Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Players 2012: Big And Getting Bigger

I don’t know if it was the weather or just everybody’s mood but this year’s Players had a whole different feel from Monday through Sunday. It’s always been a party, and for a long time, that seemed to be the main focus of the people attending. But this year the events themselves, from the Military Appreciation Day on Wednesday to the final round on Sunday all seemed to have a purpose and a full draw when it comes to what the week has become.

People wanted to be there. They wanted to be a part of the military job fair on Monday. They wanted to see the stars play on Tuesday and hear what they had to say. They wanted to hear Luke Bryan on Wednesday and they wanted to watch golf when the first ball was in the air early Thursday morning.

With the unseasonably mild weather in the second half of the week, the fans were out in record numbers. There were more people there on Friday than I’ve ever seen at the tournament. And attendance figures show there were even more fans there on Sunday. People seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The players all praised the golf course as “Tough but fair. And the greens are perfect.” So all the years of moaning about the Stadium course seem to be something of the past. Not every player has to like every course, but this year, the criticisms were muted. There were plenty of new places for fans to sit, get out of the sun, cool off, get a drink and watch golf on TV.

The tournament’s new Executive Director Matt Rapp has a vision that the Players should be Jacksonville’s Kentucky Derby. He’s from Louisville and wants to bring that feel to this event. So far, he’s been successful, putting in at least a dozen places where the average fan felt like they had their own chalet pass. They’re planning on doing more next year.

The one thing that bothered me was the heckling of Kevin Na during the final round. If you spend one minute with that guy you can’t help but root for him. He’s accountable for his recent slow-play problems and says, “It’s my fault and I’m trying to fix it.” But for some guys to boo him and heckle him during arguably the biggest round of his life was wrong and unfair.

It reminded me of Hal Valdez in 1987 when he jumped into the water right before Jeff Sluman had a putt in the playoff against Sandy Lyle to win the tournament. As a spectator, it’s not our place to have a hand in the competition. It’s akin to jumping on the field and catching a ball in a baseball or football game. Na’s a nice player and I hope he gets his demons in order.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

A Tale of Two “Guys”: Tiger and Phil

I’ve been a bit of a watch geek since I was a kid. My dad tells a story of me taking apart a whole clock when I was two years old and apparently being very proud of it. So I’m always interested in what watches the players are wearing because they always have the high-end stuff.

The AP guys like Graeme McDowell and Rory McElroy have fantastic watches but a little above my pay grade. A lot of guys are Breitling or Rolex wearers and those are on my wish list.

So here’s a tale of two guys named Tiger and Phil. Both are sponsored by Rolex, Tiger just recently and Phil since the beginning of his career (Tiger’s had Rolex’s European sister brand Tudor and TAG as sponsors in the past).

I talked to Tiger four days in a row at the “flash” interview point so I wasn’t unfamiliar to him. On Sunday, he came to the interview with his watch on, a beautiful stainless steel with a black face divers watch. It looked like a new model so when he stepped off the podium I waited for a lull in the craziness that usually surrounds him and asked, “Tiger, is that a Sea Dweller you’re wearing?”

He had his back to me when I asked but when he processed the question; he turned to me and said, “What’s that?” “Sea Dweller?,” I repeated, pointing to my own wristwatch.

“Deep Sea” he quickly said, turned his back and walked off.

Deep Sea is version of the Rolex Sea Dweller, just thicker and can withstand more pressure. Tiger is a deep “free-diver” in his spare time, diving to depths without scuba gear or other assistance where possibly a regular watch couldn’t survive. It made sense that he was wearing that watch but I had to chuckle at his immediate reaction when I asked.

As an ambassador for Rolex you might think that he’d stop for at least a second to show it off or something like that. But alas, he turned his back and got out of there without another word.

You might have noticed that Phil Mickelson plays with his watch on his left wrist. Mickelson had his watch on each day when he came to the interview area and I talked with him four days in a row as well. When he finished on Sunday, he stepped off the podium toward me so I asked him the same question, “What Rolex is that you’re wearing?” Mickelson stepped toward me and held it up saying, “It’s the Cellini. I like it because it’s thin. See how it lays against my wrist?” he said as he held it up to eye level. “It’s not bulky and I can wear it while I play.”

“It’s the new Cellini?” I asked as we both admired his watch. “No,” Phil said, “I think it’s a couple years old. But I really like it.”

A chat about a watch, like a normal person would react. Even if he wasn’t an “ambassador” for the brand.

That might not seem like a big deal, but when anybody asks me about my watch, I like to engage them in conversation, figuring they might tell me something I don’t know about the watch. I get to see what they’re wearing, see what their ideas are about why they’re wearing it or whatever. I usually take it off, hand it to them. It might sound geeky but it’s something I like.

So that brief exchange with the two most famous golfers in the planet confirmed my thought about what kind of “guys” they are. I joke with my friends that Phil is “Us with money.” Tiger, on the other hand, is something completely different.