Liam was smart. It was a wicked May day. The temperature was about 45�, the wind was howling, and it was pouring rain. Nowhere—except in Ireland and Scotland-is golf played in such weather. Jack brought two hot toddies to the 1st tee and said, "Pro, you were too serious yesterday." He handed me one of the drinks. "This is the way we play in Ireland."
The weather got worse and worse. We're talking Caddyshack stuff. The par-5 holes were driver, three-wood, three-wood, short iron. The par-4s were driver, three-wood, short iron. When we made the turn, the club captain met us with more toddies and Liam Higgins, who had cap in hand and was apologizing for being late. He stepped up to the tee bundled in sweaters and rain gear, teed his ball as high as a soda can and, without so much as a practice swing, ripped a 350-yard drive right down the middle. I certainly didn't feel like Tiger Woods any longer, especially after Jack beat me again, 2 and 1.
We heard some great stories from Higgins and the caddies. Tiger and Mark O'Meara had been to Waterville before the '98 British Open. "They're great golfers," one caddie said, "but they're not much as fishermen." He said they had fished a couple of days without catching a single salmon. The locals really wanted them to enjoy their week and come back, so one of the fishing guides quietly hooked a salmon and played with the fish for a while, letting it run with the line until it was exhausted. Then he told Tiger, "I have to go in. Here, why don't you use this pole?" After a minute or two, Tiger started reeling in the line and felt something. He was very excited about "catching" a big, beautiful salmon, and the caddie said it had made Tiger's week. "Now don't be tellin' Tiger about this," the caddie said. I promised I wouldn't, and yes, Tiger and O'Meara did go back to Waterville.
The next morning we were taken to a place called Old Head, which I had been told is the most spectacular course in the world. Sure enough, it is. The course is on headland, 220 acres that had been nothing but rock. The topsoil was brought in for the course. Everyone is familiar with the spectacular ocean holes at Pebble Beach, the 7th through the 10th. Old Head has 12 holes just like them, only with 100-foot cliffs. Of course, it was blowing a gale, cold and raining.
Old Head is an amazing place. The course is set amid the ancient ruins of stone houses used by herdsmen 1,500 years ago. Their walls are five or six feet thick. They were breathtaking, as was Jack's performance after he missed a five-footer for par on the 3rd hole. He spun around like Al Oerter and heaved his putter into the ocean. At least we thought it went into the ocean—we couldn't be sure because it was 100 feet straight down over the cliff. Jack's outburst was hysterically funny, but my caddie's eyes got big. "He's gone too far now!" he said. "He's bloody mad!" The caddies trod lightly around Jack the rest of the day, but they needn't have. That's just Jack.
We thought we had been treated like kings at the first three places we played, but Jim Dooley, the Tiger Woods of club captains, topped them all at Tralee. Jack and I voted him the Nicest Man Ever. Jack and I were not allowed to lift a hand. If we wanted a drink, the Nicest Man Ever ran off and got one. He bought lunch. He made sure we received shirts and sweaters.
Tralee is a fairly new course, but because of the way it fits the land, it looks as if it was built 100 years ago. It was the best course we had played. The Nicest Man Ever played with us, but he would just quick-hit his shots so as not to slow us down. Jack chipped in again to beat me one up and was getting quite annoying. Each day, when my chances of winning were all but gone, he would rub it in by saying, "Dorrrrrrmie" with about six R's. On the 17th hole at Tralee he was starting to smile when I cut him off. "I know, I know," I said. "Dormie." We had another wonderful dinner that night, which I sponsored. Jack said I should come along on his Irish trip every year because it was getting cheaper and cheaper.
I call the fifth day of our trip the Tide Has Turned Day. We moved out of the hotel and drove two hours to Ballybunion to play the Old Course. I was stunned when we pulled into town. Tom Watson has been coming to Ballybunion for years on his way to the British Open. He's redesigning a course in the area, and the Irish have always loved him. Therefore when we saw a large statue of a golfer in full swing, I was stunned that it was a likeness of Bill Clinton, not Watson. Watson is here year after year, nothing. Clinton is here once, and they break records getting up a statue.
I was fired up to play Ballybunion, and to beat Jack, so while he was in the clubhouse, probably having his Irish whiskey, I worked on my stroke on the putting clock, the first time I had practiced the entire trip. Nancy and Karen came with us. Jack said the trip had finally started to fulfill its purpose, that I was loosening up and having fun, living the game again instead of just playing for a score. Somewhere on the back nine Jack chipped in again. Right on cue I made my eight-foot birdie putt to top him and pointed, just like Hubert Green did when he stiffed it at Cherry Hills in the '85 PGA. "The tide has turned," I told Jack. "I'm not putting up with you chipping in again." I absolutely trounced Jack in the match and arranged for a little chorus, too. When Jack missed a putt on the key hole, our wives, our caddies and I all screamed, "Dorrrrrrmier in unison. Payback is sweet.
You can't leave Ballybunion without having a Guinness. Even Karen drank one down without making a face. We piled into our car and drove two hours to Adare Manor, a 300-year-old castle where you can fish, ride horses, shoot skeet, play golf—just about anything. We wandered into the bar and met the owners, Tom and Judy Kane, Americans who had bought the place, renovated it and proved to be perfect hosts. I noticed a picture of them posed with Bill and Hilary Clinton. It was on the wall behind the door. "I thought I put it where nobody would see it," Tom said. "They stayed here and took all these formal pictures, so I felt some obligation to put the photo up." He said Clinton has messed up the best job in the world, that of being a former President.