The PGA Tour on Monday touted on its website the presence of three major championship winners in the field at this week’s Houston Open—Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner.
Rich Beem hasn’t played much golf in the last five years while serving as a reporter and analyst for Sky Sports based in the United Kingdom. But he did compete in the PGA Championship in May—the one major championship he never misses because, well, he won the thing in 2002, closing with a four-under 68 at Hazeltine National to beat someone named Tiger Woods by a stroke.
“That’s awesome,” Beem said. “I’m flying under the radar again.”
Beem, 49, is competing this week at Golf Club of Houston in Humble, Texas, thanks to receiving a sponsor's exemption. It will be his first appearance in a non-major on the PGA Tour since the 2014 Barracuda Championship. To say he has no expectations isn’t quite accurate, even though he is coming off two weeks in the United Kingdom, where he covered the BMW PGA Championship and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for Sky, and has barely touched a club.
“I got the call last week and was completely caught off guard,” Beem said, admitting that he didn’t think he’d be added to the 144-man field. “Instead, Colby [tournament director Jim ‘Colby’ Callaway] asked me, ‘How’s your game?’ And I’m like, ‘whoa.’
“But it’s going to be good,” he added. “We’ll find it. It’s in there somewhere.”
Beem, a three-time tour winner, doesn’t miss the week-to-week competitive grind, but he did have the itch to play in Houston, especially since he’ll have his 16-year-old son Michael on his bag. A resident of Austin, Texas, Beem enjoys the broadcasting gig, but he will turn 50 next August, and has an eye towards competing on the PGA Tour Champions.
“Well, certainly, that’s part of it,” he said. “I do want to see what I still have in me.”
Some of what he has he acquired quite recently. “I see what the best players do—they keep things pretty damn simple,” he said. “There is something to that notion that working in TV makes you a better player. I hope that’s the case. We’ll see. … I think I’ve learned a lot more about how to play the game after watching as much golf as I have these last five years [for Sky].
“The hard part is watching these great players and you have to fight the urge to swing like Rory Koepka Johnson,” Beem said, joking about creating a move that’s an amalgam of three of the game’s top players—Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson. “Yeah, you realize pretty quickly that’s not going to work for me. I’m not quite built like them. But you get these delusions of what you think you can do with a golf club. And then you come to your senses.”
So, what’s a successful week for a guy who will make just his sixth tournament start in five years? Well, it’s more than making the cut; he did that at the PGA Championship in May at difficult Bethpage Black, eventually finishing T-80.
“Listen, golf is golf. You look at just about anybody and they play terrible one week and next week they’re in contention. It’s totally unpredictable,” he said. “My goal first and foremost, with my son on the bag, is to enjoy myself and teach him a few things about the game because he’s just started learning. I think if I get out of my own way and don’t overthink things, which is easy to do, I can definitely make the cut. And, who knows, some good things have to happen, but I don’t see why I couldn’t get somewhere near contention.
“My expectations aren’t really that high, though,” he added. “But, hey, I am putting my cut streak on the line. I’ll go out and try to give ‘em hell.”