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Raymond Floyd, Jr. of Old Greenwich, Conn. and Innis Arden Golf Club is the son of Raymond Floyd, winner of 22 PGA Tour events and 4 major championships, including the 1976 Masters. Floyd, Jr., the 2011 Connecticut Mid-Amateur Champion and an accomplished golfer in his own right, will be posting a daily blog of his encounters on the hallowed ground of Augusta National Golf Club during the 2016 Masters Tournament.
Hello from one of the more exciting non-tournament days in recent memory. Wednesday is my favorite day to come to the event as you can walk around and watch the golf on the big course, then have lunch and walk over and watch the par 3.
Now that ESPN televises the Par 3 you can see why it is such a treat to attend. Guys smiling, their kids running around, caddies almost making holes in one - just a truly big calm before the storm.
For me it is a special day as well as I get to turn back the clock a little bit. In Dad’s last 5 Masters I had the honor of being on the bag for him. For me to be able to put the white tuxedo on and go out there with him, even for an hour and be back in the environment is my favorite hour of the year - Period!!! It is also great for some inside information as I try and get the tux on a little early and go out on the range and scout on some players, see some coaches, talk to some caddies, take a few sneaky photos, the works. That is exactly what I did today.
For those of you new to this blog I have already posted my best pictures of the day on Instagram - it is so much easier than trying to upload them to some foreign wifi source. To see the pictures just follow my Instagram account, which is @victophinebell
Before we get to the excitement of todays Par 3 tournament I have several things that I want to discuss. The coolest, hands down, was running into Steve Williams. As many of you know Steve caddied for my dad right before he went to work for Tiger. Being a New Zealander Steve would stay at our house for weeks at a time when Dad was playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour. They would prepare together, practice together, and some times Steve would even be there to pick us up at school. In short, when I was in my mid-teens Steve was like an older brother.
He ended up going to Tiger on my dad’s recommendation and the split was very very smooth. With Dad’s career shifting to the senior tour, and winding down his schedule, the only time I got to see Steve was at The Masters. I know Steve has written books, and made some silly comments, and a lot of people said hey you are a caddie shut your mouth and I partly agree with that. But he is, hands down, the best caddie out there.
My dad had his best years with him, Tiger had his best years with him, Adam Scott has had his best years with him, and you could argue that Greg Norman also had his best years with him as Steve caddied for him before my dad.
Anyway it was great catching up with Steve, and he said Adam called him at his house in New Zealand and asked him to come caddie for him. Adam has had an amazing start to this year with David Clark on the bag winning 2 of his last 4 starts, but Adam slipped on that green jacket in 2013 with Steve on the bag and he wanted him back and Steve obliged.
So Steve and I got to talking and he said in his career there was only one regret he had, and it was not opening his mouth to my dad on the 71st hole of the 1990 Masters. That was the event Dad ended up losing on the 2nd hole of sudden death to Nick Faldo, and most remember Dad pulling his approach on #11 in that playoff into the pond that guards the front and right of that green, but ask anyone in the know, me, Dad, and Steve and the tournament was decided on #17 on that spring Sunday.
Dad was hitting it great all week and on 17 after piping a drive he had only a 9 iron into the green. Dad said I am going to aim it 15 feet right of the pin, guarding against missing right and short siding himself, but he ended up pulling his shot and caught the ridge and went some 50 feet away from the hole leaving a much harder chip than if he had short sided himself. Dad ended up 3 putting, then making par on the last to go into sudden death.
Steve said that when Dad said I am going to aim it 15 feet left-he had the words “What if you pull it” on the tip of his tongue yet he didn't say it. Dad and Steve had such a great working relationship that dad would have backed off and re-grouped and who knows what would have happened. Interesting stuff.
The last interesting fact about Steve is he said he learned so much around the greens caddying for Dad, and the thing he learned the most was chipping it all the time if you are not on the green, unless putting is the only play. Dad called it putting with loft. He would take and 8 iron, 9 iron, whatever the right club was and take his putting grip and putting stroke and basically chip the ball over the long grass and have it land on the green rolling like a putt and you eliminate the uneven, inconsistent fringe. He said he showed Tiger the shot and now Adam, and he says every time one of those guys has a shot like that they would look at him and say “Stevie, it is time for a Raymondo.” He said Tiger said it all the time and now so does Adam. I had never heard that before and thought it was very cool that the 2nd best golfer of all time would say that, and one of the best in the world right now. Good stuff out of Steve, and very good to see him.
I think Adam could be dangerous, mainly because of the way he is playing, but also because he has Steve on the bag.
OK so before I went out to the range and put on the tux I went out to the back nine to watch some guys play amen corner. So a lot of the guys only play 9 holes today, and in fact I would tell you that most of the guys will probably play 9 on Monday, 18 on Tuesday, and then the back 9 on Wednesday and then the par 3. So many of these guys will come in weeks before The Masters to play and scout the course, so they do not burn themselves out Masters week.
