KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Aside from the fact that he's wearing a dressed-in-the-dark ensemble of a floppy hat and a Hawaiian shirt and shorts with mismatched patterns, the guy walking the sandy pathways of Kiawah's Ocean Course doesn't look like anyone particularly special. Like the rest of us, he's watching the world's best golfers fight their way through howling ocean crosswinds. He's moseying along with the crowd, quietly taking in the play on a brutally hot Lowcountry afternoon.
And then he starts heckling D.A. Points' caddie, and suddenly everything snaps into place.
"You!" Bill Murray says in that unmistakable wry is-he-joking-or-not? tone, pointing straight at caddie Matt Hall. "I hope you're already packed. You're outta here. You're done. He doesn't need you anymore."
Hall could only drop his head and laugh. What else can you do when your guy is 12 over on the day and 13 over for the tournament?
Seeing Bill Murray on a golf course is not unlike seeing, say, Spider-Man swinging through the skyscrapers of Manhattan. It's exactly where you'd expect to see him, given that you've spent a lifetime seeing him there on TV and movie screens, but when the moment happens it's WHOA IS THAT REALLY BILL MURRAY?
It is. Murray has a habit of hanging with regular folk, and he's no stranger to the Charleston area. He's part-owner of the Charleston River Dogs, the single-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. And his affinity for golf is etched in stone; not only did his Carl Spackler launch a billion "it's in the hole" quotes, he's actually got a bit of game himself.
Which is where Points comes in. Last year, Points and Murray combined to win the AT&T National Pro-Am, and they remain close, close enough that Murray can dog-whistle at Points in the middle of a round at the PGA Championship. At the moment, Points is deep in the throes of an epic trainwreck of a round; on his eighth hole, he hasn't yet scored better than a bogey, and already has two triples and a double fouling his scorecard. What can you do then but laugh?
Of course, it helps when you've got one of the funniest men on the planet in your corner:
"What's going on, man?" Murray asks, the very model of sympathy.
"It's unbelievable. Nothing is going right," Points replies.
"Look," Murray says, putting a hand on Points' shoulder. "My brother's dog died this morning. There are other people have it a lot worse than you, OK? So get over it." Points then records his first par of the afternoon. Coincidence?
Afterward, Murray is asked about how his brother's handling the loss of his dog. "Well, he doesn't know yet," Murray deadpans, "and I feel just awful. The dog had leukemia, and he'd been staying with us for about two years — he tended to slip my brother's mind — and in the end it was all just too much." Naturally, you're left wondering whether, in fact, the dog even existed in the first place.
But that's how it goes when you're in the presence of Bill Murray. He doesn't perform, he simply is. Introduced to the young son of Kelly Mitchum, a PGA teaching pro playing with Points, Murray asks, "You like your dad?" The kid, taken aback, nods yes. "Then tell him to make some more putts."
A few minutes later, when Mitchum walks past them en route to the next tee, Murray points at the kid and laughs. "He didn't even acknowledge you! You're not really his kid! He paid more attention to me! I could've said that I was his kid!"
Security guards try to shuffle him aside to let the golfers pass, then notice who he is. Being security guards, of course, they still try to shuffle him aside, but at least they do it with smiles on their faces. And they let him get away with minor violations of gallery etiquette. "Knock it in the dang hole, partner," he hollers as Points is settling in for a tee shot on 18, and half a dozen heads turn at the sound of the familiar voice.
It's got to be like this everywhere for him. Bill Murray walking in a golf tournament is like the celebrity version of a sonic boom. He'll pass a group of people heading the opposite direction, and it takes five seconds for his presence to register. Was that Bill Murray? I think that was Bill Murray! That was Bill Murray!
Naturally, someone makes a Spackler reference; you've got to figure someone always makes a Spackler reference. "Going to kill any gophers today, Bill?" one guy yells as Murray ambles near the 18th fairway.
He never breaks stride as he lopes down the path, smiling in appreciation, the joke in his head no doubt far funnier than anything any of us could devise.