‘I wasn’t right’: Shaken PGA Tour rookie gets candid after scary incident

Chandler Phillips hits a shot during the final round of the valspar.

Chandler Phillips had his best PGA Tour finish and biggest payday at the Valspar, but that wasn't what was on his mind post-round.

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Chandler Phillips wasted no time talking about exactly what was on his mind, and had been for the last couple of hours. Perhaps he wanted to get it off his chest.

Phillips shot a two-under 69 at the Valspar Championship on Sunday, which was good for a T3 finish and $495,600. The top-five finish was by far his best of his young PGA Tour career, and the half-million paycheck more than double his largest in any previous start.

He should have been elated, but he wasn’t ready to talk about that yet, as evidenced by his response to the first question of his post-round press conference.

Going to be your best finish on the PGA Tour. How do you feel now that the week’s over?

“Tell you the truth, after 8, I was kind of, I don’t know, man. I hit somebody, or, I hit actually two people, and the lady that I hit didn’t look too good,” Phillips said. “So, after that, I wasn’t right.”

Phillips, a 27-year-old PGA Tour rookie, was candid and remorseful post-round, as he went into great detail about how hard it was playing after he knew a shot he hit had injured someone. Spectators getting hit by errant golf balls at pro golf tournaments isn’t uncommon, but some are worse than others. It’s obviously the spectators, not the golfers, who deserve the sympathy in these situations, but Phillips was a reminder that there’s plenty going on behind the birdies and bogeys.

Phillips had the 36-hole lead and entered Sunday three behind leader Keith Mitchell. Phillips had a comfortable final pairing, too, playing alongside Cameron Champ, who was Phillips’ college roommate for three years at Texas A&M.

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The round started perfectly. Phillips made a 24-foot eagle putt on the par-5 opening hole, although he gave one back with a bogey on 2. He was still one under on the day when he teed off on the 244-yard par-3 8th hole. Phillips missed the green right and his ball struck a woman, ricocheted off her and hit another spectator.

Phillips didn’t see it happen, but when he got to his ball he saw a man holding an ice pack to his head and four or five people crowded around the woman. He saw blood, although he wasn’t sure where it hit her.

“I didn’t even get to talk to her or anything like that,” he said. “I really hope that she’s doing OK. If she’s seeing this, I’m truly sorry.”

Organizers of the Valspar told that the woman was transported to a nearby hospital but didn’t have a further update as of Monday morning. Phillips was clearly shaken by the incident.

“I tried to keep my concentration, but kind of lost it for a handful of holes,” he said.

Phillips got up and down for par on 8, but he bogeyed the par-5 9th. He found a rhythm and made birdies on 10, 11 and 14, but even then he said his mind was hardly on the tournament. His birdie on 14 got him to 10 under and tied for the lead. Still, it was difficult to be present.

“I’m telling you, that 8th hole kind of screwed me up,” he said. “I mean, I saw, I mean it’s just staring at me in the face on 14, I made birdie there. I think it got me tied for the lead or something like that. But didn’t really do anything because — it’s hard to explain. It’s just, the last thing you want to do is hurt somebody out here.”

He played the final three holes in one over, finishing nine under overall, three behind winner Peter Malnati.

Phillips’ fan incident comes a week after a video of Max Homa hitting into a gallery was widely circulated on social media, although different angles later showed (as Homa himself explained) that his ball hit hard off a tree above spectators’ heads and never stuck a fan.

Although the incident with Phillips and Homa aren’t exactly alike — fans often get closer to the action when players hit from well off the fairway or where spectators walk, whereas around greens there are roped-off areas — Homa was asked if he thought people sometimes stand too close.

“I asked them to back up. They backed up their normal three or four steps,” Homa said. “And I was trying to go much higher than that, but, I mean, at some point, I can only ask — yesterday, I should have probably asked for them to move more, but I didn’t think I was going to knife it. … And yeah, it was scary.”

Phillips said on Sunday he was hoping to get in touch with the woman.

“We’re just trying to have fun and play golf, and all they’re trying to do is watch some good golf, and when that happens,” Phillips said. “It sucks.”

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