Saturday, August 08, 2009

My 2009 Bridgestone Invitational Diary

Tuesday

It was partly cloudy today and windy. Nice weather to watch the golf. I had some feet and knee trouble this week. By the end of the week, the knee was fine though. The feet - they still hurt some. But it didn’t stop me from following the golfers.

As you know Tuesday is practice round day when you can take pictures, video and get autographs. I didn’t get any autographs since you can’t read them anyway. And I didn’t take my camcorder. I can get video of the golfers any time I want just by watching TV. I wanted still photos for my album so I took my camera along. Plus, I had to carry an umbrella today in case it rained and I didn’t want a bunch of things to carry.

Here are some notes and observations from today:

Pat Perez left his golf bag out in the open unattended. Seriously, it was outside the clubhouse where all of the fans were walking. He must have a lot of faith in humanity to leave it there and expect no one to touch it.

Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood played a practice round together. They were a jolly group, talking and laughing together.

I saw Carl Petterson coming out of the clubhouse carrying his own golf bag. I don’t think anyone stopped him for an autograph. Poor guy. And he had to play with Tiger and Sergio on Thursday and Friday too. He should get the Trooper of the Week award.

Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez Castano played a practice round together. That was fun to watch.

Rory Sabbatini - say what you will about the media’s characterization of his personality, but he went out of his way today to sign autographs for everyone.

Paul Casey, Nick Dougherty, and Justin Rose played a practice round together. It had to be one of the longest ever since it seemed to take forever. They started around 8 or 9am and it was still going on at like 1pm? On Tuesday I thought Casey might have gotten tired since by the 17th hole, he had disappeared, but later on I found out about his injury and WD. Maybe it got its start with this practice round. Don’t know.

Miguel Angel Jimenez practiced by himself and he seemed to be in a very good mood. He took pictures with fans and signed a lot of autographs.

Once again, the merchandise tent is poorly staffed. I bought two shirts, a hat, a lanyard and a teddy bear. The cashiers think that as long as they ring up the total number of items you are purchasing then they’ve done their jobs. So, instead of ringing up a $5.00 lanyard, they rang up a $25.00 hat. But hey, they rang up 5 items and I was wanting to buy 5 items, so all is right. Not really.

There was also a very grumpy woman working in the Welcome Pavilion selling programs. Don’t they know we don’t want grumpiness when we are on vacation? I tried to treat everyone like they were on vacation while I was in Akron, from the Walmart employees to the waiters and waitresses at the restaurants to the other fans at the tournament. Who wants their vacation ruined by mean people? Not me.

I did sit for a bit at the practice range. There was a woman sitting next to me who was talking to some other people. She said her son parks cars there at the tournament for the golfers and according to her son, Phil Mickelson tipped $100 but Tiger only tipped $5.00.

Cleveland/Akron residents are made of tough stuff. On the news tonight was a story about a woman who received a little trinket box as a gift. She opened it up to find someone’s ashes inside. The reporter ended the story by saying “It’s a good day to be alive and not in a baggy.” In WV, the reporter would be all compassionate and emphasize the human element - that someone is missing the ashes of a loved one. But in Cleveland, they didn’t go there.

Improvements the Tournament could make: They need to sell milkshakes. They need more competent people working the merchandise tent, and the employees/volunteers need more pleasant attitudes.

Wednesday

My feet still hurt, as did my knee, but I wore two pairs of socks to minimize the feet trouble. The knee - I thought I would be sitting down a lot today, but when I got to the course at around 8:30am, I found out that Sergio was already out playing a practice round with Rory McIlroy so I went out to follow them. I caught up with them on #4 and followed them through the 14th hole then decided it was time for lunch. After lunch I walked out to one of the real restrooms on the course and then came back to the 18th green to wait for Sergio and Rory to finish up. I went back to the practice green after that and sat in some shade for a while to rest my feet and knee.

Sergio and Rory were a happy group. They talked and joked around and I think they were playing music - mp3 player, not a musical instrument. They signed a lot of autographs. With Sergio, it’s a walk and sign kind of thing so he’ll only get one out of every four people or so. He did make a special effort for the kids, even letting them follow him up to the tees to get their stuff. There were some very cute moments with the kids. But one moment was a dud. This one dad sent his toddler out to get an autograph from Sergio. The little boy gave some white card to him to sign and I heard the father say, not all that loudly, “No, don’t sign that one.” Of course he wouldn’t say it loud enough for Sergio to hear. I’m guessing the little white cards are now on Ebay. Parents should be ashamed of using their little kids to get autographs to sell.

