St. Louis — Of course, Rickie Fowler would’ve given the world to have worn the blue shirt he’d laid out for Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship.
Instead, he put on bright yellow — a shirt that matched the color hat his buddy Jarrod Lyle liked to wear when he played.
Lyle, an Aussie golfer, died Wednesday night after a long bout with leukemia. Tributes to him were everywhere at Bellerive Country Club, mainly in the form of yellow ribbons that many players pinned to their hats.
Fellow Aussie Jason Day lived across the street from Lyle in Orlando during their early playing days.
“It’s hard because you sit there and you know him and he’s a buddy of yours, and he’s not there anymore,” said Day, who choked up discussing the former PGA Tour player, who died at age 36.
Fowler wore a yellow pin on his hat last week, after Lyle announced he was ending treatment. He wanted to do something more this time.
“You think about it as far as, Jarrod wouldn’t want us out here feeling sorry for him or feeling bad or anything,” Fowler said. “(He’d) probably come out here and kick us in the butt and tell us to man up and go have some fun.”
It’s hard to blame club pro Matt Dobyns for thinking big.
He opened the day with three straight birdies.
“You start dreaming, you see your name up there, I’m two back of the lead, you think, ‘What the hell?’ You never know,” Dobyns said.
Almost as quickly, the dream was over.
Dobyns blocked his tee shot on the fifth hole into the right rough. On his second shot, he pounded down into a tree root and the ball popped up and advanced about 4 feet. He didn’t know he had broken his 4-iron, so he lined up for another swing. The clubhead sawed off and went almost as far as the ball. That resulted in the first of two triple-bogeys, and he finished the round shooting 76.
The lesson from all this?
“We always come back to the mean,” Dobyns said. “You don’t know how long that wave’s going to last. They key is to not go crashing off the wave and onto the barrier reef.”
Instead of challenging for the lead, Dobyns will have to scramble to make the cut for the first time in his five trips to the PGA.
But, boy, was that a start to remember.
“I’m just thinking, this is how it’s supposed to go,” he said. “I mean, I know that streak’s not going to just keep going. But I’ve been coming out of the gate really strong all year long. It wasn’t a surprise. I felt fresh. I hit good shots.”
It’s the sort of thing you’d see at the local muni. Justin Thomas saw it at the PGA Championship.
On his final hole of the day, he drove into a fairway bunker, and the ball came to rest inside an un-raked pitch mark. The defending champion had no choice but to pitch out, and ended up making bogey to close out the day with a 1-under 69.
Disappointed? Yes. But it could’ve been worse.
“I’ve never had my ball end up in somebody else’s pitch mark in a bunker before,” he said. “That was a pretty terrible break on my last hole. Could have cost me one or two strokes. It’s just unfortunate for someone not to rake it, but it is what it is.”
Paired with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy for the first two days, Tiger Woods is getting an up-close look at the next generation of golf.
It’s one of the unique parts of golf.
Woods spoke at the champion’s dinner this week, and told of playing at Valhalla alongside Jack Nicklaus, who was in his final PGA in 2000.
At that time, Nicklaus told Woods about playing with Gene Sarazen at the PGA when the Squire was winding down his career.
And in the clubhouse when Woods made his winning putt in 2000: 7-year-old Thomas.
“It’s interesting what this game of golf can do,” Woods said.
A bogey-double bogey start left Woods scrambling to stay close Thursday.
After having his caddie grab his backup shirt from the bag, Woods popped into a restroom near the 12th tee box, put on the dry shirt and shot 3 under the rest of the way to finish at even-par 70. That kept him within six shots of the leader Gary Woodland.