Heritage notes: Gay's caddie takes on gator
Thursday, April 12, 2012
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. – It was one thing to have a difficult shot. It was another thing entirely to face a life-threatening situation. But fortunately, Brian Gay has a caddie, Kip Henley, who isn’t afraid to challenge an alligator.
“They won’t come at you when they’re turned the other way,” Henley said.
Ah, could he guarantee that?
“Well, no, I can’t guarantee it.”
Which probably explains why Gay kept his distance as he surveyed the situation in the hazard short and left of the 15th green at Harbour Town Golf Links in Thursday’s first round of the RBC Heritage. His ball buried in the mud, Gay was contemplating how to play his fourth shot when a 6-foot alligator seemed determined to hang around. Henley said they usually get out of the way quickly, but this one stayed, presumably, to protect a baby gator.
“I didn’t get near it,” Gay said.
Henley did, but not until grabbing a rake and getting some assistance from Scott Verplank’s caddie, Scott Tway.
“‘I’ve just never seen them not take off,” Henley said.
Finally, this one did, at least long enough for Gay to play what the caddie called “an incredible shot.” True, Gay moved it only 30 yards, “but it was completely buried; I mean, it was virtually unplayable.”
Gay wound up making bogey, which is the bad news. But he survived, which is the good news.
• • •
UNUSUAL MATCH: What’s a free-swinger like John Daly doing with one of 23 sub-par rounds at a place supposedly is made for shot-makers?
“I fell in love with this place when I first saw it,” Daly said. “They keep telling you on TV that it’s a short course, but it isn’t, not when you have to lay back and hit 5- and 6-irons into these small greens.”
In on a sponsor exemption, Daly didn’t hit one driver, opting instead for his 2-iron, and clearly he had a ball-striking day: 11 fairways and 11 greens that he parlayed into a 1-under 70. Though he birdied only one of the three par 5s, Daly made only two bogeys, both on the front. He was 1 over at the turn, but had birdies at 14 and 16 to get into red numbers.
Daly is playing in this tournament for the 10th time. Though he has made the cut six times, he has only one finish inside the top 20.
• • •
ODD MAN OUT: When Ted Potter Jr., saw Lucas Glover walk to the first tee for a 1:10 tee time, the left-hander pretty much knew his tournament was over.
Potter was the next alternate in line, and it was pretty well known that Glover was a possible scratch, given that he withdrew Wednesday from the pro-am because of problems with his ribs. But Glover showed up early Thursday morning, hit balls for a while, and felt OK. Though he didn’t stiffen up during a quick lunch, he said, “I was good to go.”
That meant Potter was headed to the exits.
Glover, meanwhile, missed a handful of putts inside of 6 feet “or else I would have played pretty good.”
In the end, Glover settled for a 1-over 72.
• • •
WATCHING FROM AFAR: Not everyone in the field who came here from Augusta, Ga., was a Masters participant last week. Vaughn Taylor was in Augusta because that’s where he lives.
Did he think about leaving town with the Masters going on?
“No, I just stayed at home. It wasn’t bad, but I know how to avoid traffic and crowds,” he said.
Did he use the family tickets to the tournament?
Taylor smiled. Three times a Masters participant (once a T-10 finisher) changes the picture a little bit. “After you’ve been a player, you don’t want to go watch,” he said.
Taylor bogeyed his first hole, but when he holed a 103-yard wedge at the par-4 ninth, he turned in 32. He then offset a double bogey at the 16th with two birdies on the back to share the first-round lead at 4 under with Colt Knost and Chad Campbell.
• • •
SHORT SHOTS: Only 40 of the 132 players hit the green in regulation at the par-4 18th, a mere 30.3 percent. But as an indication that if you hit the small greens here, you will have a birdie chance, there were 17 birdies made at 18. . . . . Hardest hole to birdie? The 185-yard, par-3 17th. . . . Blake Adams and Brian Harman were the only ones to birdie 17 and 18, however. . . . There were no bogey-free rounds. . . . Of the 23 who broke par, only six did so in the morning when it was cold, windy and uncomfortable.