With that being said early this morning guys teed off the back, which was a great chance for me to see them play the grueling amen corner. I watched Charlie Hoffman and Davis Love III play and both of their games look very solid. Adam Scott looked to be on form as he hit 2 perfect shots into the 12th, but his playing partner Hideki Matsuyama did not as he hit 2 different flares into Rae’s creek. The wind was swirling pretty good out there today and that is just foreshadowing of what is to come as I will touch on the weather in a little bit.
OK onto the range before the par 3 and some of the stuff that caught my eye. Danny Willett I know that you guys might think I am having an affair with this kid, but I watched him hit bunker shots on the chipping green for about 5 minutes and man was I impressed. The bunkers at Augusta are a little different and you have to get used to them as it is thick heavy sand and not as easy to spin the ball, but he had figured something out as he was hitting all sorts of different shots and looked good doing it.
Kenny Harms was another guy that has caddied for my dad and is now the looper for Kevin Na. Kevin has quietly put together a good year and made a nice run at the Match Play before falling in extra holes to Rory. I asked Kenny about Kevin’s game, he said it was as good as he has seen it, but that Kevin came down with the shingles. Yuk. He could barely walk on Monday, was able to play a little on Tuesday and said he had felt the best he had today as he was on some antibiotics. His swing looked smooth and he was striping it, but might be a tough thing to recover from walking these hills at Augusta National.
Emiliano Grillo was on the range for over an hour, which always worries me when guys are beating balls for that long. It worries me that they are trying to find something (on the eve of a major is not the time to be looking) or they are wearing themselves out. Well whatever worries that I might have had were put to rest when I watched this kid’s putting stroke — silky smooth and the ball rolled so pure. Obviously this could be a huge factor with the course looking more and more like it is going to be super firm which might turn it into a short game and putting contest.
Bubba Bubba Bubba. I said it last year and I will say it again this year. Watching this guy hit balls is awe-inspiring. I mean unless you have seen it with your own eyes it his hard to describe. He can work the golf ball in both directions and move it as much as he wants. This was plainly evident when he hooked a sand wedge 40 yards onto the 10th green in the 2012 playoff. I walk down to that spot every year and still marvel at how he pulled it off. For those of you have been there his ball was way closer to the 18th fairway than the 10th. Amazing.
The other thing I love about Bubba is it is just him and Ted Scott, no swing guru, no mental coach, no trainer. Just him and Ted the only guy he can have between the ropes with him when the lights go on.
Rory - he was hitting balls right next to Dad on the range, and if you follow me on Instagram you will see how close he really was. He hit about a half dozen fairway woods and a half dozen 3 woods and when I tell you one was purer than the next - it bloody was. It was a thing of a beauty and what I liked about the flight of these fairway woods is they were very high, which could help him hold the greens on the par 5’s when the course firms up. This was the same philosophy my dad used when he rode his 5 wood to victory in the ‘76 Masters - high soft shots to hold the par 5’s.
Rory was dialed in. I also loved the fact that he called Dad “Mr. Floyd.”
I had a nice talk with Paul Azinger on the range as well. He was there with Fox as he is taking over as the lead analyst from Greg Norman and will be in the booth calling the open this year at Oakmont. He was asking about Dad, talking about the weather, what it would do to the course and so on and so forth. He was a ball of energy and he had asked me if I had watched Bubba hit balls and I said that I had. Paul said the amazing thing about Bubba is the sound the ball makes when it hits his clubs, not only the driver, but the irons as well. It is like every shot he hits is so pure that it makes a different sound. He was right.
He also asked me an interesting question that has nothing to do with The Masters, he said did your dad tune out the crowd or try to show off for them? It was really something I had to think about as I would tell you Dad was very good at having tunnel vision and only focusing on the task at hand, but there were also times where Dad would look at me and say - Hey kid watch this shot. I am going to stand the crowd up behind this green, and boom he would do it.
Anyway I think it is interesting that Paul is here already scouting for the US Open. He has always been a hard worker and I think he is really taking the task seriously to clean up the Fox broadcast as the Open at Chambers Bay was not a good debut for them, and I say that with all due respect to Greg Norman as he is not only one of my all time favorite golfers, but people as well.
Onto the par 3 contest and it was the best one in recent memory - period. Congrats to Jimmy Walker on shooting 19 - folks let me repeat that. 19 is 8-under thru 9 holes on a course whose greens are every bit as tough and fast as the mama course. Really really impressive and also kudos to Jimmy finishing out and not putting one in the water or have one of his kids putt on the last. Good on Jimmy for saying that he came here to win it and wanted to win it. I think the curse is kind of crap and I hope Jimmy wins this week so we do not have to hear about it anymore.
|Ray Floyd looking on as J.B. Holmes hits a tee shot during the Par-3 Tournament.|
While we are on the subject of Jimmy Walker lets put him out there as a pick right now. I do not care if it is an exhibition, if it doesn’t count or whatever. You play 9 holes in 8-under you are seeing that white ball go in the hole an awful lot and that does wonders for your confidence so he has to be feeling really good right about now.
