For years, we got accustomed to the PGA Tour's ad slogan, "These guys are good," and we bought it, wholesale.
We'd watch even the most average PGA Tour name punch-cut a hooded 6-iron from a lie buried in pine needles through an opening the size of a dishrag, and follow his Titleist as it carved its way over a yawning greenside bunker, only to hop twice on the green, then die, as if it lost battery power, three feet from the cup.
And that was from the guy who finished t-43rd.
Yes, these guys are good.
But every now and then, it's nice to see these millionaires in tailored slacks promote another slogan: These Guys, Sometimes, Are Just Like Us.
That was the lesson of the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, where Argentinean Andres Romero notched his first PGA Tour win.
Side note: Sorry, Zurich Classic organizers and sponsors, but the Zurich Classic won't be Romero's claim to fame from here on out. He'll still always be remembered as the guy who made 10 birdies at Carnoustie in the final round of the British Open – ten birdies at Carnoustie in the final round of the British Open – only to then be cursed by one of the worst kicks ever – a ricochet off the wall on the Barry Burn that went O.B. on 17, leading to a double bogey that cost him the Open.
Wait – a ricochet off a wall that led to a double bogey? See, I told you: These Guys, Sometimes, Are Just Like Us.
Anyway, back to New Orleans.
So there was some sort of massive mix-up with the new 54-hole cut rule, leading a bunch of players to think they wouldn't have to play on Sunday after the weather delay on Saturday. Instead, the tournament decided to keep the third-round pairings the same. This caught a fleet of players unawares, and many had to bust it back to New Orleans, sort of like kids who cut class because they thought they had a substitute teacher, only to find out Ms. Crabapple was at school after all and was doing roll call.
Alex Cejka's story was a classic: He was in Houston's airport when he found out he was playing Sunday morning, so he drove back to New Orleans through the night, and showed up at the golf course in jeans and a T-shirt – without his golf clubs. He had to play with a rental set. Still, he shot 71.
And then there was the case of Woody Austin, golf's Everyman who will forever be known for his splash at the President's Cup. (And don't you get the feeling Austin's had it up to here with people mocking him for it? You can hear him thinking every time a fan brings it up: Hey, chump, how much did you win on Tour last year?)
Austin came to 18 one shot back of Romero, and needed to birdie the par-5 hole to force a playoff. After a drive into the left rough, he pulled a hybrid club to try and carve it out of the thick stuff and get it close.
He cold topped it.
I mean, Austin's golf ball rolled – what? – maybe 10 yards in the rough?
As usual, NBC's color analyst was Johnny Miller-on-the-spot, immediately dubbing it one of the five worst shots he's ever seen on a 72nd hole.
Johnny Miller: You don't want him around when you're having a bad day.
But Austin didn't need Miller. Austin did his own version of Miller when he said, loud enough for the boom mikes to hear: "You are the biggest choking dog ever."
Austin didn't stop there. After the round, he told NBC: "I choked my guts out." Pushed further, he said: "I played like a dog." As if we didn't get the point, he added, with a rhetorical flourish: "I puked my guts out."
Say what you want about Woody Austin, but when it's all said and done, he's as eloquent as Churchill.
It's all in keeping with our theme: These Guys, Sometimes, Are Just Like Us.
Who among us hasn't choked his or her guts out? Who among us hasn't played like a dog? Who among us hasn't puked his or her guts out?
Say it loud and say it proud, fellow duffer: I AM WOODY AUSTIN!
Scorecard of the week
• 65-67-68-66 – Lorena Ochoa, Safeway International, 1st place.
In case you're counting, that's 16 wins in Ochoa's last 53 tries. In case you're counting, that's two wins in three starts this year. In case you're counting, Annika Sorenstam finished 11 shots back. In case you're counting, the nearest competitor finished seven shots back.
Question: When does Tiger start texting Lorena as regularly as he used to text Annika?
Mulligan of the week
• Come on. This one's a no-brainer. Any golf fan with a heart watched Austin cold top that hybrid out of the rough and had the same reaction across the country.
You're playing with Woody, and you have only one choice. You sidle up to him, you drop one out of your pocket, put it near the original Austin ball, and say to good guy Woody: "Dude, nobody saw that. Come on. Go for it again. You lay one."
Somebody give that man a mulligan.
Broadcast moment of the week
• "We're going to keep it in the family." – Peyton Manning, on Super Bowl XLIII, set for February '09
The Super Bowl, at the Zurich Classic? You bet. It was the Perfect Media Storm.
Take a low-profile Tour event, add in a chance to plug an NBC Super Bowl 10 months away, toss in the camera-happy Manning Family, and you have Peyton and Eli Manning visiting Dan Hicks and Miller in the booth on Sunday.
Rhetorical question, up there with "If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" If Peyton Manning is asked to be on TV, and he can't make it because of a conflict, does the world come to an end?
You have one hour to fill out your Blue Books with your essay answer.
Where do we go from here?
• Like the dime-store comedian who warms up the audience before a taping of a game show, the Shell Houston Open is this week's lounge act before the Masters.
Pity the poor winner of the Shell Houston Open. Nobody gets less run than the winner of the event the week before the Masters. Just ask Scott McCarron. Nobody remembers that he owned the Atlanta event at TPC Sugarloaf because everybody is busy busting down I-20 East from Atlanta to Bobby Jones' spiritual home.
Only one more week!
- PGA Tour
- Woody Austin