absolutely gorgeous. I'm not the kind of a golfer who gets to play courses like this on a regular basis, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed by the condition of the course. Nobody likes the look of bunkers, right, but LORD these bunkers look beautiful. Intimidating, yes. Ball-sucking, yes, but also beautiful. They're clean, and crisp, and perfectly maintained, and an absolute pain in the ass of any golfer who gets up close and personal. On the practice tee are all sorts of talented golfers and major winners, such as Paul Casey, my countryman Henrik Stenson, Trevor Immelman, and Angel Cabrera. I love watching pros prepare for their round. Shot after shot appears to this 14-handicapper to be absolutely perfect. I know they're not, but they sure sound and look like the real thing. My plan is to split my day between John Daly's group, the Furyk/Cink/Cabrera group, and watching Phil. This is not necessarily because those are my favorite golfers, but they were lined up pretty well one after the other starting on the 10:th tee. I chose to bypass the keg of Coors Light in the media center at 7:30 in the morning, and I go about catching up with JD at the Colonial. I get to the 12:th tee and I ask if John has played that hole yet. There was not a glimmer of doubt in the answer. Everybody who were standing around that tee knew exactly where JD was, and how close he was to their location. From a sporting point of view he hasn't been relevant in years, but the people of Fort Worth, Texas knew exactly when this golfer was going to get to their vantage point. This was not a surpise to me. The golf fans who are my friends in Dallas, and the golfers I work with, they all love John. Hell, I'm no differnt myself. His personality, his talent, and even his failures makes him the kind of a person and athlete that this state can relate to in a big way. And at eight o'clock in the morning on a Friday, I don't think anyone had a bigger following than John Daly. JD's hitting the ball well, with a lot of confidence, but not the kind of control he needs on a course like Colonial. His 125% swing is not really a good fit here, but he does a great job of scrambling for pars here and there, which is one of the things a good player has to do. Walking with his group, I'm amazed at the amount of support he's getting. Volunteers who allegedly haven't said a word all day now go out of their way to call out to JD. I stick with their group for about five holes, and then hang out to let the Cabrera group catch up to me. It's a totally differnt dynamic to this group. I like them both, but Jim Furyk and Angel Cabrera may have been as ill suited partners as you will find. Three major winners, partnered with Stewart Cink, this group also attracts a lot of crowd attention. The fans are a lot more demure, and the most entertaining aspect of this grouping is to see how far towards the next tee Angel Cabrera can get by the time Furyk putts out. I think if they both were to play a round on their own without any contention Angel would finish a good two hours quicker than Jim. You can tell Angel is antsy, as he's ready to march down the fairway before his partners are even done teeing off. Watching and hearing Angel hit a golf ball is a thing of beauty. He's very natural, and he makes great contact. His iron shot into the green on 18 for a tap-in birdie was magnicent. I join up with Phil's group, including Dallas resident Y E Yang and hard hitting youngster Bo Van Pelt, on the third hole (their 12:th for the day), and Phil is already in trouble. After mostly pars on the front nine he's missed the fairway way right, and he's got major tree trouble on the dogleg left. He manages to get through the fauna with nary a few leaves to spare, but makes a bogey. On the long par 3 fourth (247 yards on this day), Phil launches an IRON but again looses it out to the right. A good pitch, but a missed putt, and another bogey. On the fifth hole Phil goes with an iron off the tee, for no apparant reason. It's a long par 4, but not tight enough for either of his competitors to play anything remotely that conservative on their first shor. This feels a lot like the kind of experimentation he put us through at Torrey Pines a few years ago, where he absconded from the driver, and still had a hard time keeping the ball in the short stuff. Well, this time he left a long iron way out to the left, and had no choice but to punch out and settle for another bogey. By the time a few more holes go by it's clear the world #2 is not going to make the cut. I know he's won here twice, but The Colonial is really not a good fit for Phil's game. This is a tight course with small greens. Most pro players seem to like it, but it definitely puts a premium on accuracy. It's no surprise at all that a guy like Zach Johnson is doing well. The weather over days one and two has been hot and void of wind, which is unusual for any Texas golfer. At slightly over 7,000 yards and a par of 70, the course is ripe for the picking if there's no wind, and the scores reflect it.

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