By Sam Weinman
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Usually when a player withdraws from a tournament to open the door for an alternate, the two men end up as just swapped names on a pairing sheet. One locker empties, another is filled. Not so in the case of Mark Brooks, who withdrew at midday from the PGA Championship because of lingering issues from knee surgery, and J.J. Henry, the player who gained entry into the field as a result.
Henry said he received a call from tournament officials around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday saying he was in the field. Moments later he received a call from his Fort Worth neighbor Brooks, who confirmed he had withdrawn. Shortly after that, the two men were together on the practice green, where they spent the next 90 minutes working on Henry's short game.
"We're good friends so it's ironic that Mark's the one who withdraws," Henry said. "I'm just grateful to be able to play."
Brooks has been more than a friend to Henry in recent years. The 1996 PGA champion has served as a competitive coach to Henry, even caddieing for him in the last two Players Championships. It's a pairing borne of their differences: Brooks the consummate grinder who could milk out scores with his short game, Henry a classic ball-striker who felt he was losing too many shots around the greens.
"One thing I try to get (Henry) to do is take responsibility for his shots, really do it, deep down, whatever happens," Brooks told the New York Times in May. "And the second thing is to work on his deficiencies. People want to work on what they're proficient at. As painful as it is, recognize what your deficiencies are and work on them until they are no longer deficiencies."
Perhaps the most tangible assist from Brooks so far, though, came when he bowed out of the PGA, opening a spot for his student. Henry said prior to Wednesday Brooks hadn't indicated he was leaning toward withdrawing, but he understood why he did.
"He had knee surgery on his left knee about 2 1/2 months ago. As a past champion you want to be here, but he has like nine weeks coming up on the Champions Tour and I know his knee has been bothering him a little bit," Henry said. "I think Mark would admit this is a pretty big golf course for him as well."