"Sometimes I feel as if I'm in hot pursuit," Heintz said last week, picking up on the Smokey and the Bandit analogy, "but then sometimes I feel as if what I'm pursuing is mediocrity." That was certainly the case on Saturday afternoon, when Heintz pushed into contention at 11 under only to fall back with three bogeys in four holes before play was suspended because of darkness. "He probably needs to clear his head," said Bob's mother, Elsa, watching her son hike back to the clubhouse alone, a silhouette at twilight.
Later, while Bob and his very pregnant wife, Nancy, waited for room service and got Eryn, 5, and Phillip John, 2, ready for bed, the erstwhile web columnist let out an exhausted sigh. A crabby P.J. had kept him up all night on Friday, he said, and he had to start his second round at the crack of dawn before going out again for round three in the afternoon. "As I grow more fatigued, I weaken mentally," Heintz said. "I start thinking about what can go wrong instead of pulling the trigger."
Heintz's spasm of self-doubt will come as no surprise to fans who e-mailed him letters of encouragement and the occasional scolding as he missed 25 cuts in 34 tournaments and struggled to 184th on the 2000 Tour money list. One reader likened him to "a kid standing in the main gate to Disney World and just staring" and wrote, "I don't think you have the killer instinct to be a professional golfer." The e-mailer added, "Please don't take offense."
An angry Heintz used his column to fire back. "Do you understand it is not possible," he wrote, "to tell a professional that he sucks at his job and then ask him not to be offended in the very next sentence?"
"I didn't figure on being criticized for what I wrote," Heintz says. "I was trying to provide a lighthearted look at Tour life, and some people inferred that I wasn't serious enough about what I was doing. It hit me hard." In fact, Heintz sometimes felt like throwing his laptop in the nearest water hazard. "Every Monday night I had to write about how bad I was the week before. That kind of beat me down," he says. He regained his Tour card in December at Q school, but the three-time Ivy League champ doesn't plan to resume the column anytime soon. "There are too many experts at home behind their computers," he says.
No matter. As Heintz's swing deserted him last week, he served up the usual polished analysis, saying, "The last two weeks I've hit the ball better on Monday and gotten progressively worse the rest of the week. I need to learn to peak in the opposite direction."
There was, of course, no Gleason at the Honda to cheer up Heintz. That was a shame, because in Gleason's day, when players such as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Weiskopf won the trophies and celebs such as Joe DiMaggio, Evel Knievel and Andy Williams turned the heads, no chin stayed down for long.
"Jackie turned it into a party," says Cliff Danley, the tournament's veteran executive director. "He called everybody Pal. He drank, he ate, he smoked, he did whatever he wanted, and by getting his Hollywood friends to come, he put Broward County on the map." One year, after undergoing heart bypass surgery, Gleason ordered Danley to bring five-gallon cartons of chili and a couple of gallons of ice cream to his Inverrary mansion to help him convalesce. "Jackie's idea of cutting back was switching to filtered from nonfiltered cigarettes." Danley smiled at the memory. "It was a different time, the '70s. Things were less serious."
No one mentioned Gleason during a press conference last Saturday morning at Heron Bay, but you could take the proceedings as a sanitized, corporate version of "and a-way we go." Next year's tournament, it was announced, will be played on an Arthur Hills-designed course at the Country Club of Mirasol, a luxury development in Palm Beach County. The following three years the Honda will be held at a $10 million-plus, 7,500-yard Tom Fazio layout now under construction at Mirasol. As for the 25-year deal that had seemingly bound the tournament to Heron Bay and Coral Springs, the parties have agreed to file that under Wishful Thinking. "We really thought we had a 25-year home," said Classic Foundation president Cy Case, who acknowledged, with a wistful shrug, that even a warm chocolate-chip cookie sometimes crumbles.
Heintz, meanwhile, played his final round at Heron Bay as if he'd been up all night watching The Honeymooners. "I hit, like, four fairways and maybe half the greens," he said after shooting a 73 and finishing 54th. "If it weren't for my short game, I'd have shot 76." Asked if the blandness of the course had lulled him off his game, he shook his head and said, "I don't have anything bad to say about this course. It's gotten more criticism than it deserves."