(Editor’s Note: Throughout the Bridgestone Invitational, pro golfer Rickie Fowler is teaming up with the Beacon Journal’s Bob Dyer to write a daily column. This is the second installment in their series.)
The 16th hole at Firestone South is 667 yards, the second longest on the entire PGA Tour. For decades it has been known as “The Monster.”
They tell me Arnold Palmer named it, exasperated after recording an ugly triple bogey.
Well, I didn’t have much trouble with Arnie’s beast during the opening round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday. I hit three solid shots and then rolled in a 9-foot putt to card a birdie.
Unfortunately, a couple of holes later, I created “The Monster II.”
The way I played No. 18, you’d have thought Bob Dyer and I switched places.
Here’s how it went:
1. Pulled my drive into the left rough, behind a bunch of trees.
2. Tried to whack an iron through a space about 6 feet wide, but clipped the tree on the left, and the ball shot back behind me, almost touching a tree trunk.
3. Without much room for a back swing, bashed it forward into the fairway.
4. Chipped it a little long, and it stopped on the back edge of the green, against the fringe.
5. Just missed a chip-in.
6. Missed the putt.
A triple bogey. Ouch.
Every golfer in the world has a hole like that occasionally. The important thing to remember when it happens is that it’s just one hole out of 72. You have to put it behind you immediately and keep looking forward.
Because Lee Westwood and I started on the back 9, No. 18 was actually only my ninth hole of the day. So I had time to crank it up again, and I did. I finished strong and wound up at even par.
And you know what? If I had it to do over again, I’d still try to sneak my second shot through those trees. It’s a high-risk, high-reward situation, and those are fun. You’ve gotta go for it!
Overall, I thought I played well. I was flirting with birdies all day long and carded six, including two on my last three holes.
My final hole, No. 9, ranked as the toughest on the course last year, but I hit the green in regulation and drilled a 24-footer.
The crowd gave me a nice ovation, which I always appreciate.
There were lots of folks out there Thursday — an excellent turnout for the first round of play.
It was also nice to see so many people wearing my clothing line. Obviously, a golfer can’t spend much time looking at the crowd when he’s working, but you can’t help noticing the folks in my gear.
The colors are bold and bright, and the caps are big and puffy with the outline of the Puma logo. I work closely with the company on the designs and colors, and I really enjoy it.
Most of us on the tour make more money from endorsements than from tournament winnings. Not that the purses are insignificant — at Firestone this week, the guy who finishes first will walk away with a check for $1.4 million. Wouldn’t mind having my name on that puppy.
At this point, I have 12 corporate sponsors, which feels about right. The companies are not too demanding of my time. Mostly I do little photo and video shoots here and there.
It’s fun being a part of things, but you don’t want to get into a situation where all your time is locked up.
One of my corporate partners really helps give me extra time: NetJets.
The company sells fractional ownership in its big fleet of private planes. I’m part of its Marquis Jets program, which is for people who don’t need more than 50 flying hours per year. Instead of owning part of the plane, we buy chunks of flying time.
I flew into Akron-Canton Airport on Tuesday evening (a day ahead of Air Force One, fortunately) with Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. We each contributed some of our flying hours, so it was definitely cost-effective.
I don’t fly privately all the time — if we’re going into, say, Atlanta, it’s pretty easy to fly commercially — but in many cases we can get where we need to be much faster.
You want to leave enough leisure time so you don’t burn out on golf. I try to get out and do things when I’m in various cities. Last year, the rock group O.A.R. was playing in Cleveland with my buddy Kelley James, and I got to see the show and hang out with them.
I really wanted to get up to a Browns practice in Berea this week so I could watch my pal Brandon Weeden, another former Oklahoma State Cowboy. I talked to Brandon on Tuesday night about coming up, but I just don’t think I’ll be able to swing it.
Football fans and commentators keep talking about how old he is for a rookie, but I don’t see it as a problem. Sure, he’ll turn 28 this fall, but he’s got a young body. He hasn’t been hit very much. It would be different if he had been playing football for 15 years leading up to this, but his former career in baseball kept him pretty well preserved.
He’s obviously got a great arm and he’s very mature. It will be fun to see what he can do.
But now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m eager to head out and see what I can do in Round 2.
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