There were 9 holes-in-one today topping the old record of 5 by a landslide. The first one of the day was by Wake Forest alum Webb Simpson. Webb was in the 2nd group out behind Dad and JB Holmes today, and while Dad was signing autographs behind the 9th green he stopped to watch Webb hit. The ball landed on the green, Dad said that’s in - and boom yes it was. So I was right there for the first one which was electric to say the least.
Now I did not see it until the highlights later, but Webb and Bubba had to be playing something pretty substantial for hole-in-ones, because Bubba never even moved or reacted when it went in, rather he stood there with that “holy crap I have to pay this kid a number with a comma in it” type smirk on his face - it was pretty funny.
The other aces recorded were by the aforementioned Jimmy Walker on 2, Smylie Kaufman on 8, Zach Johnson on 7 (Smylie and Zach were playing together) David Lingmerth on 7, Andy Sullivan on 5, and then I am saving the best 3 for last.
Gary Player is 80 years old and used the bank like an old pro to make one on #7 as well - the place absolutely erupted and in true Gary Player fashion he blurted out that is #31 as he knew exactly how many he has. I guess I am a little envious as my career total is still sitting at zero. Anyway, I digress.
Then hands down the coolest thing I have seen on a golf course in a long time was on the 4th hole and this is not a hole that has a lot of aces on it historically in the par 3 tournament. Justin Thomas spins one back off the hill for a hole-in-one and goes absolutely crazy, as does his playing partners Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, and then on the very next swing Rickie puts one in right on top of him. 2 balls 1 cup! It was EPIC, and their reactions where like a bunch of school children jumping around going crazy was so apropos of that moment. See picture on Instagram. Really just awesome stuff all around.
Again I cannot stress the point enough, while this was all fun, guys like Rickie and Justin having that happen has to help their psyche. They both are huge social media guys and the pictures are making the way around the web. This is a good thing for them because it puts very good thoughts into their head going into the most important round of their lives to this point.
A couple other notes about the par 3 - Dad played with JB Holmes and they were first out and played in 45 minutes which was awesome. Dad made 2 birdies and 3 bogeys and damn near made a hole in one on the very first hole. JB was solid and was -2 for the event, which was made to look very pedestrian by Mr. Walker (anyone else get that pun…anyone?).
I watched JB hit balls on the range and he is puring it and hit a lot of good quality wedges in the par 3. My one concern in watching him play was his putting - it looked like he was trying to jam everything in the hole, which is great if it works, but if it doesn't you are going to have exponentially longer than when you started.
Zach Johnson is such a class act, he stopped what he was doing so he could come down to the 1st hole of the par 3 and watch Watson, Nicklaus, and Player tee off. Then he was gracious enough to give an interview saying the reason he did this was he would not be there if it was not for them. Then he thanked the members at Augusta for letting the pros come down and play the par 3. Just perfectly said.
It actually bothers me that everyone does not play the par 3 - I get the curse but I think, as I stated before, it is ridiculous. Rory didn't play, Tiger in the past didn't play. I mean Dad played in 45 minutes and on top of everything it is great practice for your wedge game and there are a lot of shots that you see on the mother course and I just wish guys would make the effort and show up and show the respect.
Interesting read in the Augusta paper today about the journey of Marc Leishman. It will yank your heart out but it puts perspective on everything and as important as this week is, it is still just a game. This is not from the Chronicle but worth taking the time to read. And man if you are not pulling for him this week you have no soul:
Weather and picks I am going to do together as I think they go hand in hand. There are storms coming through tonight and there is supposed to be some rain, but nothing like they were calling for. Then it is supposed to get windy, and very windy, and it is not supposed to stop blowing through Sunday, so whatever moisture these storms bring tonight will be out of here by the afternoon.
I do, however, think that those guys teeing off early tomorrow will have a big advantage as they will get less wind and a softer golf course than those in the afternoon as the wind is supposed to freshen as the day goes on. That means guys like Rory, Haas, Sergio, Jimmy Walker, Jason Day are going to have the rougher end of the draw in my opinion.
I received an interesting piece of information from a guy that follows this blog today. He said that the region of South Africa where Louis Oosthuzien grew up was the windiest in the country, and that Louis, as a young man had many tournaments cancelled because of the wind. So with the forecast this week and a guy that has contended and won several British Opens coupled with his early tee time tomorrow I am on Louis Oosthuizen to sport the green jacket come Sunday.
Other guys that I like very much are Zach Johnson and Bubba. If I had to throw out a couple of dark horses they would be Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, and Danny Willett.
Guys this is shaping up to be a heck of a tournament, not just because some many big names are playing well, but also because of the weather and I think mother nature is going to give us a beast of a golf course. Should be fun talking about Round 1 tomorrow. Until then I leave you with a trivia question: who is the only player in modern times to both caddie and play in The Masters?
Out from Augusta,