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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Two weeks for the PRICE of one........

After a great week at home with the family, I headed south to Palm Beach Gardens for the Honda Classic at PGA National. As I pulled out of the driveway, I was confident about one thing. No other PGA Tour player had a better person to practice and prepare with during the off week than I did. Why am I so certain? Because my "partner" for the week was my three year old boy Jake. We either hit balls behind the house or drove 45 miles the golf course every day while I was home. As you have gathered from my blogs each week, Jake is a golf fanatic and loves to practice with his Daddy. One thing is for sure…if he continues on the path he is going, he will put his ol' man's career to shame. I, for one, would love to see that happen!

The week began with some great news. My former roommate and good friend Josh Broadaway Monday qualified into the Honda Classic with a score of 66. This was his first PGA Tour event and I couldn't have been more proud of him. He stayed in my room for the first part of the week and we had a blast with our other sidekick, Boo. I invited Kenny Perry to join us for our practice round on Tuesday and I think he was a little overwhelmed having three rednecks in his group. Josh was obviously a little nervous on the first tee but he settled down as the round progressed. I know he will probably kill me for what I am about to tell you, but I just can't resist. Kenny Perry is, without a doubt, one of the nicest and most genuine guys on the PGA Tour. He has been nothing but helpful to me during my two years out here and I often lean on him for knowledge and advice. He welcomed Josh with open arms during our practice round and offered him advice and strategy for the course. This type of help is the norm for Kenny, and I was grateful for his hospitality toward Josh. Everything was going great and we were all laughing and cutting up with each other.....but oh how things quickly changed!! As I was hitting bunker shots on the difficult 17th hole, Josh and Kenny were putting together on a portion of the green near me. I could hear them talking and I was minding my own business when all of a sudden I heard this……

Josh: "Kenny, I was really pulling for you at Augusta a few years ago and I was really glad to see you win the Green Jacket"
Kenny: "Haaaaaaaa. Yeah right."
Josh: "No, I was pulling for you, seriously."
Kenny: "Buddy, I didn't win the Masters that year! I had a two shot lead with two holes to play but lost."
Josh: "Ohmmmmmmmm. I think I will shut up now and walk over here!"

Josh made a beeline over to me and was as white as a ghost! He was so embarrassed and kept saying, "I am such a idiot. I cannot believe I said that! What was I thinking! I knew he didn't win. What was I thinking!!" I almost fell over in the bunker when I heard the conversation. I was laughing so hard my sides were hurting. Obviously, Josh was extremely embarrassed and after I finally got control of myself, I assured him it really wasn't that big of a deal. Kenny was, and is always, a class act. He did everything he could to make Josh feel better about his unforgettable moment. We continued to give Josh a hard time and Boo made things better by telling us the story of his similar mishap at the British Open a few years ago. He asked Paul Lawrie, "How did you qualify for this tournament?" His response, "Ahmmmmmm, by winning the British Open!!" He won the previous year!

The conditions this year at the Honda Classic were extremely tough. When I walked to the first tee on Thursday morning at 8am, the weather channel app on my phone said the wind was blowing 22mph with gusts in the mid 30's!! I navigated around the course well from tee to green but once again struggled on the greens. Many of the top players in the world shot in the 80's both days which obviously validated the tough conditions. The highlight of the week came during the final round. I was paired with Hall of Fame legend Nick Price and the experience was incredible. He played great in the tough conditions and I made a point to watch him carefully as he hit his shots. He is a phenomenal ball striker and it was certainly a sight to see. I cannot thank him enough for his kindness and willingness to answer my questions during the round. One thing is for sure, he gave me chills as we walked toward the 18th green. I told him that I really appreciated everything he had done during the round and that it had been an honor to play with him. He responded with a few comments that I will probably never forget. As a modest person, I have chosen not to divulge in the exact words of the conversation. However I assure you that I walked away with a renewed sense of confidence about my golf game and the direction it is heading. He was extremely complementary about my game and I am still in shock a bit about what he said.

As I left Palm Beach Gardens and headed toward San Juan, Puerto Rico, I couldn't help but think about my conversation with Nick Price. I was anxious to get to work on my game and hopefully improve on the putting issues that have continued to plague me so far this year. This was my first trip to Puerto Rico and the course and facilities were great as usual. Beth flew down on Wednesday to enjoy the hot sun and beach for a few days. It was sad not having the kids with us, but I knew Beth deserved a few days of relaxation. We had a great time and we used the Jeep Wrangler that the tournament issued us to explore the island and rain forest. We ate at some great restaurants and the views were incredible. My agent, Alan Bullington, came down for the week, as well, and arranged for several players and caddies to go to the KISS concert. We had backstage passes before and after the concert and also a hospitality suite. For Beth and I, the concert was interesting to say the least. I will be the first to admit that I am not a KISS fan. In fact, I found it a little embarrassing to receive VIP access and treatment when I only knew three songs. Beth and I laughed the whole time because the only reason we knew two of the three songs were because of her name and a Dr. Pepper commercial!! We met the band and hopefully I can figure out a way to download a picture off their web site that they took of us at the meet and greet. Why am I so interested?? Because Gene Simmons had Beth in a headlock!! It was hilarious and I will try and post it as soon as I get it. As far as the tournament went, I made the cut once again but a balky putter kept me from playing well. On Saturday I missed 9 putts from inside 12 feet and on Sunday I missed 5 putts from inside 8 feet on the first 8 holes. I didn't even try and figure up my missed putts from the first two days because I wanted to keep my sanity. However, I did birdie my last four holes on Sunday which definitely helped me leave Puerto Rico on a good note. Hopefully, I will continue my birdie streak next week in Tampa at the Transitions Championship. However, if things go astray, I will remember one image that I know will make things better…..Beth in a headlock courtesy of Gene Simmons!!