Rich Beem loses his magic at Bethpage, but he can still walk the walk in this game

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Beem loses his magic at Bethpage, but he can still walk the walk in this game

PGA Championship

Rich Beem loses his magic at Bethpage, but he can still walk the walk in this game

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – The messages started coming one after another, on his phone, through WhatsApp, on Twitter and Facebook. So many that Rich Beem stopped counting. Hundreds he estimated. Maybe 1,000.

They started coming shortly after Brooks Koepka started sucking the air out of the 101st playing of the PGA Championship in Friday’s second round. But Beem pumped some voltage into the tournament with an out-of-his-mind stretch of golf.

The man who held off Tiger Woods in his prime back in 2002 to win the PGA Championship is 48 these days. Plays in one competition all year – one – with it being the PGA Championship because his victory 17 years ago gave him an exemption into the tournament every year until he’s 65. And this year the PGA happened to be at Bethpage Black, a bruising behemoth to most everyone else not named Koepka.

Go ahead, you calculate the odds of the man they call Beemer making the cut.

LEADERBOARD: 101st PGA Championship

But that’s exactly what he did. Coming home on the inward nine, he made five birdies in his last six holes in the second round. He shot 30 on the tougher back nine, which is the best nine-hole score this week. He signed for a 69 and then waited to see if would make the cut.

Over a couple of beers and some wings with his caddie, Basil Dalberto, who played college golf for Beem’s father at New Mexico State, the current Sky Sports commentator found out a few hours later he had made the weekend.

As he said, he was over the moon.

“This is not what I do anymore,” said Beem, who had missed 11 cuts in the PGA and had broken par in just five rounds since he held off Woods by one shot. “Making the cut is just silly.”

No, he doesn’t play golf for a living but instead talks the talk for Sky Sports. Through 36 holes, however, he showed everyone he could still walk the walk. And while he needed 82 whacks to complete his journey around Bethpage Black in Saturday’s third round and is currently at the bottom of the leaderboard, the hop in his step nor the smile on his face never left. That sugar high from Friday was still strong. He’s playing, after all.

“To go out there and struggle like I did today wasn’t totally unexpected,” Beem said. “I’ve been fighting my swing all week long. But I found something Friday for seven holes and everything went in. That’s the nature of this game. I commentate full time now. This game is so unpredictable, it’s a joke.”

The aches and pains that have started to pile up also weren’t unexpected. Beem, who won three PGA Tour titles in his career, has basically been retired for years now and is counting down the days until he hits the PGA Tour Champions in 2020. But he still plays golf. A lot of golf.

“But I usually don’t walk this much. Usually, I play golf with a cart and a cooler of beer,” Beem said.

Beem, however, feels no pain when he thinks about that special Friday round. He started the back nine 9-over par and well outside the cutline. But then he started pouring in birdie putts. From 18 feet on 13, from 9 feet on 14. From 18 feet again on 16, from 9 feet again on 17. And then he faced a 17-footer for birdie on the final hole.

“I was pretty darn relaxed. I just wanted to put a good stroke on it and get it to the hole. It caught enough of the hole and went in and I was jacked up,” Beem said. “Thankfully, there weren’t any microphones around or I would have gotten fined. But my screams were for euphoric reasons, not because I was angry.”

As proud as he was for making the cut, a byproduct of the stunning achievement was the satisfaction of showing the world’s best players he still can get the job done inside the ropes.

“In my business, some players look at you and know you used to play but you don’t anymore, so they think you really don’t know what’s it’s like,” Beem said. “Well, I have a pretty good idea what these guys are going through. Me making the cut shows the guys I can still slap it around. It’s not going to be there four days in a row and I understand that.

“Slashing 7-woods, hybrids, 4-irons into par-4s, that’s really not my game. To see what Brooks is doing, I understand it better because I’m out there. And what he’s doing is impressive. But making the cut gives me some street cred. I can hold my head up for a long time because that was a damn good round.”

Beem didn’t have much time to savor it. He has another day job this week. Heck, he also has a night job. After Saturday’s third round, he got a bite to eat, kicked up his feet for about 45 minutes, then went to work for Sky Sports. Later, he was scheduled to do a show with CBS from 8 to 9 p.m.

Come Sunday morning, the whole process starts again.

“I’ll get up early, seeing as my tee time will be about 7:50 in the morning and I’ll slash it around for 18 holes,” Beem said. “Then I’ll take off the golf shirt and put on the Sky Sports shirt and go back to commentary.

“I can’t wait.”

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