Back on the beat! April is my favourite time of the year for a plethora of reasons, but this is right up there at the top. After some brief confusion picking up my parking pass for the Media Shuttle (completely my fault) I was soon on my way back into the gates of Harbour Town Country Club. I didn’t get a picture of it today, but the drive in is one of the nicer ones in golf. It’s no Magnolia Lane, but the tall overhanging trees that surround the long path from the security gate to the clubhouse are equal parts majestic and elegant. Upon being dropped off by our (very jolly and chatty) shuttle driver, I picked up my credentials and found my assigned seating. Different setup in the Media Room this year. I like it.
The first thing I almost always do when getting to a tournament is to get a lay of the land. Seeing as I’ve been here the last few years and already have a feel for the place, I made my way to the putting green; followed by the driving range. There’s something unmistakably impressive about watching just about any pro golfer practice. The sound the ball makes, the actual ball flight, the banter between player/caddy/manager/friend and the dozens of different swing-aids and game improvement tools. Yes the pros use those, too. The putting green here is massive!
The Driving Range isn’t quite as visually appealing, but the players on it sure were. Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, just to name a few. Excuse me while I bend down and pick up those names I just dropped.
Now it was time to make my game plan for the day. Without a posted list of who was playing their practice rounds at what times, I couldn’t go back to last year’s strategy of waiting out my favourite players behind the 18thgreen and asking for a few minutes of their time. So I decided I would go to each of the main spots on and around the course and see what that would yield in terms of content. Frankly, not as much as I had hoped, but still quite a bit of good stuff came of the day. Here are some highlights:
The Things You Hear
Walking around the putting green and on the driving range while the pros are warming up is a good way to catch a few tidbits or see what things guys are working on. For example, Jordan Spieth was messing around with some different Driver heads and shafts in an attempt to lock in a favourite. I also noticed that Kevin Na is almost always laughing or joking around while he warms up. As does Xander Schauffele while he practices putting. Francesco Molinari on the other hand, was all business. The main thing I kept hearing about though, was The Masters. Look, I get it. That was (in my humble opinion) the single greatest Masters I have ever witnessed. From Corey Conners briefly leading, to the sheer volume of top-tier players who had a chance to win, to Tiger winning and everything in between. It was, as they say, one for the ages.Two days and some 140 miles later, it’s still the talk of the town. Walk through the putting green and overhear players saying things like, “Best event I’ve ever seen live,” or “I still can’t believe it.” Walk through the Driving Range and hear such things as “How ‘bout Tiger?” or “What a f***en week.” The fans are still giddy about it of course. And so it seems, are the media. In Xander Schauffele’s media availability today he was asked 10 questions. Five of them were about Tiger or The Masters. Something tells me the chatter isn’t going to stop any time soon. Oh and apparently Ryan Armour’s clubs were lost by his airline. That has got to suck.
The Things You See
These eyeballs saw some things today. First it was Corey Conners remembering me from last year (what a relief) and giving me a great interview (click here for that). Up next was the always intriguing media food. Of all the events I’ve covered, the RBC Heritage does the media food the best. Today was “Italian Day” meaning I had a huge plate of delicious penne pasta, homemade meatballs, Italian sausage and some veggies. An absolute delight.
After walking a few more holes it was time for Xander Schauffele’s appearance in the Media Center. I asked two of the 10 questions. The first was essentially about whether in his three years on Tour there has been anything he has found more difficult or more of a struggle than he expected it to be. He sarcastically asked if I was trying to get him to say something negative about the Tour. I wasn’t, but fair enough. The second was about if there were any players on Tour either from practice rounds or tournaments that he has played with that look ready to make a name for themselves/break out. He basically said anyone “out here” has earned the right and is really good. Not the best answers, but not my best questions. That’s on me.
Once that was over I went back to the putting green and saw two players I’d been looking for all day: Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. Apparently Molinari made some fans last week because as he was getting ready to putt, a fully grown probably 55-year-old man yelled out across the green for a picture. Everyone in the area felt second-hand embarrassment, I’ll tell you that for free. Molinari politely declined and went back to work. Seeing Tommy Fleetwood was great too. My adoration for his majestic hair got me into a Twitter spat, but those flowing locks were a sight to behold.
The rest of the day consisted of a Corey Conners appearance in the Media Centre, where he did a fantastic job as always, and then a solo stroll of the back-nine where I watched Bryson DeChambeau and Tommy Fleetwood (in separate groups) plot their way around the narrow, angled holes that make up the final stretch.
The Things That Happen
One of my favourite moments of the day came when a young child approached me near the 18thgreen and asked for my autograph. It was evident he thought I was a player and I didn’t have the heart to disappoint him and the excited look in his eyes. So I signed the thing. And it felt great.
On the other end of the spectrum, I sent out a tweet that a fellow golf writer was not a fan of. Long story short, some stuff went down in the DM’s. I’m not going to elaborate as I’ve moved on from it, but its findable if you’d like to look.
That about wraps up my Tuesday experience from the RBC Heritage. Pro-Am’s are tomorrow so I will have more of an on-course angle to my day. Thanks for reading, please feel free to reach out on Twitter @RJMcCullough or Instagram @TeeingOffBlog