11 things I didn’t report from The Players, so here they are now

May 15, 2018

1. My first PGA Tour event was the Kemper Open, in 1979, in which I caddied. My player, Randy Erskine, and I went to McDonald’s one afternoon. Ever since, I’ve enjoyed seeing the players and sometimes their families off the course, doing ordinary things. Pat Perez, gassing up and buying a case — that sort of thing. This stuff could come from any week, but these are snapshots from last week, at The Players. Here’s Charlie Howell and his wife and cute kids, having breakfast in the hotel. There’s Brooks Koepka, walking his dog. Here’s Chesson Hedley, doing his laundry on a Saturday morning. These guys are good at golf.

2. It’s amazing, how light you can pack, if you are willing to do some wash mid-trip, and if you don’t care if people think you’re wearing the same thing on consecutive days.

3. Sometimes you see the tournament name in print (or on your screen) as the Players and sometimes you see it as The Players. Better with the T up, I think. [Editor’s note: GOLF.com’s style is lowercase t. For the purposes of this column we will cap the T.] 

4. I heard Reilly before I saw him. I was typing in the second row in the pressroom when I heard a most distinctive grunt-chortle-laugh, a single blast of the shofar that could only come from one person. I don’t know when I last saw Rick Reilly at a golf tournament. Years. I would pay to read Reilly. His new bosses at The Athletic are figuring the same.

5. I like Phil’s new look, with his long-sleeved shirts. You could see it catching on, modestly. For fair-skinned people, there is of course a sun-safe benefit to playing golf in a long-sleeved shirt. When I went to the old-line Myopia Hunt Club, years ago, I was charmed to see an old-guard member playing on a warm greater Boston day in a long-sleeved button-collared Oxford-cloth shirt, likely from Brooks Brothers and frayed but only to a point. But if my memory is holding up, this gent had his sleeves rolled up. In warm weather, Phil might think about rolling the sleeves up, especially if he’s going for that workingman look. I wonder if he’ll wear the shirts for his casual games at home. When Payne Stewart played at home, he did not wear knickers.[image:14139382]

6. It’s odd, how seldom Payne Stewart gets discussed, on TV, in press tents — in general. A swing out of your dreams, with shades of Snead and Jones in it. Not a technical moment in it. I would think Tiger would like watching it just to get him in the mood, to get him away from the hit and back to the swing. On Sunday, Woods was swinging the driver.

7. What is the opposite of collateral damage? Collateral benefit? Let’s give it a try. One collateral benefit of Tiger’s play this year is how he brings into focus the guys with whom he is playing. Young Sam Burns was in that spot when he played with Tiger in the last round at Honda this year. At The Players, Mackenzie Hughes played with Woods in the Saturday round. Both Burns and Hughes played spectacularly well with Woods and handled themselves perfectly. Hughes, a tall, lanky modest Canadian, is a charming person. I asked him about his history playing Alister MacKenzie courses. He said he liked the course at Yale, where he had played a U.S. Open qualifier. It’s a doozy, to be sure, but it’s also a C.B. Macdonald course. We agreed that he had certainly played one very good MacKenzie course — Augusta National. Hughes played in last year’s Masters. I wasn’t too familiar with Mackenzie Hughes a week ago. Now I’m rooting for him to find his way back to Augusta.

8. The pro shop at TPC Sawgrass does not sell ball retrievers. I asked. It would likely sell some — many water hazards on the Stadium Course, of course — but at the expense of ball sales. Also, not a good look for a shop selling $90 golf shirts.

9. I asked because while walking the course with the Supergroup — Tiger, Phil, Rickie, in that order — I noticed many balls in the pond alongside the right side of the 7th hole, in the vicinity of the green. Surely most of those balls were deposited there by slicing right-handed hackers, but it occurred to me that one or two of them might have come via Tour players. What a treat it would be (I thought) for this 90-shooter to fish out a ball sent to its watery grave by one of the best players in the world.

10. Friday night, at the close of business, I walked over to the pond at 7, borrowed a rake from a nearby trap and raked some balls in. I have had long believed that the Pinnacle is the most commonly found ball, but I pulled out about two dozen ball in 15 minutes and there was not a Pinnacle among them.

11. I am certain that not a single ball came off the face of a Tour player’s clubs. These balls had the patina of age, and not in a good way. They looked like balls a duffer would play. Some of them had one hemisphere that had turned black, by sitting in the mud and silt of the pond’s bottom. When I put my hand in the water to yank some of the balls out, I was astonished how warm it was. It was foul. I swallowed a gnat. I watched a turtle make a graceful dive. I turned the found balls into a sad smiley face.

Michael Bamberger may be reached at mbamberger0224@aol.com.