Notebook: Perspective tempers Horschel's bad day
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Here is how you soften the pain after shooting 81: You harken back to the day before, when your golf and your life were accompanied by the face of perspective.
The beautiful, smiling face was out on a cold, windy day at PGA National, watching Billy Horschel manage a demanding golf course in 69 tidy strokes to get halfway home in 5 under, tied for 11th in the Honda Classic. It was the latest solid round in a string of them for Horschel, but what made this one so rewarding is that Tucker Anderson was there to see it.
Every time Horschel looked over at Tucker, it felt great. What he discovered later from his wife, Brittany, was that Tucker’s sense of humor was vintage fun, and it was a good walk unspoiled.
Six months ago, Tucker Anderson was in a horrible car accident in Pensacola, Fla. The University of West Florida freshman had a blood clot on the brain, plus several fractured vertebrae, and there were few people within the PGA Tour circles who weren’t overcome with sadness. Tucker’s father, Todd, is one of the most respected swing coaches in the game, and his friends from the Sea Island, Ga., community and points beyond are too many to count.
Brandt Snedeker and Horschel, two of Anderson’s students, were particularly crushed by the news, and they have been witness to a remarkable story.
“Todd’s a very even-keel guy,” Horschel said. “He doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He’s not going to show you when he’s angry or when something’s bothering him. He always seems to be in a pretty good mood.”
Last Friday, the mood was levels above “pretty good.” That’s because Todd Anderson went to the Honda Classic with Tucker, the two of them walking 27 holes, 18 of them with Horschel's wife, Brittany, and the Horschel entourage. They were entertained by the 26-year-old’s 69, which enabled him to make his 17th consecutive cut, tied with Ian Poulter for best on Tour.
So much of the day was great – Tucker out walking, renewing acquaintances with friends, continuing to get better by the minute. Between shots, Horschel would look over and smile. “There’s been a miracle," he said. "No doubt about that.”
As much as Tucker may have enjoyed the Friday golf, he wasn’t going to return Saturday. “He told me that after a while it was tough to watch them play,” Todd Anderson said. “It just made him want to get out and play himself.”
So Saturday, while Horschel tried to move into contention under Anderson’s eye at PGA National, Tucker Anderson went elsewhere to “chip and putt,” said his father, who was witness to the first really bad round Horschel has had in a long while.
From T-11 and just four off the lead, Horschel plummeted until when the round was over, he was T-72, a whopping 14 behind.
“It’s tough. It happened, and there wasn’t much I could have done,” Horschel said. “I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older and more mature, and I thought I handled myself well.”
It helped to reach back and think of Todd Anderson, his wife, Stacey, and older sons Travis and Taylor (“Todd says there’s no manual to tell you what to do,” Horschel said. “But they’ve kept a positive attitude.”) and of Tucker’s smiling face.
“I sort of think, ‘Hey, man, I could be in Tucker’s situation, battling what he’s been battling through.’ It’s a little bit of a humbling experience when you have days like that, just to be blessed and thankful for what I have.”
It was all used as fuel to motivate Horschel, who concedes he still beat himself up a little Saturday night. “I felt awful. I could have probably salvaged a 5-over-par round, but I made it worse,” he said. “(Sunday) morning I didn’t feel like I wanted to play.”
But he dug deep and returned to the sort of form that has been on display since late last year. With a closing 70, Horschel climbed back into a share of 46th and felt miles better about himself.
Seeing Tucker certainly has helped, and the good news is, there probably will be a lot more of that. The young man is making tremendous progress, and more and more people are seeing it firsthand. On May 6, the Monday of Players Championship week, the Sea Island community will come alive for a charity golf tournament, a huge initiative to raise money for the foundation that Todd Anderson and family have thrown themselves into.
“We want to raise money to help families who are in a similar situation,” Todd Anderson said, adding that his dream will come true. “I want to be able to help a family, and I want Tucker to be the one who presents the check.”
• • •
BACK-SEAT OFFICIALS: Rabid fans are certainly welcomed by the PGA Tour and its players, but no one wants to see things go over the top. Lucas Glover was witness late Friday to a situation that nearly was just that.
Having played beautifully to shoot 4-under 66 and sit just four off the lead of the Honda Classic, Glover was visited in the scoring trailer by rules official Tony Wallin. It seems that two fans questioned the relief Glover took near the 10th green. They were playing it “up” that day, and that led fans to suggest Glover shouldn’t have picked up his ball.
“They didn’t think the ball was embedded, but it was,” Glover said, and his playing competitors supported that point of view to Wallin. “Maybe they should cut the beer (sales) off at 4 at the Honda Classic.”
When he shot 72-70 on a demanding weekend, Glover finished at 3-under 277 and tied for fourth, his best finish since winning the 2011 Wells Fargo Championship. Of course, he didn’t have much chance to do anything in 2012, thanks to being set back by injuries, but Glover said the long layoff was good for him. He got healthy and he worked hard to lose 15 pounds or so and, yes, he feels as good as he looks.
There's no need to ease back into action. “It’s full bore," said Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open champion who has made cuts in four of five starts this year. "I’m ready.”
• • •
OLD FRIENDS: There seemed to be familiar faces everywhere at the Honda Classic, though it’s hardly a surprise, given how many professional golfers live in Palm Beach County. Michelle McGann was one such visitor, though it is hard to believe that she is now 43. It seems like just yesterday that she was winning the 1987 U.S. Girls’ Junior and embarking upon a productive pro career.
While often it is publicized how the latter part of her career featured so many struggles with her game, what is overlooked about McGann is this: When she was at her best, she took on and beat the very best. Consider the names who finished second in McGann’s seven victories: Laura Davies twice, Dottie Pepper, Kelly Robbins, Liselotte Neumann, Kim Saiki, Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam.
