The first round of The Players was hot and humid, but with a slight breeze to freshen things up a bit. This is my second year attending the event and this course yields fresh observations with each hour spent. Expect a rudimentary bullet-point takes column from me each morning of the event. Do not fear: THERE WILL BE TAKES.
- After last year’s event and playing the course on several occasions in the past few months, my favorite holes in order are #4 (gnarliest par four I’ve ever played), #9 (top notch par-five), #13 (iconic and overshadowed by #17, this is a charming corner of the property), and #16 (which requires no explanation). I prefer to hang out on these holes and on #18 tee.
- I’m back out on Kuchar. Way out. Rumors of his outfit rumbled around the course in the early afternoon, and I was aghast when I finally laid eyes on him on 12. Electric blue pants, navy Skechers, white and navy belt? Not good. Then I watched him hit a wipey layup. I like the idea of Kuchar in the macro sense, as the stories suggest he’s extra woke and his personality is almost that of a method actor playing everyone for fools. But from a micro sense and actually having to watch him swing a golf club? Again, way out. I’m so sorry to flip flop.
- My 3-month old son Freddie aka the Junkman came out yesterday for a bit. Wasn’t able to catch a pic with him and his namesake, FreddieJac, but no dice.
The Junkman and Uncle Neil
- Mid-afternoon found pretty much the Blog Cabin crew out watching the DJ/JT/Rory triumvirate. I watched a couple holes but then ejected after witnessing the group’s tee shots on 12. Rory pulled three wood and went at it, but DJ and JT both laid up (I guess JT preemptively apologized to Soly earlier in the day for his strategy on 12. JT dumped an iron in the bunker and whined a bit as he’s prone to do. The energy in that group was way out of whack – like there was too much pop in the group and it was collapsing on itself similar to a blackhole. As the balance of the crew trudged along I went searching for a boost.
- At that point I wandered over to the 16th tee, which is perhaps my favorite shot on the course. A palpable energy pervades, akin to gladiators waiting in the bowels of the coliseum anticipating the gauntlet that awaits ahead. The tee shot calls for a baby draw around the corner and the wind yesterday only exacerbated that (unless you’re DJ). When watching a tournament I prefer to follow a group around the course in the morning and then post up on an interesting tee for most of the afternoon. Watching dozens of players hit the exact same shot provides an interesting case study in trajectory, strategy and pop.
- The first group through was Willett, Lowry, and Haas. Meh.
- Next up were Reed, Bagdad Gerry, Koepka. Needless to say I tried to keep a low profile. Gerry pulled his drive way right and helicoptered the finish before glaring at Teddy. On brand.
- The 1:30pm grouping of Rahm, Rose and Kaymer sauntered up, with some attractive Sheila’s in tow (bombs over Baghdad). Of the big name players beyond Kuchar, Rahm’s threads are consistently gross (see: his Ronald McDonald outfit when he won at Torrey.) His pants are ill-fitting, the shirts a bit too tight, and the hats need to be burned. My colleague Big Randy always posits that these outfits make Rahm look like a giant thumb. Of the actual golf played in this group, Rahm’s trajectory was the biggest takeaway – he launches the ball relatively high from the start but then it planes out and stays heavy through the air instead of ballooning. Reminded me of a Vlad Guerrero throw from right field to home plate. Brutally efficient move, even more so than when I followed him last year at Travelers.
- Next up were Sergio, Adam Scott, and Kuchar. I touched on Kuchar’s offensive attire earlier, but Sergio’s fuschia shirt also deserves mention. Scott pulled three wood, Kuchar bunted one down the middle and I have no recollection of what Sergio did because I was too focused on the lag in his downswing. The best. Shortly after the roar arose from the direction of the 17th that was too loud to be anything else but a hole in one. Sergio is just vibing right now, regardless of what he shoots.
- The low energy DJ/JT/Rory trio rolled through and Rory and JT both pulled their drives a bit left, exacerbated by the wind coming from the west. DJ then steps up and vaporizes one with a baby cut so far over the corner that the marshal vociferously motioned that it was heading way left. The ball ended up in the first cut and he eagled. I’d be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t mention Rory’s cotton candy colored shoes. Adidas and Nike are going toe to toe for the crown of who can outfit guys in the dumbest looking stuff.
- Next, Mackenzie Hughes, Jim Herman and KJ rolled up. I could watch KJ hit balls all day – just a precision killer. He’s going to feed on people’s souls on the Champions Tour when that time comes. Hughes was rolling, four deep and golfing his ball. I was keen to follow him a bit as our time with him during Wednesday’s podcast session was enlightening. His tempo and temperament have me buying stock on Hughes Island. He went down the left side and hit a 245 yard iron to the mounds on the left of the green. After taking a drop from a sprinkler head Hughes was faced with a twitchy chip off a tight lie over the bunker and limited green to work with before the lake in back. He did well to hit it to 13 feet and then poured in the putt. I followed these guys to the 17th and then stayed with them through 18. After pumping his drive into the right trees Hughes hit one of the better shots I’ve seen this year through a window in the trees that I hadn’t even fathomed as an option while standing behind him. He put it on the green from 200 yards out and two-putted. The Canadians following along regaled him with “that was fucking wicked awesome eh?!?”
- Neil, who flew in on the red-eye from SF on Thursday AM was pretty weary. So we made plans for dinner and then ventured out to the range to see who was searching for something in the gloaming. We found Charl Schwartzel deep in the process after firing a 76 replete with two double bogeys. After each shot he cleaned his grooves out with a tee and then let out a string of expletives. We marveled at how he castigated himself so thoroughly and efficiently. Truly a manic master of his craft.
Caught a glimpse of Monty…what a treat!
- I scooped Big Randy from the airport last night – he flew in from Ohio for our ProTraj Holdings LLC Board Meeting this evening at a local Hibachi grill. He and Neil are heading out to Hyde Park for a little golf this morning, then gonna pick up a vape rig and vibe out at the tourney all day. Meanwhile I am headed over to Sawgrass shortly. Plan for today is to follow Spencer Levin (who was a little hot under the collar after his finish yesterday) and Luke List for their second nine late this AM, Zac Blair & Blayne Barber for awhile in the PM, get a peek at Cantlay, rove around with Every and Leishman, and station myself behind Stenson on the range while he warms up while I struggle to contain myself. More to come!