Dispatches from Hazeltine
Editor's Note: Greg Bisconti, an assistant professional at St. Andrew's Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., is playing in his third PGA Championship this week thanks to his tie for 13th finish in the 2009 PGA Professional National Championship. He will be sharing his thoughts on his experience each day with GolfDigest.com.
CHASKA, Minn. -- Well, so much for my rule of not playing with tour players in practice rounds. I played today with Charles Howell III and Kevin Streelman and it ended up being a great day.
It's funny, but I wasn't going to play at all today. But then on the practice green Tuesday night, I ran into (fellow club pro) Brian Gaffney and he asked if I wanted to go out again this morning. My initial thought was "no", but then I thought about it, and thought another round in front of the crowds wouldn't hurt. And besides, I've missed the cut the last two times in the PGA, so something obviously hasn't been working.
Anyway, when we showed up on the tee at 7 a.m. this morning, John Daly was right in front of us. Brian asked if I thought we should try to join him. I said I didn't want to, and right about then is when Charles came up and asked if he could join us. He couldn't have been nicer.
As I said the other day, one of my reservations about playing with tour pros is that you find yourself getting into a competition with them even in a practice round, just to prove you belong. But with Charles, it was different. He was just a nice, normal guy -- very engaged, very interested in who we are, where we worked. He just made the whole process easy. And it proved to be beneficial for me. After a few holes, Kevin Streelman joined us, and he was joined by his instructor, Stan Utley, who even gave me a tip for chipping out of the rough. So that definitely helped.
As for the rest of my day, the plan was to just relax, maybe head down to the Mall of America, and then get ready for tomorrow. I play at 12:35 alongside Brian Davis and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. I suppose if I was going to get an afternoon time, I'd rather not wait around. But that will also mean playing at the height of the heat, and the crowds.
I'm getting used to that last part, but I'm still not all the way there. There are times when you're standing over a shot, and as much as you're thinking about hitting it well, a part of you is also thinking about not embarrassing yourself.
That will be one of the challenges tomorrow, but I decided I'm just going to treat it like it's New York State Open. We play that every year at Bethpage Black, which is as hard a golf course as you can play, and yet it's one I always manage to play well. I'm always really focused. So while I'm hitting 4- or 5-irons into the greens tomorrow, I'm going to pretend that I'm hitting them at the Black. It's just a matter of tricking my mind.