December 30, 2007

Ten Memorable Moments From 2007

Covering the PGA Tour has it moments. John Hawkins looks at his most memorable from 2007

This year's list of 10 unforgettable memories doesn't include much from Tiger Woods -- I dumped all my worthwhile stuff into another Golf World story. That made the reflection-and-selection process a bit easier, which helps when you're trying to squeeze 12 months into 850 words.

10) Oakmont. An awesome piece of land and one of the better U.S. Opens, a place where brutal met fair and churned out a number of mental imprints: Third-round leader Aaron Baddeley quivering after opening with a triple bogey Sunday. The whole world coming to a stop as Woods prowled his putt on the 72nd hole to tie Angel Cabrera. A chat in the upstairs locker room with Jim Furyk, who had just finished one stroke back for the second straight year. Bad U.S. Opens can be such a drag. This one turned par golf into stellar theater.

9) An unscheduled appointment with Phil Mickelson at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Lefty was bothered by an internet article Tim Rosaforte and I had written about his meeting the previous day with swing coach Butch Harmon, although it quickly became clear he hadn't read the piece. Long story short, Mickelson's only beef was that he hadn't spoken to Rick Smith, his longtime friend and coach at the time. We had talked to Smith, however, and realized Phil & Butch would happen sooner, not later.

8) A day with Boo Weekley at his grandma's house in Milton, Fla. "The Twilight Zone" collides with "The Beverly Hillbillies," producing a lovable, innocent guy who rarely misses the clubface or says anything bad about anybody. God bless Boo. He's a kick in the pants, not a flash in the pan.

7) An hour with Tom Pernice Jr. at Torrey Pines. The longer you're around him, the more you appreciate his passion and honesty. A former PGA Tour policy board member, Pernice is no mouthpiece for management. If anything, he's allergic to the Kool-Aid, a progressive thinker who speaks his mind and listens to what others say. For every 10 tour pros who don't care, there's one Pernice. I'm glad I've gotten to know him.

6) Any conversation with Paul Azinger, who is missed as a TV analyst -- Nick Faldo isn't the same without him -- and the perfect solution to America's eight-year Ryder Cup losing streak. When we spoke after the U.S. completed its Presidents Cup rout, Azinger asked me why I thought Royal Montreal was such a success. If he'll listen to me, imagine how receptive he'll be to Tiger and Phil.

5) A broiling August afternoon on the Westchester CC practice range with Furyk. After playing with Hunter Mahan, who had shot 62, Furyk was short with a couple of New York writers asking about Mahan's round. Neither scribe found Furyk to be rude, but 20 minutes later, the world's second-ranked player came into the media center and apologized to both men. You don't see that every day.

4) Thirty terrific minutes with Mickelson after the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, by far the best tournament I covered in 2007. Right place, right time: Lefty laid out his complete FedEx Cup redesign and expressed dissatisfaction with commissioner Tim Finchem, all while signing autographs and rescuing a 4-year-old girl getting squished in the chaos. A day later, Mickelson dropped the Finchem bomb in his victory interview with NBC's Jimmy Roberts. So much for my scoop.

3) Five uncomfortable minutes with Charles Howell III, with whom I've had a great relationship, after I ranked him seventh among young players most capable of winning a major. After a fabulous start to 2007, Howell had a tough six months. He still made the Presidents Cup squad, but by late September, things had gone wrong enough for long enough for him to let me know exactly how he felt about my article. I just didn't think he'd do it beside Royal Montreal's 18th green near the end of Saturday's final match.

2) The brief period between Sergio Garcia's British Open playoff loss and his press conference, then again when he returned to the Carnoustie locker room. I was surprised to be the only writer who followed Garcia into the hotel/clubhouse after the awards ceremony. Security wouldn't let me in to see him, but there was no mistaking the loud wails of pain from a guy who had let a claret jug get away. I felt for Sergio, at least until he sucked his thumb throughout the group interview, and when I beat him back to his locker, I found his father and caddie, both of whom were a total mess. Garcia soon walked in and immediately asked me to leave.

1) A full and sobering day at Virginia Tech, site of the bloodiest massacre in U.S. history and home of the ACC men's golf co-champions. You think a sudden-death playoff gives you goosebumps? Try walking down a hallway where 30 people were killed.