Rookie inside the ropes: 9 takeaways from my first day on the Tour beat

August 25, 2017

Being from Massachusetts, my Tour spectating experience up to this point had been restricted to screaming Mich Ultra-inspired encouragement to Keegan Bradley at the Travelers and the Deutsche Bank. Needless to say, I was excited and a little nervous now that it was time to dive into the mix as a golf journalist. Here’s what I learned on my first day inside the ropes.

1. I definitely wasn’t the only rookie out there.

The tournament’s proximity to New York City meant there were some other new media members on the scene, too. I was following the Spieth-Thomas-Matsuyama group when a photographer nudged me:

“Hey man, is this their last hole?”

“No—it’s their tenth.”

“Oh, okay. So they have four more?”

Nailed it.

2. It took me less than an hour to lose my journalistic integrity.

It all happened so quickly: Vaughn Taylor’s wife, Leot, offered me a Chik-fil-a sandwich walking down the fourth hole. We were nowhere near the media tent at this point, and I was hungry. If you’re looking for Vaughn Taylor hit pieces, bad news for you! Not gonna see a single mean word coming from this keyboard.

3. It makes sense that Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are so tight.

Because they really freaking look alike. People usually look much more distinctive in person; the TV screen flattens out peculiarities. But these two have the exact same size, shape, skin tone, and style—it’s remarkable. Both seem like they could have a future in the game, too. Promising.

4. Hideki Matsuyama can totally speak English.

Either that, or Spieth has been making BIG strides in his Japanese. It was a chummy group, and I noticed more than once that Hideki and Jordan walked down the fairway together, chatting animatedly the entire time. Hideki has always used a translator, which means he has stayed rather, uh, private—last week he revealed, for the first time, that he’s been married for nearly nine months and they now have a child (though we still don’t know his wife’s name). The No. 2 player in the world may just really hate us media types.

5. Speaking of Hideki, the mid-swing pause is real, and man, is it terrible.

I haven’t excitedly stared directly at something and then immediately regretted it so much since I mean-mugged Monday’s eclipse. I like the guy, and I was pumped to see the stop at the top in person—instead, through some violation of my natural biorhythms, it left me an anxious wreck. It’s an affront to nature. He’s a human buffering bar. I was thoroughly rattled.

6. These guys actually are pretty good.

Yeah, I guess this sounds like the Tour ad, but like, these guys can really golf the ball. Glen Oaks’ rough is lethal, the course plays long, the greens are slippery, and nearly half the field shot even par or better anyway. With that said, I got most excited when I heard Justin Thomas yell “fore right!” after a power-block off the third tee. Organic, relatable, pure.

7. You can guess a golfer’s age by the tightness of his trousers.

The skinnies favored by young guns like Ollie Schniederjans, Patrick Rodgers, and even Brooks Koepka make Phil, Pat Perez, and J.J. Henry look like they’re wearing clown pants. Phil had some particularly baggy navy pinstripers on in Round one—I think he would’ve taken flight in a strong gust.

8. Access is addicting.

Ohh, baby. At the Northern Trust, being “inside the ropes” literally meant that I could be one yard—no more—inside the ropes. Among the sparse Thursday morning crowds, this meant that my competitive advantage over Joe Golf Fan was literally one arm’s length. Never has so little power gone to someone’s head, but boy, did it ever! I would’ve chopped off a toe if it meant getting another yard. And the big media perks—free lunch? I get the wifi password? I can walk to the edge of the putting green? I get it now, you journalistic weirdos. I’m one of you.

9. Everyone was really, really nice.

Too nice, if you ask me. I had a great time talking with friendly players, smiley volunteers, relaxed caddies—where was the conflict? The most dramatic part of my day was when the writer I sat next to in the media center swiped my iPhone charger—could this be my first big media beef? I could feel my heart start to race.

Turns out, he did it by accident and apologized profusely. Disappointing! No enemies on day one. But if anyone has suggestions for the next time, I’d love to hear ‘em.