SAN FRANCISCO — The two most important words on my media badge — “Inside Ropes” — earned me a proposition from a member of the crowd at Harding Park on Saturday.
“Hey, I’ll trade you my beer for your badge,” said a woman who’d clearly had already enjoyed a few.
If the temperature had been higher than 55 degrees, the offer would have been more appealing. But up-close access at the Presidents Cup beats 12 ounces of flat Miller Lite any day.
Here are a few things I saw and heard today.
Still a Diplomat
It was announced on the first tee that Condoleezza Rice, the former national security adviser and secretary of state, would be following Phil Mickelson and Sean O’Hair’s match against Vijay Singh and Tim Clark. LPGA stars Julie Inkster and Pat Hurst were also walking with the group.
Interestingly, Rice recently became a member of Shoal Creek in her native Birmingham, Ala. The club is still remembered by many golfers for not allowing black members until it was pressured into adding one just before the 1990 PGA Championship.
“If I could improve my chipping, I’d be dangerous,” said Rice, who is now back at Stanford.
When they’re free, be generous
As Phil Mickelson strolled up to the fourth tee box, a fan called out, “Hey Phil, I bought your DVD!”
Another fan standing next to him called out, “Yeah, and he’s left-handed.”
Mickelson smiled, reached into his pocket and tossed the fan his golf ball.
On the seventh hole, after hitting his approach shot from the fairway over the green and then sending a flop shot 25 feet past the hole, Mickelson said to his caddie, “Let’s switch numbers.” Jim MacKay reached into Mickelson’s bag and pulled out a new ball, a number 3.
Mickelson then handed the ball he had been using, a number 2, to a young boy who was standing nearby.
No one is going to mistake Tim Clark for a bomber off the tee. His driving average was just 278 yards during the 2009 PGA Tour season.
But Clark hit his tee shot perfectly on the 605-yard, par-5 sixth hole Saturday, sending the ball 296 yards and earning “Nice shot” comments from everyone on the box.
As the ball gently curved from right to left, Mickelson, who averages 300 yards per drive, whistled and said, “Wow, Timmy’s stepping it up. How’s your shoulder man?”
Clark, a South African who was an All-American at North Carolina State, laughed and rolled his right arm in circles.
It wasn’t all smiles on the sixth tee. After an over-eager photographer fired a few shots of Mickelson as he was addressing the ball, MacKay yelled, “C’mon guys!”
After Mickelson piped his drive well over 300 yards and started walking down the fairway with the other players, MacKay made a beeline toward the photographer, who was crouching by the ropes on the right.
“Do that again and you’re outta here pal. Got it?”
Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’s caddie who once tossed a fan’s camera into a lake, would have been proud.