The McGladrey Classic still isn’t sure what kind of field to expect as a regular PGA Tour event in November, about a month later than usual, and one week after most of the top players are in Shanghai for the HSBC Champions. For crowd appeal, the tournament received a boost from the commitment of Darren Clarke.
Considering the host at Sea Island _ Davis Love III _ that should not be all that surprising.
Clarke, a most popular British Open champion two years ago at Royal St. George’s and for years the lovable, cigar-chomping, Ryder Cup regular, decided this year to take up PGA Tour membership and play a full schedule. His first stop in America is Sea Island.
During the semifinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship, Love rallied to force extra holes. The greens were so bumpy at La Costa that Love, not wanting to see the match end with a missed putt, conceded par putts from 4- to 5-foot range on consecutive holes. Love won in 21 holes.
Later that year, in the Ryder Cup, Love put his tee shot on 18 in the rough. He could have widened his stance for a high cut shot and taken relief because his foot would have been on a sprinkler. He chose to play the ball where it was because such a shot would have been impractical. They halved the match.
Love still isn’t sure how Clarke decided on Sea Island. He said Scott Reid, the McGladrey Classic tournament director, heard a rumor Clarke might be playing and asked Love to try to close the deal. Too late. Turns out Clarke already had committed as Love was sending him a text.
THE PRO & THE AM: Rock singer Huey Lewis had to pull out of the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland, which might have been the best thing to ever happen to Bradley Neill in more ways than he can count.
The 17-year-old Scottish Boys champion was asked to fill in for the rock singer, meaning four days with former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein. Neill watched Uihlein narrowly miss a shot at 59 at Kingsbarns, holed out for eagle at St. Andrews to take the lead and lose in a playoff.
And then it got even better.
Uihlein donated his prize from the pro-am _ 10,000 pounds (about $16,000) _ to the Scottish Golf Union to help pay for Neill’s golfing expenses.
“Bradley was a pleasure to partner and I was very impressed with his performance,” Uihlein said. “He has a great chance of achieving success in the game if he continues to work hard. I will be following his career and hope the donation can play some small part in helping him progress in the right direction.”
Neill said he was nervous to being playing a European Tour event _ Ernie Els was in his group _ but that Uihlein made it comfortable and enjoyable.