After 2 of worst Tour shots you’ll see, golf’s true beauty was on display

Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace on Friday on the 9th hole at TPC Craig Ranch.

Golf Channel

Jack Nicklaus, the 18-time major winner, was talking about shanks. 

Even offered a correction about one, too. 

The subject came up last month, at the Masters, after Nicklaus participated in the ceremonial opening tee shots at Augusta National, where he was told by a reporter that YouTube has allowed the younger audience to relive his prime — and shots seemingly everyone would like to delete from history. Said the reporter:

“I saw a shot you hit on 12 in ’67, a sideways shank …”

But Nicklaus cut him off, to some laughter.

“’64. It was an 8-iron, and I almost killed Bob Jones and Cliff Roberts. Shanked it right over their head in the last round.”

The conversation continued.  

“I can’t imagine you’ve shanked too many shots in your career.”

“Not too many, but I’ve shanked one or two,” Nicklaus said. “That was one. Jones and Roberts came down to watch us at the 12th hole. Their cart was out in front here, about 20, 25 yards on the right side, and I put it right over their head with an 8-iron. I nearly made three.”

“What did you do when you hit those kind of shots, rare as they were, to steel yourself …”

“Go play the next one,” Nicklaus said. “What can you do? You know, you hit it. You’ve got to go chase it. There isn’t anything you can do. It’s a little embarrassing. I always — I use that as one of my most embarrassing moments in golf.”

The point in sharing this? A couple reasons. Knowing that Jack Nicklaus shanks can be soothing; your shanks don’t seem as much as a ‘you problem.’ But there’s also something more warming about Nicklaus’ thoughts. Maybe it’s why you play this mostly beautiful but sometimes maddening game. 

You hit it. You’ve got to chase it. 

Good. Or bad.

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Something romantic about that. On to the next one, because there’s always another one. 

With that, there was Matt Wallace late Friday afternoon, a stroke from the top at the Byron Nelson. He was playing his second shot on TPC Craig Ranch’s par-5 9th, his last hole after he’d started on the back nine. He was 242 out, though in a touch of danger, as his tee ball settled just to the left of the cart path and in some patchy grass. He went with a 2-iron. 

His ball went about 15 feet off the ground. 

A top. 

“Oh no,” Golf Channel announcer Terry Gannon said. 

“Oh my goodness,” Golf Channel analyst Arron Oberholser said.  

“Pros are humans, too,” Golf Channel analyst Johnson Wagner said. 

Wallace looked down. It came at the wrong time. It came at the wrong place. His ball darted into the penalty area just in front of him. There was water there. 

“When I got up there [to his second shot], and I was like, oh, no bother,” Wallace said afterward. “But I haven’t hit it off hard mud in a while, so I took it back with a 2-iron. I thought the 2-iron was the play to get it a bit further up than just the 4-iron and be left. Two-iron would take out the water, from what I thought.

“But it got caught on the way back, and the way through, I didn’t want to lean on it so I just tried to pick it and I picked it too much and I topped it.”

Only Wallace found his ball. He had a shot at the green. He hit the green. He made his par. He’ll be a contender on Saturday. 

“I’m laughing now,” Wallace said, “because I’ve managed to find it and get it up to the green and two-putt.”

Asked an on-site reporter: “What’s the minute and a half or two minutes like when you …”

“Well, I was hoping they found it,” Wallace said. “so then I could at least try and make a five that way. If not, two scenarios went through my head. OK, right, where can I drop this to get it on the green? Then obviously found it, so as soon as I found it, I was like, right, you got a bit of luck there so take advantage of it.

“So as unlucky I got off the tee a little bit, I think I got away with that one, got lucky there, so happy with the five. And we go. We carry on.”

We carry on. 

With that, there was Jason Day later Friday afternoon. The defending champ at this thing, he was on the cut number on the par-5 18th, where he went right off the tee. Then long, into the water short of the green. Only it appeared he tried to lay up short of it, but his ball cannonballed right in. 



Flyer lie?

Wind gust?

Hard to say. It was something. The Golf Channel gang had some words. 

Said Wagner: “I don’t care if it jumped — that ball should be nowhere near the penalty area.”

Said Gannon: “That was really odd.”

Said analyst Colt Knost: “That’s just inexcusable.” 

But things worsened. Day dropped. Took his penalty stroke. He was hitting four, which he pitched on the green, where it yo-yoed backward. That 34-footer was for par now. 

Only he made that. 

He’ll have a chance to defend his crown starting Saturday. 

Yelled Gannon on the putt: “What? He made it!”

Said Wagner: “I don’t know what I’m feeling right now.” 

Unsurprisingly, on the 18th green, Day sheepishly grinned. 

Golf’s funny like that. 

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