SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Chaos and confusion still rule at the soon to be re-branded Wasted Time Management Scottsdale Ski Resort Open. Fans wondered around in a daze Friday staring hopelessly at pairings sheets like they were trying to solve advanced Sudoku puzzles. And those were the sober ones. No one had a clue who was playing off which tee with whom or at what time. Abbott and Costello, anyone? Who’s on first, what’s on second, I dunno’s on third.
Out of the Scottsdale shambles strode Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey—a nickname he earned not because he used to be a mob hit man who didn’t like getting blood on his hands, but because of a habit he couldn’t kick of wearing a pair of gloves playing baseball as a kid.
The 35-year-old from Bishopville, S.C., finished Friday in a share of the lead with Mark Wilson at 11 under par. Gainey completed nine holes of his second round to add to a first-round 63 that began on Thursday with two pars from just two holes before darkness fell.
“I’ve been playing terrible,” Gainey said. “But the putts are starting to drop now and when that happens you can shoot unbelievable scores.”
Gainey has taken a long and hard road to see his name writ large on the leaderboard at Scottsdale. He worked on an assembly line in South Carolina before deciding to follow his dream and his idol Freddie Couples into golf’s professional ranks. He served his time on the mini tours at deadbeat stops around the U.S. until he got his big break winning, well, “The Big Break VII” reality show on the Golf Channel. Now he’s looking for his big break on the PGA Tour.
Gainey completed his first round mid-afternoon Friday, but because of the huge delays, he had no time for even a comfort break, let alone a big break, before setting out almost immediately to begin his second round, scheduled for 1.30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. EST).
“There’s no time for him to stop and talk,” said a PGA Tour official. “You don’t want him to be penalized two shots for being late for his tee time, do you?”
A moot point considering Gainey was already late, as he didn’t emerge from the recorder’s hut until 1:42 p.m. So he really didn’t have a nailed-down tee time at all. His tee time was basically “as soon as you can get there, buddy.” Gainey had just enough time to skip up the steps of the clubhouse to the player’s buffet area to grab a chicken sandwich and a bottle of Coke. His caddie had to pull him away from signing autographs and frog-march his man down the hill to the 10th tee.
“I was trying to eat and drink on the run and that’s hard to do,” Gainey said. “But I was in a groove having just shot 8 under par. I was ready to go back out there.”
Gainey won twice last year on the Nationwide Tour and was one of a Nationwide Tour-record four players to earn more than $400,000. He finished fourth on the money list, banking $403,957.
Every dollar counts at Gainey’s end of the PGA Tour food chain. Now that he’s a small fish in a big pond full of sharks, Gainey is finding out just how tough it is to make a living on Tour. No one saw this performance coming — he hadn’t made a cut all year until this week. Maybe the freezing weather has made his penchant for wearing two gloves an advantage. In temperatures as cold as these (as low as 40 degrees today), it would be appropriate for the champion to be the only guy left with 10 toasty fingers. The bad news for Big Break’s Gainey is that the Big Thaw is coming over the weekend.