“I want to see Rickie Fowler.”

“We have to see Rickie Fowler,” the young boy compels his father, standing beside the first green at Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club. There is an urgency in his small voice as he tugs at his father’s wrist, a white-and-orange Puma hat – too big for his little head – pulled down low across his shaggy brow.

The man takes one last look at the three men standing on the first green and, finally, relents, walking at pace in the opposite direction.

The men take no notice that their gallery has just been cut in half. They used to be the Rickie Fowlers of the world; people used to flock to their corner of the golf course, just to catch a glimpse. Maybe score an autograph. But today, over the next nine holes, they won’t have to turn down a single request. None are made.

One of the players – the eldest – misses a short par putt and slips to 2-over par, unable to capitalize on a deft chip from the thick rough behind the green. It’s just like U.S. Open rough, some of the players have complained this week. Maybe even worse.

It‘s no wonder he‘s so good from it; he’s won two of them. But now it’s a steady stream of 7am tee times, many of them starting on the back nine, just like today. A warm-up act for the big boys. So, Lee Janzen just saunters over toward the second tee, his chances of seeing the weekend in Vancouver quickly slipping away.

On the right side of the second fairway there is an old man in grey slacks, a sky-blue sweater and a white Hogan-style hat. I ask him who he’s come out to watch.

“Duval, I guess,” he says, as if unsure.

Why?

“Well, I saw him some time ago in Palm Springs when he was at his best, and I told all of my friends that I’d seen the man who was going to be the best golfer in the world for the next ten years.”

We both laughed, acknowledging the absurdity.

But there was a time when that notion was widespread. When David Duval was capable of posting a 59. When his bag was covered in Nike Swooshes instead of Perky Jerky logos. When he was the #1 Ranked player in the world. Luke Donald, beware.

Today, Duval will struggle to a middling 3-over-par 73, without even threatening a smile.

Approaching the sixth green, in close proximity to Shaughnessy’s clubhouse, the group finally receives a decent amount of applause from a sizeable crowd. But by the time they clean up their putts and exit the green, only a sparse few follow along, the majority waiting to watch the next two groups, with fresh names like Mahan and Moore, Oosthuizen and Ogilvy, their best years still ahead.

The threesome stands on the 7th tee, a dogleg right par-5, waiting for the fairway to clear. They each take out a fresh bottle of water from the nearby cooler and finally, it seems, begin to converse; small talk. One of a thousand such meaningless conversations held in different cities, various countries, throughout the year.

Janzen begins a story about Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos quarterback of University of Florida fame. He’s recently played a round of golf with the man, and seems impressed.

“He’s got some serious lag,” says Janzen, telling a story of some distant fence Tebow managed to clear with a drive.

Notah Begay III, the last member of the trio, leans over David Duval’s bag, examining a Nike Hybrid that sits without a headcover. “I hate that one,” he says, laughing.

Duval blocks his drive right and they head in separate directions once again.

A couple of twenty-somethings, holding mid-day beers in either fist, meet the group near the green, stopping only briefly on their way to another hole.

“That’s Tiger’s best friend,” one says to the other. “I bet he’s got some stories.”

And it’s true, he is Tiger’s best friend, a designation that seems to have overshadowed Begay’s own career to this point, despite having four PGA Tour titles to his name, the last coming in 2000. The two men were roommates at Stanford and have remained close ever since.

In fact, the first question Begay will answer following his round will be about the recent split between Woods and his long-time caddie Steve Williams; his opinion more important than his score today, a wholly unimpressive 4-over 74.

But there is a small light at the end of the dim tunnel for at least one of these players, as Lee Janzen will show good form over his last few holes – nearly knocking in a 30-foot eagle putt on the 7th – and finish with pars on eight and nine for a 1-under-par 69, well in contention on the difficult Shaughnessy layout.

He will walk to the scoring tent without fanfare, over to the chipping green without a single interview request, back down into that lush U.S. Open-style rough, to possibly remind himself that he still belongs out here with the young guns. That he is not, indeed, forgotten.

Note: The Janzen, Duval, Begay threesome will tee off the 1st tee at 12:30pm on Friday afternoon in the second round of the RBC Canadian Open.

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1 Comment

  1. CMerv
    July 22, 2011

    Great article Travis. Look forward to more material as the weekend unfolds.

    Craig

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