For the first time in . . . well, perhaps forever . . . Johnson Wagner carried a yardage book at the Open Championship International Final Qualifying at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas.
Thankfully, steady 30-mph wind meant “you could throw the yardages out the window,” Wagner said.
Shooting 68-66 to earn his second ticket to an Open Championship was a tribute to his ball-striking and putting and had nothing to do with the way he used the yardage. So why did Wagner stick one in his back pocket? The option was to let his replacement caddie, Victor Trasoff-Jilg figure out yardages, and that wasn’t going to happen.
Wagner’s usual caddie, Matt Hauser, returned home right before The Players Championship after his brother, Zach, died of a diabetic seizure. Wagner competed at The Players with veteran caddie Scott Sajtinac, but Hauser was due back for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. He asked Trasoff-Jilg – whose real job is fitness coach to Johnson – to fill in at the Open Championship qualifier, but no one expected much.
Why? Consider this answer when Johnson asked Trasoff-Jilg how far a shot was: “Can’t you just eyeball it?” That occurred after Trasoff-Jilg gave Wagner a yardage figure that didn’t seem right. “He was saying 75 yards to the front. I knew it wasn’t. Turns out it was closer than that.”
Trasoff-Jilg shrugged. “I was adding when I should have been subtracting. But it’s my first time being a caddie, ever.”
Which isn’t to say that Trasoff-jilg hasn’t developed his own routine, should he be called upon again.
“Just stay out of his way and keep him happy,” he said.
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FROM FLORIDA TO PORTUGAL: Peter Uihlein’s first professional victory, at the Madeira Islands Open, was hardly a surprise to Steve Marino.
The PGA Tour veteran walked off the course after the final round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, heard that Uihlein had won, and nodded. It was almost as if he had expected it, given the way Uihlein had played in Marino’s company recently.
Uihlein joined a handful of other friends and fellow pro golfers from the Jupiter, Fla., area recently and toured the stalwarts in that area – The Medalist, Old Palm, Dye Preserve. Rounds of 64, 65 were routine, it seems.
“He played really, really well,” said Marino, who shouted out the news to his caddie, G.W. Cable, a solid golfer in his own right who had played with Uihlein in those games. “So I’m not surprised, at all.”
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COWBOYS MOVE UP: On the same day that Uihlein won in Portugal, his old roommate at Oklahoma State, Morgan Hoffmann, closed with a 66 at the Nelson to finish T-5, his best PGA Tour finish. It allowed Hoffmann to leap from 196th to 157th in the world rankings, but his old Cowboys teammate topped him. Uihlein went from 246th to 147th.
More importantly, perhaps, Uihlein earned his way into this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and sitting 50th in the Race to Dubai standings, the 23-year-old has situated himself in a nice position for the remainder of 2013.
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QUICK HITS: Buckling down to handle Texas wind and Texas heat – PGA Tour staples in mid-May – with a half-dozen thoughts, observations and wonderments:
• How have times changed for media types? There was a time when the thrill was to watch and study journalism giants like Dave Anderson and Bob Ryan inside a media center. Now you share space with #twittercaddies.
• Do the people around Tianlang Guan realize he’s not only 14, but an amateur, which means he’s not a professional?
• Golf justice arrived Monday at the Open Championship qualifier. Robert Karlsson, who withdrew from last year’s championship at Royal Lytham because he developed the “yips” with his driver, made it through this time because of a steady putting stroke, which is more associated with “yips.” Karlsson made a 15-foot par-save at the playoff hole to advance.
• Corey Pavin plays Colonial instead of the Senior PGA? Good for him. He’s got six more Champions Tour majors to try.
• The list of those who consider Muirfield to be the best, or their favorite, of the courses in the Open Championship rota grows almost hourly.
• Do you realize that if golf were tennis, Tiger Woods, 38, probably would be six years retired and Jordan Spieth, 19, would be in the prime of his career?
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CROWD FAVORITE: Given the number of times he has played alongside Phil Mickelson in practice rounds, in competition and at the Ryder Cup, Keegan Bradley knows what it sounds like to have the crowd behind him.
As a former champion of the HP Byron Nelson Championship and one of the game’s rising stars, Bradley was that man in Sunday’s final round at the Four Seasons Resort.
“I always wondered what that feels like, and I told Pepsi (his caddie, Steve Hale) that I felt like Phil today. The fans were so great to me.”
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FAMILY GOLF: After signing his scorecard recently at The Players Championship, Justin Leonard was greeted by his four children, ranging in age from 9 to 3. They offered testament to how this family business is so entwined with the golf profession; you do remember pregnancies and births in association with the tournaments, especially the majors.
Leonard, for instance, withdrew after shooting 69-67 at the John Deere Classic, to get home for daughter Reese’s birth Sept. 14, 2003, and when Avery was born March 29, 2005, it delayed his trip to the Masters. “I flew in Wednesday (and finished T-13),” he said.
When Luke was born July 7, 2006, it forced Leonard to miss the Open Championship, but so be it. His reasoning: “(Luke) will only be born twice in his life; I’m pretty sure there’ll be an Open Championship every year.”
As for Amanda’s pregnancy with Skylar in 2010, an April due date meant that Leonard had to carry a pager during the Masters. That’s right, a pager. But don’t be calling the Masters security folks, because “it was a Masters-issued pager,” Leonard said with a smile.
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FUNNY GUYS: Oh, those comedic Koreans. There was Sang-moon Bae being interviewed after a second-round 66 at the Byron Nelson when he was asked to speak about the continued strides being made by Korean golfers, such as John Huh.
“Isn’t he American?” Bae said about Huh.
The reporter started to explain that while Huh was born in New York, he’s of Korean heritage, but Bae smiled and said, “Just kidding.”
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IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE: Last year, Ben Crane had the chance to play in the Open Championship. But when he was given the green light as an alternate, he was still in the U.S. and it would have been a near-impossible, so he never went.
This year he won’t even get that close; ranked No. 96 in the world, he chose to skip the Open qualifier.
His rationale is sound – he lives in the Dallas area and is thus committed to play at both the HP Byron Nelson and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. Jamming another 36 holes in heat and wind isn’t conducive to being prepared for the PGA Tour stops.
“I wish it was 18 holes. I understand they want to do the 36 holes because they want to establish the best players out of that and 36 holes does a better job than 18 holes,” Crane said. “But in the hot . . . summer . . . Dallas . . . Texas? I mean, good luck.
“I love (the Open Championship), but if I’m not qualified for it, I’m not going to try and qualify for it.”