chat roomJanuary 7, 2009

Tommy Armour III

'Your'e allotted only so many days, so you might as well enjoy them.'--TA3

'Your'e allotted only so many days, so you might as well enjoy them.'--TA3

Drop the initials TA in the company of a tour pro, and it usually draws a smile and instant recognition. It's like MJ in the NBA. No clarification needed. Lots of guys want to putt like Tiger and play like Tommy Armour III, or at least be in his designer shoes for one pleasure-filled night on the town. Grandson of the legendary Silver Scot, TA3 owns not only a reputation as a man who enjoys the company of beautiful women and Hollywood stars but also the all-time 72-hole scoring record of 254. In November he won the Callaway Golf Pebble Beach Invitational for the second year in a row. "Mad Men" cool, Tommy Armour III takes us on a vicarious trip through his world.

First I find you at Gretzky's crib, then a day later you're playing Pebble. I like how TA3 rolls. What's the philosophy? You're allotted only so many days, so you might as well enjoy them.

You just returned from Pat Perez's bachelor party in Cabo. What's the best story from that weekend that the boys will be retelling for 10 years? Steve Elkington dancing.

With someone or alone? Alone. It was like Elaine from "Seinfeld."

That playboy image, is it legit? I guess to a certain extent it is.

Care to elaborate? I pick my spots and have fun.

When you shot 60 in Vegas, a reporter told you it could have been lower, and you responded, "It is what it is." You're a man of few words, aren't you? I try not to waste a lot of 'em.

Everyone thinks you're a party machine, but few people know how hard you work at your game. I really don't party that much. I drink with a purpose. If there's a fun group of people going out, and it's not a tournament week, I'll have a few cocktails—only wine, beer and tequila. During tournament weeks, I'm about business. You have to be when you're 49. Otherwise you won't be on tour long.

What do you love most about the game? The day-to-day struggle. It's always testing you. You have to be a little bit of a masochist to like golf.

You also love the trappings of being a tour player. When I was 13, I told my dad I wanted to be on tour and wear a brand-new golf glove every day. Wearing a new glove every day is one of those trappings.

Your grandfather passed away when you were 8, and you've said you didn't know him that well. Did you ever get a golf lesson from him or watch him play in person? I never did. I was around him a couple times, but what do you really remember when you're 8? I heard stories about him from the time I was little until yesterday. Smart guy, strong guy. Big, handsome man.

What's the best golf tip you've ever received? Tom Watson walked by me one time and said: "Rhythm, Tommy, rhythm." Another time he told me: "Even great putters miss putts."

Ever played with Tiger? Played with him at TPC and quite a few practice rounds from when he was an amateur until last year. You're watching something special, so you might as well enjoy it. He has that presence. We were sitting on the deck in Cabo trying to name the five greatest athletes of all time, and we were unanimous on four: Gretzky, Lance, MJ and Tiger, with maybe Ali or Secretariat as the fifth.

Is it different when Tiger hits it? When he gets out of the car, it's different. There are people who just have that.

What do you remember about playing with Jack? I played only a few practice rounds with Jack. You could throw Jack in as the fifth guy.

Why do you think movie stars like your company? One reason those guys let me hang around is, I don't talk a lot about it, whether it's going to a nightclub or watching a movie. They want their privacy. I usually don't bring a lot of people with me, either.

Ever been offered a role in a movie? Yeah. I said no.

Why? I'm not an actor. But I had a SAG card from "Tin Cup." I was in the background of a scene, playing myself. I'm in the credits.

You consider the movie producer Jerry Weintraub a father figure, and you've met a lot of people through him. How'd you hook up with him, and what has he taught you? I met him in 1988 on the first tee at the Hope. He said, "Hi, I'm Jerry Weintraub; I'm a movie producer." A few holes later he said, "Quit calling me Mr. Weintraub; call me Jerry." By the 10th hole he said, "Why don't you move out of that hotel you're in and stay at my house?" So I did. He always told me, "Keep it real, and don't take yourself too seriously."

And your father? My dad was a great supporter. When I was 18, he said, "I'll buy you a car, and go get 'em!" He was a general surgeon in Las Vegas. Passed away in 2003.

When you aren't on tour, you're playing with guys like Nicholson, Clooney and MJ. Name-drop a little. I've played golf with just about everybody who's worth playing with. I played Cypress with Clint Eastwood, Robert Wagner and Burt Lancaster. When we got done we had lunch in the kitchen, and they told only Hollywood stories.

What makes the annual TA3 soiree during Byron week such fun? I put some effort into it and make them different every year.

What was last year's theme? A light and laser show that was pretty good.

And this year? You'll have to come and find out. n

Rich Lerner is a commentator and essayist for the Golf Channel.