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A year in golf: Tales from the Tour

FILE - In this June 18, 2006, file photo, Phil Mickelson reacts to an errant drive on the 18th hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Jim Mahoney, who collected Mickelson's broken tee from 18 in 2006, approached Mickelson's caddie during the pro-am at the Deutsche Bank Championship in September. He simply handed him an envelope that contained the broken tee and the letter. Mahoney parted with the tiny piece of U.S. Open history with hopes it could change Mickelson's luck in the tournament. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)

Jim Mahoney parted with a tiny piece of U.S. Open history with hopes it could change Phil Mickelson’s luck.

It was a broken tee in a plastic bag.

“A souvenir that money can’t buy,” Mahoney said in a telephone interview from his home in Connecticut.

Mahoney brought the tee to the Deutsche Bank Championship, along with a letter explaining the circumstances around it. This was the last tee Mickelson used at Winged Foot in the 2006 U.S. Open. His drive sailed far to the left on the 18th hole, like so many of his tee shots that Sunday, and caromed off a tent. From there, Lefty made double bogey and finished one shot behind.

The U.S. Open remains the only major keeping him from the career Grand Slam. Winged Foot haunts him more than his other five runner-up finishes.

“I was on the tee at Winged Foot, me and a friend of mine,” Mahoney said. “Phil got out his driver and was bouncing the ball off the face. Phil looked over to the 17th green and there’s a scoreboard. It showed that (Colin) Montgomerie had just double bogeyed the 18th. His whole demeanor changed. But he hits this horrendous slice.”

Thousands of fans who had crowded around the tee box took off down the sides of the fairway. Mahoney and his friend walked across the teeing ground.

“We’re the only ones there. The marshals gave up,” he said. “They were the last group to hit. And there’s Phil’s tee.”

Even after it was over, Mahoney’s said his friends told him he should put the tee on a plaque. Instead, he stored it in a drawer. He wanted Mickelson to win that day, as did half of New York. He roots for him at every major.

And that’s why he thought it might help to give it back.

Mahoney approached Mickelson’s caddie during the pro-am at the Deutsche Bank Championship in September. He simply handed him an envelope that contained the broken tee and the letter.

“I will trade the tee for a photo-op,” said the letter, addressed to Mickelson and Jim “Bones” MacKay. “You can make peace with it and win the Open in 2015. Good luck.”

MacKay was looking for Mahoney after the round for the photo. He never found him.

Moments like these give tournament golf its texture, stories that go beyond numbers on a scorecard and trophies on a mantle. Here are more from this year’s collection of “Tales from the Tour.”

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Rory McIlroy had a long day at The Players Championship, and it wasn’t over when he signed his card. There was an interview with Sky Sports, PGA Tour radio, Golf Channel, another radio station, the writers and then the PGA Tour’s website.

A large crowd behind a gated section began calling out to him as McIlroy walked away, wanting his autograph. McIlroy looked at the crowd, then at the clubhouse.

That’s when his caddie, J.P. Fitzpatrick, stepped in.

“Those kids over there have followed you all day,” he told McIlroy. “You need to sign for them.”

McIlroy reached for the pen in his back pocket, walked over to the kids and spent the next 15 minutes with them.

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Monday at the PGA Championship was a time to get registered, maybe hit a few putts but otherwise take it easy during the busiest stretch of the year. Matt Kuchar intended to do just that, and he pulled up a chair at a patio table to join Jim “Bones” MacKay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson.

MacKay pointed out that Kuchar was sitting in a famous chair.

OK, it wasn’t the same chair. But it’s where Rocco Mediate was sitting at Valhalla during the 2000 PGA Championship. Mediate was close to qualifying for the Presidents Cup that year. The chair broke suddenly and Mediate injured an already tender back. He withdrew from the final major. He didn’t make the Presidents Cup team.

That was before Kuchar joined the PGA Tour. He had never heard the story.

Kuchar was running errands that afternoon when he was stuck in traffic so long that he wound up with a sore back. Three days later, he withdrew from the PGA at Valhalla.

Beware the chair.

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Jordan Spieth describes her as the girl who keeps the family grounded, and the funniest member of the Spieth clan.

That would be Ellie, his 14-year-old sister who was born with neurological challenges. And she was part of the entourage at the Deutsche Bank Championship, watching big brother Jordan on the golf course while walking with her other brother, Steven, who plays basketball at Brown. She was talking to anyone who would listen about her big brothers and what they do.

The gallery was held back behind the seventh green while players and their caddies got on carts to take them to the next tee. Spieth spotted his little sister and waved her over. Ellie ran to the cart and sat on her big brother’s lap as they drove off.

She looked like the happiest person at TPC Boston. And so did Spieth.

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British humor has no rival in golf.

At the annual caddie awards dinner at the HSBC Champions, a slide show presenting the year in golf was on the screen. Bubba Watson won the Masters. Martin Kaymer won the U.S. Open. Andrew Cotter of the BBC was the host for the dinner, and according to several caddies in attendance, Cotter mentioned how it wasn’t long before one player took over the world of golf by winning two majors.

The dramatic commentary was accompanied by the next photo — Colin Montgomerie.

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On Monday after the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the course was filled with a few corporate partners and several members of the CBS Sports crew, mainly the staff that never gets attention or publicity for the invaluable work on the broadcast.

Jim Nantz treated this Monday like any other. He lives not far from the 18th green. His wife, Courtney, was in the final months of her pregnancy. Every morning, they take as beautiful of a walk as there is in golf along the coast at Pebble Beach to the par-3 seventh green, where they were married.

This walk took longer than usual. Each time Nantz passed a group from the CBS crew, they wanted to hear his commentary on their shots.

Nantz delivered, as he often does.

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Patrick Rodgers of Stanford was honored at the Memorial with the Jack Nicklaus Award as college player of the year. That included a trip to Muirfield Village and a presentation hosted by Nicklaus.

That was memorable on its own.

Typical of Nicklaus, he stayed around after the presentation to talk with Rodgers and the rest of the winners from the various divisions. Looking at Rodgers right in the eye, Nicklaus said, “You ever need anything at all, just call me.”

Nicklaus didn’t break the eye contact until Rodgers nodded back.


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