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By the end of the first day, Trixler had shot a four-over 76. Our team shot 68, six behind the leaders. I say this with all honesty and candor: Linus and Lucy could've beaten us.
We Tour players sleep fitfully if we end the day on a bogey or, in my case, six bogeys in eight holes. That is why Tour players practice after their round, often until dusk. In fact, Tour players feel the need to practice after their round even if they've shot 66. I asked Trixler why. "Mostly guilt," he said. "Most of the time it doesn't help anyway. You're just out there doing penance. You see another guy out there putting, and you don't want to get passed, so you do it yourself. If Catholicism had an official sport, it would be golf."
The truly devoted keep practicing long after the sun punches out. They say Billy Casper putted so much at home that he had to change the carpet in his house every few years. Nowadays Andrew Magee may be the Tour's best hotel/motel practicer. I asked for a few tips.
"First thing you have to do is get a room with blackout curtains," Magee said. Apparently you shut those big, thick drapes and, voila, instant golf range. "Start with full wedge shots," he said. "The window won't break. You can pretty much go through all your short irons and not break the window." I had only one question: Wouldn't you break a lot of windows until you found just the right thickness of curtain? "Well," he said, "one night I'd had a few beers, and I was ticked off because I missed the cut, and I went back and started hitting full wedge shots into the curtain. I guess I didn't care if the window broke or not, but it didn't."
Magee also recommended getting a cheap hotel room whenever possible. The cheaper the hotel, the thinner the carpet pad, which means the faster and truer the putts roll. Anything over $69 a night isn't going to help your putting a damn.
On Friday, Trix and I went out to Poppy Hills and didn't knock it into the Pacific Ocean once. Instead we hit it into and off of every tree in the Del Monte Forest. I had to chip out of the trees on holes 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. It was my personal Arbor Day.
O.K., so Trix was not at his best this week, either. He threw a little six-over 78 at the field on Friday, which left him only 15 shots behind the leader. He was really playing great. Hitting it long. Putting well. He has brunch reservations Sunday.
And yet, somehow, we shot a team score of 65 on Friday. The AT&T Pro-Am is a best-ball tournament. Since my handicap is 15, I got a free shot on each round's 15 hardest holes. Pros, of course, get no free shots. So if Trix made a 4 and I made a 4 on one of my free-shot holes, then our team score for that hole was 3. Things just seemed to work out on Friday. Every time I was stuck chipping out from behind a Georgia-Pacific crew, Trix was making par. And every time Trix was finding new and inventive ways to make a 6, I was banking one off two blue spruces, a pine tree and Bambi for par. After two days we were only two shots off the cut. I could just feel Sunday morning coming down.
Schulz and his pro were still three shots ahead of us, though. Schulz not only has a great sense of humor and more money than Saudi Arabia, he also has a helluva golf game. On Friday he knocked the ball four feet from the hole on a par-5—in two. I loathe that man.
During a wait I asked Trix what he would do if he won a tournament. He talked as if he'd had his answer ready for years. "First of all, I'd cry," he said. "Then I'd hug my wife. Then I'd rent the Golden Gate Bridge and throw the largest party in the history of San Francisco. The best wines and abalone for everybody. Spend $50,000 on it. Limos. The works. And everybody would go home knowing the greatest feeling in the history of life."