Editor’s Note: After a spate of fruitless haggling, the following was sent to The Reality Check News & Information Desk on the early morning hours of the ninth day of February, 2014. An angry directive from Mr. Campion to “Send to press anything that lunatic McStevens can muster” was soon followed by what appeared to be an onerous series of indecipherable texts purportedly from a golf course out west. Two separate editors then tried to coax Mr. McStevens to “Clean up the text by deadline or a carefully placed call to the Scottsdale Sheriff’s Department would produce the Draconian hellscape that befalls those with brownish skin in Arizona.”
It was two degrees when I booked this trip. A high of 12 was predicted for the following week. That’s Fahrenheit; in case these words are reaching our neighbors to the north. An escape from the cold and a vague promise of badly needed sex excreted me from relatively comfortable inertia.
The promise fizzled, predictably, so you, gentle reader, are left with this: A poorly planned, poorly executed filing for the Reality Check Sports Desk, and a chance for El Capitan to get a week off from abusing the public with his acid pen, and back to quaffing absinthe and screaming at geese.
The entire ordeal was an insult to the word planning. Gary Busey has a better outline for a toddler’s birthday party. Consequently, a few texts smeared on smartphones, and I had suddenly become a cub reporter.
With the remainder of my clothes covered in road salt and desperation, I showed up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open smartly dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and tassel loafers; the décor of choice for the sporting press.
For those who have better-focused lives, this PGA event in Scottsdale, AZ is the sole affair of the season wherein a modicum of emotion is allowed to be expressed by fans. Normally, these shindigs have all the pallor of a post-medication afternoon bridge match.
I had settled in the vaunted 16th hole, the MMA Octagon of golf, where pudgy retirees holding up “Quiet Please” paddles near the tee box are mostly ignored. Here, attendees are expected to do The Wave. Cheap trinkets are hefted into the stands. My feet were twice flattened by a wheelchair-bound fan clamoring for a set of fake mustaches. Bad shots are loudly booed, even if you are the leader, such as our protagonist Bubba Watson. Hell, a bad Wave is loudly booed. Suddenly, amidst the mayhem, one brave player went all Richard Sherman and exhorted the crowd to turn up the volume. Then he backed it up with what is known in the parlance of the damned as a “birdie!”
A white guy shot under par!
It’s a bit difficult to attach grittiness to golf professionals. Gleaming Mercedes Benz motorcars are on display at the tournament grounds. Placards next to them proudly announce their usage as courtesy cars for these jocular Brahmins. That’s right: Whilst your salt-covered shitbox is making sounds like it wants to eat its own motor, dozens of bored athletes are oozing about the beauty of the Southwest in unctuous Germanic splendor.
Waste Management is a fitting sponsor for this shindig when you consider Arizona has something on their books called the Super Extreme DUI. Pulling over drunks is good sport for the troopers out here; something to consider, as the desert sun pierces your pink, boozy flesh and the tournament grinds to a close.
It was at this point I discovered that not only was I assigned to this “piece,” but I had acquired something called an “editor.” Barely 18 goddamn minutes into “the assignment,” I received three unhinged rantings about “a deadline,” along with veiled threats of physical harm. Suspicions grew that the “editor” was unhealthily enjoying having the tables turned.
There is not much else to discuss in depth on the tournament or regarding the purported leader of it, other than his name is Bubba. But that’s not to say the man isn’t talented. Just a few short years ago, he knocked the sport’s proverbial socks off by winning golf’s Super Bowl, The Masters. And he did so with a shot a major league pitcher might not have been able to throw, much less being hit with a little metal stick.
Such talent was not on display today. Bubba was succeeding about as well me: Great hopes for expectation, failure in execution.
In a reminder of the cruelty of this ruthless game, Bubba threw his 16th tee shot into a sand bunker, made a middling escape of said trap, and did not complete his putt for par. This set up a three-way tie; normally exciting stuff. But by this time I was soused and badly in need of a cheeseburger to stave off a Turbo Mega Ultra charge from the jack-booted thugs waiting for me on the 101 loop.
The leader rode out of the 16th on a thunderous wave of jeers, as the stands emptied and I wandered among the dumpsters and Benzes wondering what kind of wine I should get after the TSA confiscated my bottle opener, and should I follow the crowd to the next tee box?
So the match was tied, and I was Reality Check’s Man on the Beat. But while pondering my options, Bubba dropped the tournament about 10 feet away, having made a poor approach shot to the 18th hole. Clumsy efforts to record the goings on were shouted down by purple-shirted security staff. The end of the tournament didn’t slow them much, as they kept after me long after the last putt dropped.
Truth is Bubba followed up his gaff with an indifferent putt, which handed the tournament to the Christie-esque Kevin Stadler, resplendent in slimming hot orange and the schoolboy glee of his first professional win. The portly Stadler is the son of former Masters winner Craig Stradler, who himself has the well-earned nickname of The Walrus. The third man left behind in this melee? Someone named DeLaet, also itching for his first win. Of course, due to the din of the clamoring fans and ditching security, I was almost too drunk to remember any of it, and was left with nary the energy for a cheap shot against Canadians.
Oh wait: Mayor of Toronto!
McStevens for the win!
So how then did Scottsdale become the Wrestlemania of golf? My guess is the locals tired of making turquoise tchotchkes and burning VWs in the desert whilst calling them “Festivals.” All I know is that I’m in a dusty parking lot staring at the Sonoran moonscape trying to remember what I rented.
I think it was gray.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey,” “Fear No Art,” “Trailing Jesus,” “Midnight for Cinderella,” and “Y.”