Xander Schauffele, standing in the fairway after his drive on the 17th at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, was now in the right greenside bunker after his second shot. While he no doubt knew that could be a possibility, a few thousand others did too.
“You can see Xander has a little bit of a hanging lie so obviously trying to stay down and make sure he doesn’t hang this one, although he has a little of right to left up there to help him if he does,” the analyst said on Golf Channel.
And sure enough, Schauffele dropped it in the sand.
“Sounded a little heavy,” the analyst said.
Rickie Fowler wasn’t even in the booth for more than a handful of minutes during Thursday’s first round of the Zozo Championship, and he struck analyst gold — calling a shot before the stroke. If you’re a pro football fan, he Tony Romo’d it.
Golf Channel’s booth is a little light this week with the Zozo in Japan — George Savaricas is the announcer and Dom Boulet and Alison Whitaker are the analysts — and Savaricas teased on Twitter that players would be pitching in over the four rounds. First up, after his even-par 70, was Fowler, and his first live hole was the 17th.
Perfect. Hours earlier, Fowler had been all over the par-4. On his way to a seven.
“Well, we’re coming right back to where my hiccup was today,” Fowler said.
“The scene of the crime,” Savaricas said. “Of course we had to start with 17, of all of the holes that we make Rickie break down.”
Hideki Matsuyama, who finished the day one shot out of the lead, would hit into the fairway.
“That would save me a few shots there,” Fowler said. “Unfortunately, I hung it a little right there, went over the cart path and actually was fine — had a clear shot — but I had a little branch behind my ball and ended up coming short of the green. And then I had more problems.”
But smooth was his analysis, which he provided over two commercials. Among the topics he covered were his tie for third last week at the CJ Cup, his highest finish since early March of 2019; a session in Vegas with former coach Butch Harmon beforehand; the upcoming birth of his and wife Allison’s first child and how the name of the girl will be a “game-time decision;” how fortunate he’s felt during his struggles that Allison is also a world-class track athlete; and Matsuyama’s penchant for overexaggerating bad shots.
Let’s take a look:
On his tie for third at the CJ Cup
“It was great. A lot of confidence. A lot of good things from tee to green. I just need to get the putter kind of straightened out a bit. I hit some good putts today, I made a couple early. Like I said, the 17th kind of set me back, which was my eighth hole. I wish I could have that back, but it is what it is. We got three days to go.”
On his session with Harmon (Fowler is currently working with John Tillery)
“Obviously Butch and I have a great relationship. Working through the kind of middle part of my career together, a lot of good things. And John Tillery and I have been together the last couple of years. It’s been a long road of not so good golf, but there was light at the end of the tunnel at times, and over the last six weeks before going to Vegas, I feel like we kind of really turned the corner and had some good stuff. So, I was excited to just go hit balls with Butch to just kind of show him what we had and what was happening, and ultimately, just to have him say, ‘Good job, keep it going.’ And that’s basically what he did. ‘I like what you guys are doing. Just keep putting the reps in and go play.’ So kind of the stamp of approval. Butch has a lot of respect for John Tillery, as do I, go to battle for me. It’s been a fun ride at times, rough at others, but we’re definitely in a better spot.”
On the upcoming birth of his and wife Allison’s first child, a girl
“Yeah, things are about to get very real. The room is pretty much ready to go, Allison’s kind of been leading the ship on that one. I’m there to help out with anything I can, but she’s running the show. We’re excited, but it’s going to be very different.
Is there a name picked out?
“No names yet, we’re working on it. Hopefully our end goal is to go in with two or three potentials and game-time decision.”
On how fortunate he’s felt during his struggles that Allison is also a world-class track athlete
“Ultimately not trying to bring golf home and let that affect anything there. So just keeping personal life and golf separate. But Allison being the athlete that she is and everything she’s been through, she wanted to be a part of it and help as much as she could. Which is kind of cool that she can understand kind of the high level that she does.”
Savaricas asked what the conversations are like.
“I’m not one who likes to necessarily talk or open up a whole lot so I’ve had to work on that as well. But she wants to know, she wants to understand better and she asks in-depth questions — not just your standard: How did you hit it today? She wants to know more about mentally how things are going, what you’re thinking about, what was going through your head when you hit this. I’ve had to work on things a bit more with myself to be able to open up and kind of share everything that’s going on.”
On Matsuyama’s penchant for overexaggerating bad shots.
“Hideki and I have played a lot together. We’ve had some good battles. And he is one of the premier ball-strikers out here. It is impressive what he thinks is a little off and hits a pretty darn good shot. A lot of times you’re watching the ball and then you see him kind of one-hand finish and you’re like that doesn’t really match — you know, it’s 15 feet right. He has just such high expectations and always shooting for perfection.”