With the tour rolling through my backyard this week, it was a treat to join a sparse gallery at Harding Park yesterday and take in a few matches firsthand. Below are a few things that stuck out being a live spectator for the first time in over a year:

  • I brought a friend along who is not a ‘golfer’ (shout to Big Tom Williams), and it’s easy to forget just how hard and far these guys hit the ball. The first thing we saw walking in was Adam Scott teeing off on #15, and just PIPING one down the right side with a little baby draw (aka PRO TRAJ). For someone like Tom, who doesn’t play golf often and only has the firsthand experience of watching friends with bad swings duff and spray the ball around a muni course, this was eye opening. I witnessed his view of golf change for the better first hand because in person, these guys really do make the game look beautiful even when they hit bad shots, and at times, they even make the game look really easy. Professional golf is a joy watch.
  • Playing the course 5 times the past two years, I was all mixed up by the course lay out, but walking out at dusk yesterday, I was impressed by these unique and strategic layout changes. It was a clear move to make sure Harding’s signature and scenic holes, numbers #14-#18, would get ample action in match play format with many matches climaxing well before 17 or 18. Because the traditional lay out has the back nine wrapping around outskirts of the cocooned front nine, the tournament directors and PGA were able to get crafty and create a hybrid of each nine to feature the best holes (if only every course could do this…). The players kick things off on a tough but scenic 10th hole and make there way along the ugly eastern edge of the course, and then jumps back into the front nine on what is usually #4 (playing as the 5th hole this week), a really long, dog leg left par 5. After two forgettable holes, players then jump onto what is normally #2, playing as the 8th hole, #3, the 9th hole, and then hop over to the sunny side of the course on the western side, #14, which has become the 10th hole this week. This stretch (playing as holes 10-14 this week) traces the eastern edge of Lake Merced, and boasts two short, tricky par 4’s and scenic par 3 sandwiched between two big boy par 4’s (one being Harding’s 18th, the signature hole). With the sun setting over The Olympic Club across the lake and through the cypress trees along the waters edge, the setting could not be more relaxing. The players then jump over to #1, the 15th this week, #7, 16th this week, and finish with a man size par three (normally #8), and are rewarded with an easy par 5 to finish (normally #9). Don’t worry, it was just as confusing for me to figure out the layout while on site, but all in all, big up’s to the tour for this layout. It features all the best holes in the meat of the competition.

Spieth on 12 (normally 16) tee with the Southern end of Lake Merced in the background

  • There’s clearly been some ‘insider’ controversy over Stephanie Wie’s use of Periscope and the Tour’s subsequent move to revoke her press pass. Though I don’t often find Ms. Wie’s content all that engaging, I do respect her grind and dedication. Sure, she should be disciplined for breaking the rules this week, but revoking her badge for the rest of the year? C’mon Man! In a sport that many consider to be losing traction with the mainstream, losing young patrons, and losing all that potential revenue, you’d think the tour would want to encourage new, creative forms of interacting with the game both on-site and through new social mediums. The fact is, the suits running the media team don’t seem to care. I applied personally for a media pass to cover the tournament. I was denied within 10 minutes of my submission with no reason given, so I called. After a brief conversation, the conclusion was that because No Laying Up is a ‘blog,’ giving me a media pass would open up a precedent to give every ‘blogger’ or ‘weekend writer’ a media pass, which is a total cop out, especially since the PGA rep hadn’t even read our work. Maybe this is just sour grapes, but why not judge No Laying Up (and me personally) based on quality of coverage, and the growth of our following over the past year? If you talk big game about ‘growing the game,’ why not afford small outlets like us access, albeit on a short leash, to reach a new and captive audience. Not to toot our own horn, but Soly has done an unbelievable job growing the @NoLayingUp presence and Tron Carter and Fil (aka Big Randy) have some of the most original perspectives of any full time writers (when they have time to tune in). Why not try to foster new relationships with people that clearly have a passion for covering this sport? It’s not like there’s a ton of coverage to begin with unless you consider Paulina Gretsky click bait ‘good for the game.’ It’s time for the PGA and the media team to stop being so tone deaf and stop using the excuse of ‘this is what we’ve always done’ or ‘that’s just how we do things.’ If you want to grow the game, stop being short-sighted and be open fresh voices – just my two cents (or 50 cents).
  1. Now that I’m off my soapbox, I’ll go back to covering things from a plebians fans perspective, and I’m an unabashed Jason Day fan boy! It felt serendipitous for one of the first shots I saw yesterday was Day’s tee shot on #8, and with a criminally low number of spectators paying homage, I followed him shot for shot through #15. He struggled down the stretch yesterday and won’t be around for the weekend (0-3), but here are three unbelievable highlight:
    1. Down 2 in the match with Brendan Grace (who played out of his mind) sitting pretty with a 5 foot birdie putt, JayDay rolls in a 40 foot BOMB on #8, to halve the hole. Only about 8 people were watching, but everyone went wild while he gave a casual wave and went about his business. So cool.
    2. Wasting no time, he rolls in an up hill left to right 20 footer to win #9 and go one down for the match. It wasn’t so much the putt but more the way he played this par 3 flawlessly, sticking a 6 iron on the middle ledge to give himself an uphill putt. I thought for sure he was going to surge to the lead on the back but Grace held him off with consistent play. Jay Day just couldn’t find the fairway (I even saw his caddie coming out of the porta-john on 10. I told him Jason’s balling out just like last year, and his caddie just chuckled and said, “ya, I guess he’s playing good.” In other words, he told me to go fuck myself politely, and it looks like I jinxed him anyway. Damn it…).
    3. 16 is a gettable 336 par 4. Jayyyyson flew the green…Whoa.

Even on a bad day, Jason Day carries himself with a controlled power and confidence (the same swagger that got him the nod as NLU’s starting Free Safety last year) He lost with class yesterday and battled and scrambled to make the match competitive despite a wayward driver. The real shame is not the loss but the fact that he’s stuck coordinating wack Adidas outfits with half the field. This guys a unique talent, and he needs to break out for good with a unique sponsor.

A quick pick with Mrs. Day. Shout to ‘Gem’ Glenn on the left for not laying up and introducing himself to the ladies, they could not have been nicer!

  • The weekend is shaping up nicely with some under appreciated but heavy hitters playing really well. Two guys I’m excited about are Hideki “The Drone” Matsuyama and Gary Woodland. Both have cruised to victory this week, have copious amounts of game, and are quietly lurking while big names like Keegan (got SERVED by the Mechanic), Kuchar (…lacks pop), Spieth (Vanquished by the veteran Westwood), and Adam Scott will be touring Fishermen’s Wharf and/or riding bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend. Furyk looks strong, Rory stole one from Horschel, (who looked outstanding this week), and Fowler has been on cruise control all week en route to 3-0 (and he found time to mine some insta-gold up in the Marin Headlands). Right now, Fowler vs. King Louis and Westwood and Furyk vs. JB ‘Kentucky Straight’ Holmes are excellent round of 16 match-up’s. Also worth noting how well some no name Euro’s have done (looking at you Tommy Fleetwood Mac and Danny Willett).
  • I may get back on site Sunday. Thanks for reading…

This Neil from Alcatraz, OUT.