Thursday, February 21, 2008
Weekley might not know match play etiquette, but he knows how to win
By Bob Harig Special to ESPN.com
MARANA, Ariz. -- Paul Azinger might want to take note. Not only should the U.S. Ryder Cup captain be impressed with the solid game of Boo Weekley, he ought to be giddy over the fact that the tobacco-chewing, backwoods-loving golfer is not one for conceding putts in match play.
Actually, until Wednesday, Weekley didn't even realize he could.
"Honestly, I didn't know," he said.
And we believe him.
It just adds to the legend of the guy who tried to board an airplane earlier this year with bullets in his bag (he forgot they were there), used to wear rain pants during every tournament round (he had an allergic reaction to regular trousers) and once tried to wrestle an orangutan at a state fair (we can't make this up).
Originally an 11 seed, Weekley has defeated two higher-ranked opponents already this week.
Of course, there wasn't likely to be much benevolence anyway in his second-round match Thursday against Sergio Garcia at the Accenture Match Play Championship, where Weekley came away with a 3 and 1 victory over the European Ryder Cup star.
It might seem funny, but Weekley is getting the last laugh. As country as fried steak and with a Southern accent that sometimes needs interpretation, he is refreshingly naive and probably about as far removed as one can be from a PGA Tour golfer.
Case in point: his first hole Wednesday at The Gallery Golf Club. He was playing against Germany's Martin Kaymer, who hit his first putt to within a few inches of the cup. In match play, putts of that distance traditionally are conceded -- something not allowed in a stroke-play tournament.
"I'm putting down my ball, and he's looking at me and I'm looking at him, like, 'Are you going to tap it in?'" Weekley said. "[Caddie] Joe [Pyland] said, 'Just pick it up.' I'm like, 'Pick it up?'"
Apparently, Weekley, 34, had not played any form of match play since 1996, when he competed on the Scratch Tour near his home in northwest Florida.
Wonder if he gives putts to his buddies in friendly matches?
"Incredible," said Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, who smiled upon hearing the story. "We in Europe, and in Britain especially, are brought up on match play. We have match play competitions, and we sort of grow up on match play golf. Obviously in America, it's not that popular, and proven that way with Boo, who's a very, very good player, a top-50 player, and not understanding the match play ways."
Weekley, who is ranked 44th in the world, defeated Kaymer 2 and 1, then followed with the impressive victory over Garcia, making six birdies over his final 10 holes.
Weekley and Garcia have some history. Last year at the PGA Championship, they were paired for the first two rounds. Weekley kept Garcia's scorecard and wrote down the wrong number for a hole. When Garcia signed for the wrong score, he was disqualified. Amazingly, a few weeks later, it happened again at the Deutsche Bank Championship, although Garcia caught the error that time.
So there weren't a lot of friendly words between the two Thursday, nor a lot of conceded putts.
"I'm not a very good putter inside of 3 feet," said Weekley, who missed a 3-footer for par at last year's Honda Classic, costing him the victory. "That's one of my weaknesses. I feel like if I can miss one, someone else can."
At this time a year ago, Weekley was ranked 196th in the world. He lost to Mark Wilson in a playoff at the Honda -- after missing that putt. But a month later, he captured the Verizon Heritage, and he finished 23rd on the money list with more than $2.6 million. This year, he already has two top-10 finishes in five starts.
"In that American team that Mark Warren and I beat in the playoff in the World Cup, him and Heath Slocum, he was fabulous," Montgomerie said, referring to the tournament that took place this past November in China. "First time I had come across him. But he's a very good golfer, and I expect him to be in the Ryder Cup team, I really do. I think it will be interesting. Hope he has a little bit more experience in the match play game by the time we get to that stage. But I expect him to be in the Ryder Cup. He's very, very good. I was very impressed with him."
Weekley, who will play in his first Masters this year, is not too familiar with how the Ryder Cup works. He said it would be an honor to play for his country, but don't ask him to recite the format.
"I don't watch golf," he said. "I mean, I'd just rather watch fishing or hunting or NASCAR or something. It's got to be moving, man. Golf ain't moving."
Weekley played a solid back nine against Garcia, making birdies at the 12th, 13th and 16th holes to go 2 up with three holes to play. Only then did it occur to him to play a different strategy on the 17th hole, to play safe and force Garcia to make a birdie.
But it was Weekley who got the birdie, closing out the match and advancing to Friday's third round, where he will face another golfer cut from a different cloth, Woody Austin.
"I think that's why we both get on, because we're both not supposed to be here," Austin said.
Funny thing is, they could end up being teammates at the Ryder Cup. By then, perhaps Weekley will be familiar with foursomes and fourball.
As for concessions that is going to take some getting used to.
"It's very strange," Weekley said. "It's just strange to walk up there and just pick up your ball, you know what I mean? Especially when you ain't used to doing it."
Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.