PALM BEACH GARDENS -- Boo Weekley teed off at the Honda Classic at 6:45 a.m. Thursday as the pre-dawn darkness faded. The last Boo Weekley Honda Classic round anybody remembers ended in near darkness of sunset.
And that’s not right. Because Weekley doesn’t dwell on the dark side of things. In fact, if not for the sunny, genial way he’s treated people around the PGA Tour over the years, he might not be on it now.
“I’ve got fond memories of here,” Weekley said of PGA National after his 4-under-par 66 on Thursday. “I’ve got one bad one, but other than that, it’s all good. But, really, it wasn’t a bad one. I just choked. That’s the bottom line. I have a 3-footer to win, and I just choked.”
That was 2007, the Honda’s first year at PGA National after four years across the street at Mirasol. In one of the most memorable Honda Classic finishes, Weekley came to the 18th green just needing to two-putt the last 30 feet for a par to win his first PGA event. He pushed the second putt, the 3-footer, past the hole. Mark Wilson won a four-player Monday playoff.
Weekley went on to win the first of two consecutive Verizon Heritage tournaments a month later. But much like another PGA golfer whose last name starts with ‘W’ — and who sits four shots behind Weekley going into Friday’s second round — the last couple of years haven’t been as good as 2007 and 2008 were to Weekley.
Weekley sank to 116th on the money list in 2010. He fell to 180th on the money list in 2011 as he missed the cut in 11 of 23 events. He missed 12 of 25 last year but managed four top 10s to get up to 111th on the money list. To get into events last year, he often needed sponsor exemptions.
“It’s tough when you have to write letters,” Weekley said. “And, thank the good Lord that I have been friendly enough and been an outgoing guy to a lot of these tournaments. I’ve done about everything they’ve asked me to do, so they let me in like last year, because I was playing on all sponsor exemptions. I got in enough just to keep my [PGA] card. It’s an honor to be able to say that they called up me up and asked me to play that many times.”
Though being so affable worked out, it wasn’t strategic.
“I’m an outgoing guy,” he said. “I enjoy people. My dad was a pharmacist and I grew up with people coming and going in the business that he ran. So, you kind of learn to mingle with everybody. Doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor, you can hang out with whoever.”
In contrast to his sleek peers who glide with such smooth style and seem to be modeling golf wear while demonstrating golf clubs, Weekley looks like a regular guy enjoying a Saturday morning 18-hole escape. Others donned solid color shirt-and-sweater combinations in Thursday’s early chill. Weekley swaggered about in a striped short-sleeve shirt usually not recommended for the almost-40 spreading opulence.
If the panhandle Florida native — and big University of Alabama fan — is on a magazine cover, it would be Field & Stream. Weekley did an alligator call at a gator hanging out in the pond splitting Nos. 14 and 15. He says often focusing on golf now will allow him all the time he wants later to shoot turkey (or whatever’s in season).
Describing the slowing of his whole putting procedure, Weekley said: “Kind of like when I’m shooting my guns long range; I have to take a deep breath and exhale, blow it out and then pull the trigger. Scott Hamilton, my coach, he’s kind of helped me on that side to get it more natural where it just flows instead of just sitting there, you tense up.”
Life on the brink defines pressure. Wes Welker dropped a key fourth-quarter pass in the Super Bowl for New England. New England likely will sign Welker to a nice, fat, new contract 14 months later. If a No. 4 wide receiver for the Dolphins drops the same pass in the fourth quarter of a regular-season game, his NFL career could be done 14 hours later.
I once talked to a PGA Tour player who had worked his way up from the lower-rung tours. He said there’s no more pressure playing for the big check at a PGA Tour event than playing any event “when you’re not making money and you need to make money.”
While acknowledging the week-to-week pressure and the uncertainty in planning a schedule, Weekley said: “I didn’t feel like I had a lot of pressure because the worst thing that can happen is I go back to the Web.com Tour and play my way back again.”
That’s the sunny way to look at things.