December 26, 2012

COMMENTARY — ON GOLF: Tales from the tour

By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer

Dave Kindred, a preeminent American sports writer who has worked his trade for the better part of four decades, was walking down the right side of the first fairway at Kiawah Island with the final group at the PGA Championship when he mentioned he had been teaching a writing class to college students.

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BIZZARE: Phil Mickelson was penalized during the 2012 season for hitting a ball right-handed twice. Mickelson hits left-handed.

AP photo

Like most great columnists, Kindred’s strength is his power of observation, and he has tried to pass that along.

“The one thing I tell them,” he said, “is that if you really pay attention to what you’re covering, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.”

He stopped and kneeled to watch Carl Pettersson, playing in the last group that Sunday with Rory McIlroy, hit his approach to the green. Pettersson was just inside the red hazard line, so he was careful not to ground his club. Brushing the top of the grass was OK.

Moments after his shot, he was approached by PGA rules official Brad Gregory and told there might be a problem.

In a bizarre development, Pettersson’s club nicked a leaf on the way back, a violation of Rule 13-4c for moving a loose impediment in a hazard. After an exhaustive video review, Pettersson was given the bad news — a two-stroke penalty — on the fourth hole.

Pay attention and you never know what you’ll see.

That much was true in a wild year of golf. Phil Mickelson lost his bid at the Masters by hitting two shots right-handed. Rory McIlroy was confused by the time zone and needed a police escort to get to the final day of the Ryder Cup on time. Tiger Woods never found his golf ball, was not penalized and still missed the cut.

Those have been well-documented. What follows is the 2012 edition of “Tales from the Tour,” the obscure moments that keep golf so interesting and entertaining.

• • •

Kyle Stanley is a quiet man. This was a quiet celebration.

One week after he made triple bogey on the 18th hole at Torrey Pines and then lost in a playoff, he rallied from eight shots behind on the final day with a 65 in the Phoenix Open to win his first PGA Tour event. It was a remarkable turnaround. One week he faced the media after his meltdown and fought back tears. The next week he was a winner.

Stanley was invited to a Super Bowl party that night at the home of Jim Mackay, the longtime caddie of Phil Mickelson. He was late to the party because of the media obligations that come with winning. When he finally arrived, Stanley knocked and then walked in the door holding the oversized winner’s check over his head.

He quietly placed it above the TV, and then sat down to watch the game, a player at peace.

• • •

No other golfer spends more time with the media after every round than Ryo Ishikawa, who is treated like a rock star in Japan. When he signs his card, even when it’s late in the day, it’s not unusual for the 21-year-old to spend close to an hour fulfilling his media obligations.

That’s where “The Chair” comes in.

His handlers have a white folding chair for Ishikawa as he endures two interviews with different television stations. A dozen or so reporters form a semi-circle around him as they wait and listen, occasionally jotting down notes. Then, it’s their turn. They spent close to 15 minutes with Ishikawa after his round at Innisbrook, going over the clubs he used and shots he hit on just about every hole — this after a 73 that left him 12 shots out of the lead.

(Continued on page 2)

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