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Boo Weekley didn’t win, but he reminded us that golf’s more fun when he’s in it

Boo Weekley
Sam Greenwood / Getty Images
Boo Weekley shot a Sunday 63 to finish two shots back in Tampa.

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- He got punched out by an orangutan. But in his defense, only once.
 
He summarized his view of British food at his first British Open: “Ain’t got no sweet tea, ain’t got no fried chicken.”
 
He played with former champ Paul Lawrie in Scotland and asked him if he had to qualify for the British Open, having no idea Lawrie had already won an Open. He also sat at a lunch table with Sandy Lyle once and admitted later he didn’t know Lyle had won a Masters.
 
When he was at Carnoustie, he was asked if he was going to visit St. Andrews, the home of golf. “I thought the home of golf was where I was from,” he joked. At least, he was probably joking, depending upon whether he meant little Milton, Fla., his hometown, or the United States.
 
When he first joined the PGA Tour, he wore camouflage pants instead of traditional slacks. And he was going to give up golf for hunting and fishing as soon as he got to his number, he used to say, because he was no big fan of golf. It was just something he was good at. He’s at $8.4 million in career winnings. His “number” keeps going up, apparently. Can’t blame him for that.
 
At the Greenbrier in 2010, he couldn’t find his way around the palatial clubhouse, which he called The White House. “They ought to give you a GPS when you register,” he complained.
 
His most-spoken line is, “I ain’t got a clue.” He usually does, actually, but it plays better with the fans and the media when he acts like he doesn’t.
 
He is Boo Weekley, American character and golf folk hero. He’s Jed Clampett meets Larry the Cable Guy. He’s funny when he wants to be and sometimes even when he doesn’t. When he shot a remarkable 63 here Sunday at Innisbrook and was in danger of maybe winning the Tampa Bay Championship, it was a beautiful reminder that, hey, golf misses Boo Weekley. He’s as honest and straightforward as a stick of beef jerky and possibly the most polite man on the PGA Tour, even at age 39. No one uses “Sir” with more regularity or authenticity than Boo. You have to like him. It’s pretty much a rule.
 
His last victory was the 2008 Verizon Heritage and just about the last time we noticed Boo was during his Happy Gilmore-esque pony-ride off the first tee box at the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla. That act symbolized the fun, free-wheeling attitude that team captain Paul Azinger utilized to spark the Americans to their only Ryder Cup victory this century.
 
Boo is back. He’s not back with a victory, which would’ve been sweet. When he posted his 63, the leaders were only on the seventh hole. As it turned out, Kevin Streelman birdied two of the last six holes to edge past Boo and win by two.
 
He pretended to be slightly miffed that his good play messed up his plans. Boo was going to finish the TBC fourth round early, then drive over to Orlando and do some fishing at Bay Hill. The 63 put him in the lead, so he was going to have to wait around to see if he might be in a playoff. So, no fishing. Asked if he was going to wait, he broke into a grin and replied, “Oh, I’ll wait.”
 
When another reporter asked him what he was doing for the next three hours, Boo fell back on his stock answer. “I ain’t got a clue,” he said. Then he turned to the man and said, grinning, “Are you askin’ me on a date?”
 
A gathering of media folks burst into laughter. One thing about Boo as an interview, he never disappoints.
 
The only knock on Boo is that he’s been a non-factor since 2009. He was playing some of his best golf, then tore a labrum muscle hitting a shot at the ’09 Players. It took him three months to recover from that surgery but for a variety of reasons, including a rib problem later and some cyst removals, he never got back on his game the way he was in ’08 and ’09. Boo has been working with Scott Hamilton on his swing and said his ball-striking looks familiar again. “He’s got me believin’,” Boo said.
 
This good finish, this blazing final round, was validation for their work. But mainly, Boo said, he was just happy to finally make a cut at Innisbrook. The course is tree-lined and narrow, a lot like Harbour Town Golf Links, where he has won. The greens there are tiny and fairly flat. At the Copperhead Course, the greens are big and undulating and deceptive.
 
“We decided to start playing more break this week and I started seeing the line better,” Boo said.
 
The idea paid off. Boo got hot with his putter early, holing a 12-footer for birdie at the second, an 19-footer at the fourth and back-to-back 25-footers at the 10th and 11th holes. He stuffed it to two feet at the ninth and then, on the home stretch, played good old fashioned Boo Weekley golf, making a run of three birdies in a row. He rolled in another 20-footer at the 14th, then stuffed it inside two feet at 15 and 16 for kick-in birdies. He parred the last two holes, posted at 276, 8 under par, and headed to the clubhouse to load up on pizza and begin the waiting game.
 
A lot of good players had a chance to catch him but they all fell away as the Copperhead Course fended them off, as it usually does. Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard, Cameron Tringale, Sergio Garcia -- none could catch Boo. Only Streelman, whose previous claim to fame in golf was winning the Kodak Million Dollar Challenge, a ringer-score bonus.
 
This was a good week for Boo, who settled for second place. It felt a little bit like 2008 again when Weekley was a winner and a media phenom, had big endorsement deals with Bass Pro Shops (a match made in heaven, truly) and MasterCard, and his own line of clothing, much of it in the camouflage genre. Boo is a wise man, despite appearances. He said then that he’s not perfect, although he said it in his own inimitable way.
 
“I ain’t going to say everything I touch turns to gold or camouflage,” Boo said. “I’ve got to work hard to keep what I’ve got. Nothing comes easy to me. It never has.”
 
He didn’t win, but Boo came close. That’s good news for all of us. “I’m gettin’ there,” Boo said. “Maybe a couple more showins’ and I’ll believe even more. Maybe I’ll be tryin’ that Ryder Cup out again, you never know.”
 
He smiled. There’s fishing and golf ahead in his immediate future and he knows it.
 
“It’s gonna be fun the rest of the year,” said Boo.
 
Don’t be fooled. This man does, indeed, have a clue.

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