Now for the crazy people segment:

This one guy was talking to two of his friends and after Sergio had hit a second ball to the green, the guy said to his friends, “The second shot’s always better. At least it is for me.” He and his friends laughed at this little joke. It could have ended there and would have been just a funny little quip. But, no. The guy repeated the first part of that quote to Rory McIlroy. I don’t think Rory found it that funny. What sounds like a funny little joke amongst amateurs/weekend golfers, probably sounds a bit like an insult to the pros. At least I would have taken it that way if I’d been a pro.

Second crazy guy: This man and his woman came up to stand next to me at the 14th tee while we were waiting for Sergio and Rory. The woman sat down on the ground to tie her shoes and the man turned his head to me and just stared at me. No blinking, no wandering eyes to check out the rest of the course. He just stared at me. He stopped when his woman stood back up.

Third crazy guy: Some guy on the second floor of the hotel stood on the balcony and watched me leave for dinner and he was still there in the same spot when I came back a half an hour later. He was also there the next day too.

Fourth crazy guy: There was an old guy who had to have been carrying $5.00 worth of jingling change in his pockets while we were following Sergio and Rory. What part of quiet please do these people not understand?

I left the course an hour early so I could rest my knee. Went to Golden Corral for dinner. The manager rang up my order but she only rang up a drink. Not the meal. I told the server about it and he got a big kick out of the fact that the manager screwed up. So, he told the manager and both of them were astounded that I was honest enough to let them know. They both said that anyone else would have kept his/her mouth shut and gotten a free meal. But I had to be honest. Unless I’m in the merchandise tent at Bridgestone. If they make a mistake in my favor, I’m keeping my mouth shut. They deserve it.

Thursday

The day began with one of the rules officials waving at me. I don’t think it was Slugger White though. If he was there, then I saw him between 16 and 17 sitting there giving people the creeps. The phrase ‘waiting for the axe to fall’ comes to mind.

I didn’t think there were any stellar groups to follow. I guess the Tiger, Sergio, Carl group would have been good if you could actually see them play. The gallery following them was so huge. And of course, I’m not a Tiger fan so I wouldn’t follow him anyway. And on the opposite side, there were two groups that could be considered stellar: the Perry, Vijay and McIlroy group and the Phil, Ernie and Camilo group. I didn’t follow any of them. Today, I followed Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Davis Love III in the morning and then Quiros, Holmes and Anders Hansen in the afternoon.

Today’s observations:

Brian Gay’s caddie gave a ball to a kid in the stands before the group teed off. The kid played around with the ball and eventually dropped it. It rolled under the stands and was lost forever. It reminded me of the cell phone commercial where the kid keeps giving away the rollover minutes.

The Scott-Weir-Mahan group - Mike’s caddie slapped Adam on the butt as some form of “Hi, how are you doing” greeting. I thought that was a bit strange since they aren’t football players. Mahan’s caddie gave the same group of kids a ball but this one kid was smart enough to put it in his pocket.

Mike Weir, Davis Love and Steve Stricker seemed to get the loudest applause on the tee.

Out in the rough: Rory Sabbatini and Alvaro Quiros were both outside the ropes today for a couple of shots. It’s so cool to have the player just inches away from you like that. If you all want to have a good time at a tournament, follow the guys who have the worst driving accuracy stats. You’ll get really close up to them then.

In addition to the Love-McDowell-Donald group, I followed Stricker, Fisher, and Sabbatini. Stricker and Fisher talked a lot during the round, but Rory didn’t join in.

Davis Love really needs to lighten up when he plays. When you watch him, you don’t think he even knows how to smile. And he doesn’t look like he’s having any fun.

I sat on the first tee to eat my lunch and watched Vijay-Perry-McIlroy and Mickelson-Villegas-Els tee off. After lunch I caught a glimpse of Tiger and Anthony Kim and I saw Sergio come out of the clubhouse to get ready for his afternoon tee time. Several of the players offered to sign autographs after their rounds today. I thought that was pretty nice of them since autographs are usually only on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the afternoon, I followed Anders Hansen, JB Holmes, and Alvaro Quiros. Apparently Holmes is bothered by a lot of things, movement and sound. His caddie had some work to do to keep things quiet and still. Right before I left for the day, I dropped back and followed Harrington, Verplank, and Soren Hansen.