Oh, and her playoff record? Try 4-0.
McGann spends her summers in Ogunquit, Maine, where her husband’s family owns Cape Neddick Country Club, a Donald Ross design that is quintessential New England.
• • •
SHORT ’N SWEET: A par 4 of thoughts and observations:
• Oh, if only Dr. Cary Middlecoff were still around and had been Rory McIlroy’s playing competitor in the Honda Classic.
• Speaking of McIlroy, here’s a curiosity: The young man owned the golf world last year when he won the PGA, two FedEx Cup events and the European finale in Dubai. So why when he looks at film does he study how he swung it as a 16-year-old? Seems he swung it pretty good six months ago. Wouldn’t that be a better study line?
• If you had David Lynn in the office pool for shooting the best weekend scores at the Honda Classic last weekend, take a bow. He went for 68-69 in very tough conditions.
• Prediction for 2014: Tiger Woods skips the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and tees it up in the Northern Trust Open.
• • •
MULTIPLE WINNERS: It’s perhaps testament to just how rich the PGA Tour is in prize money, FedEx Cup and world ranking points, and so many other ways that on any given week there seemingly are a handful of winners.
The Honda Classic was the latest example.
Michael Thompson broke through for his first win and took the top prize of $1,080,000, but elsewhere were positive stories.
Like Geoff Ogilvy finishing solo second to earn enough of a world-ranking jump (79th to 47th) to qualify for this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Or 23-year-old Luke Guthrie, in just his 11th PGA Tour start, earning his first top-10, a rock-solid solo third.
But it was hard not to be smitten with Erik Compton’s best-ever finish, a share of fourth that was worth $226,200. Shooting par or better each of the four days, Compton, 33, tried to downplay the finish. He said he expects this sort of performance from himself, but given the number of times he has told his story (two heart transplants), Compton can’t deny that he has attracted a legion of supporters.
“I’m sure everybody is really proud of me, and I’m proud of the way I played, regardless of the score,” Compton said. “(But) I’ve just got to move forward.”
• • •
PLENTY OF GOOD AND BAD: Speaking of moving forward, Sean O’Hair does that frequently.
Unfortunately, he seems to follow with a few steps backward.
“Golf has been kind of weird for me the last two years,” O’Hair said, after backing up a 66-68 start with a 74-72 weekend to finish joint 18th at the Honda Classic. “It’s been kind of hit or miss.”
Honda being a hit, as was the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he was T-16.
But in his other four starts? O’Hair missed three cuts and withdrew after an opening 83 at the Northern Trust Open.
Combined with what he did in 2011-12 — he missed the cut in a third of his starts, 16 of 48, yet added a fourth career win and a second — it presents a strange roller-coaster that O’Hair is unable to explain.
O’Hair did say he withdrew from Northern Trust because it was his fifth consecutive tournament, something he’s never done before, and the winter Poa annua greens on the West Coast “got in my head.”
• • •
HEY, ROOMIE, LOOK AT ME: Though they toil at different ends of the golf world, Keegan Bradley and Jon Curran remain close friends and each other’s biggest fan. Former high school teammates, they are also roommates – with Bradley playing the role of landlord, too, at his house in Jupiter, Fla., where Curran lives.
They went their separate ways again this week – Bradley to Augusta to play a practice round, Curran to Puerto Rico for a Monday qualifier for this week’s Puerto Rico Open. We can’t vouch for how things went for Bradley, but a job well done needs to be extended to Curran.
The one-time Vanderbilt star birdied each of the first four holes, shot a blistering 64 and easily earned medalist honors. While Bradley will tee it up in a World Golf Championship, Curran will play in just his second PGA Tour event, the other being the 2010 U.S. Open (missed cut at Pebble Beach).
Curran has won a couple of tournaments on the GolfSlinger in recent months, and if you listen to Bradley, he’ll tell you that he wishes he had his roommate’s wedge game.
• • •
SO MUCH FOR HOME COOKING: There’s been plenty of publicity for three of the newest residents of Palm Beach Gardens — Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen — but at least one of them is struggling to find a comfort zone when he tees it up “at home.”
Oosthuizen has played three times across the street at the Honda Classic and has yet to compete for all 72 holes. Strange, but in 2011 and 2012, Oosthuizen made the cut, only to withdraw after 54 holes. Last week he didn’t get that chance; he shot 69-76 and failed to advance to weekend play.
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HAND SIGNALS: Having been plagued by a bad left wrist in 2012, Gary Woodland came into the season with hopes of good health. For a while, all was great. “I hit balls for two days in Los Angeles and Butch (Harmon, Woodland's instructor) didn’t say a word,” Woodland said. “That was nice.”
But if there is a bit of concern for Woodland now, it’s that his right hand is starting to bother him a little.
Still, Woodland is hoping it’s no big deal, because there’s a good stretch coming up for him. He’ll be defending champ of next week’s Tampa Bay Championship, then comes the Arnold Palmer Invitational across town from where he lives in Orlando, then the Shell Houston Open, which plays into his power game.
“I am pumped," he said. "They’re all courses were I’ve had success. I just need to be healthy, because I’m excited for this year.”
• • •
PRESSURE’S ON: Here’s thinking that it’s a big week in Puerto Rico for Ryo Ishikawa.
His first year as a PGA Tour member is off to a rough start — just one cut made in five starts, and he’s 23 over for his last nine rounds. If the poor play continues, expect to read and hear more of an outcry over the special exemption granted by Masters officials to the 21-year-old Japanese phenom.
Then again, no one — not Rory McIlroy, not Tiger Woods, not anyone — plays with as much pressure on his shoulders as does Ishikawa.