The hotel got pretty rowdy today and stayed that way until I left. You’d think they could keep quiet considering all of the other people who are staying there.

Friday

I followed Ian Poulter, Stuart Appleby, Pat Perez in the morning. Poulter and Perez talked a lot but Appleby didn’t join in. I didn’t know at the time that he had gotten ripped off by that ruling issue overnight. I guess he was in a bad mood.

I think it was the 11th green and Ian was trying to putt but he kept backing off. Stewart Cink’s group was walking down 13 (?) and they actually stopped just in case they were distracting Ian. Ian was facing that fairway.

Stewart Cink spent quite a bit of time talking to Christian Cevaer of France. I thought that was nice since Cink is the British Open champion. He should make nice with all of those European players.

As much as I’m not a fan of Tiger, I did manage to get close enough to the 11th green to see him, Carl and Sergio all on the green. I wasn’t on the front line of the gallery, but I did sneak a peek in between a couple of tall guys who were on the front line. I didn’t see Tiger putt, but I did see Carl’s first putt. Poulter was heading down a fairway close by the 11th green and I didn’t want to get too far away from him so I took off before Tiger and Sergio putted. I did hear the collective “oh” which I interpreted to mean that Sergio missed a putt.

Pat Perez was in the rough outside the ropes on one of the holes and I was able to get close to watch him. That was exciting.

In the afternoon, I followed Kaymer, O’Hair and Furyk. I was very happy to be able to watch Kaymer since he’s been having such a good year.

And while waiting for this group to tee off, I sat in front of Tongchai Jaidee’s family on 10 tee. They were talking almost completely in Thai but once in a while they would throw in an English word or two - like basketball.

Toward the end of the day, I watched a bit of the Rose, Lowry, Turnesa group. Justin was coming down 17 and dropped a bit of food on the ground. He looked at those of us along the fairway and said something about the 5 second rule and picked up the food and ate it. Bless his heart. Of course, the first year I went to Bridgestone I saw Fred Couples lick his golf ball to get some dirt off of it. No one said these golfers weren’t eccentric. Finally, as I was waiting at the little rope gate on the 18th green to get off the course, one of the marshals talked to some guy in the gallery the whole time the players were on the green putting. He didn't shut up once. They shouldn't let that marshal come back next year.

Summing Up:

I think I actually managed to see all of the golfers this year. Usually I miss a few. I could always take the easy way out and just sit in one spot and watch them all go by, but I would much rather follow some of my favorites and then catch the others whenever I can.

The galleries are getting on my nerves. The so-called armchair quarterbacks of the golf world are all experts and know just how to play Firestone. They can call every shot. You have to admire the golfers for not getting disgruntled. The fans cheer a shot that ends up bad. They don’t shut up when the players are trying to play. I don’t know how much the players can hear, but if they hear the so called experts describing how the course should be played, I can’t see how the players could ignore it. It’s no wonder you have strong personalities in the world of Professional Golf - those like Ian Poulter and Rory Sabbatini.

I could easily make some generalizations based on what I saw of the gallery’s behavior. The very skinny blonde women who start drinking beer at 9am. The older men on the shuttle buses who all turn and look at the strip club as we drive by - newsflash people - the women aren’t working outside at 8am. The older men who wear sandals - they need pedicures desperately. The old man who has sat behind the 10th green for 25 years but yet didn’t know that you couldn’t bring beverages on the shuttle bus. Advice to him - coffee cannot, absolutely cannot, stir up enough outrage or passion to warrant the use of the ‘G.D.‘ cuss word. You, sir, are just an angry man who is in need of some antidepressants. Going to a tournament is as much an event in people watching as it is an event in golf watching. No one should miss an opportunity to attend one of the PGA Tour events.

2 comments:

progolfnow said...

I've been wanting to attend a PGA tournament for several years now, and let me first say that this was one entertaining read. Lots of insight, and I thought it was fantastic. I agree about the galleries being a little too overanxious to hear their own voices sometimes. They just seem to yell for absolutely no reason whatsoever. But I'm glad you had a good time, and I'm going to continue following your blog. And if you get a chance, check out my pro golf blog as well http://progolfnow.com. Have a great day!

Leather Diaries said...

Interesting!

Thanks for sharing.