That would be me.
When I got notification last year that I won tickets to the Saturday and Sunday sessions of the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, I was ecstatic. Finally, I'd get within 10 feet of Padraig Harrington! So, there I was, last Saturday morning, waiting in the stands at the first hole for the first group to tee off. The first thing I noticed: woah, golfers have amazing back muscles. The second? You have no idea where the ball has gone once it leaves the tee, until someone with high-powered binoculars says something like "In the rough next to the bunker!". Nice. Finally, Padraig's tee-time was near; I made my way down to where the players enter the tee area. Yeah, Padraig Harrington is totally gorgeous; it was nice to get confirmation of that.
At a tournament, you have to make choices: Stay at a hole and see everyone? Follow one group? Bounce around to where the action might be? I took the "Follow Padraig and Retief Goosen until they're finished and then backtrack to the leaderson the back nine" path. Since they didn't tee off until ca. 11:00 am, after the first few groups were underway, I went to as many different spots as I could: the amazing 4th hole, the monster 9th and a few others before winding my way back to 1 in time to see Harrington and Goosen tee off.
After they were underway, I was running from the first hole to the second and I hit a divot and twisted my ankle. After a fullisade of "FUCK!"'s, I hobbled to 2. I made it to the 9th hole when my machismo finally gave out. Spying a first aid tent, I got iced and taped up; I was told "No ligament damage" but I simply ignored their advice to have a course worker take me somewhere, where I was to sit for the rest of the day.
Decision time: What to do now? I decided on a $9 Angus cheeseburger lunch (surprisingly good) and head to the 18th hole stands. I eventually made my way to the last row of far-right stand at 18 and saw the amazing downhill putt that Tiger Woods made that had the crowd going berserk. It was amazing, one of those "I'll think of this when I'm 82" moments. I was so fired up for Sunday's session, I could barely sleep.
Waking up on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. (first tee was something like 7 a.m.), my ankle was killing me. Hey, I may be gay, but I'm a tough m-fer, dammit! I was determined to suck up the pain but figured I'd watch all the players tee off from 1 (Tiger was due to tee off at 1:30 p.m.) and then walk the 100 feet or so to the stands at 18 and get a spot for what promised to be a spectacular finish. I didn't want to lose my spot once I was there, so I loaded up on food. That turned out to be the beginning of the end: the allegedly char-broiled chicken wasn't cooked enough and I immediately got queasy in the stomach after eating it. Damn! I had mismanaged my sunscreen regimen on Saturday: it was hazy most of the day, so I stupidly went light on the 50 PF sunscreen that I used to shield my very pale skin.
Bad move! My ears were torched, they were agonizing to the touch (made sleeping fun too!). The sun was out from the get-go Sunday and I was starting to feel miserable; the queasiness from the food, my ears and general lack of comfort with the heat was making me miserable. The lines to get in to the stands at 18 were already ginourmous (and Tiger wasn't due to tee off for about another hour), so that didn't look promising, based on the one-fan-leaves-another-enters policy. I decided to slather on a bunch of sunscreen and ... I made a mess of it. I got a couple of blobs in my eyes, so there I am, pouring $4 bottles of water in my eyes (there were only porta-potties for us proles, no nice bathrooms with running water like the corporate fatcats had access to) and ... I snapped. "Fuck it, I'm leaving" I thought. After finally being able to see, barely, I left the grounds and caught the bus back to my hotel room.
My plan was to sleep until about 3 p.m. and walk across the street from my hotel and watch the end of the tournament at the sports bar across the street. Except, I forgot to set my alarm and I ended up sleeping until about 6 p.m. The hotel room I was in only had four channels on the TV; NBC was not one of them. It wasn't until the 10 p.m. local news on the one network channel I had access to that my heart sank: the incredible day that Rocco Mediate and Tiger Woods had was replayed, and I had slept through the whole thing in a hotel room in Cardiff-by-the Sea. Damn, damn, damn and damn. Bonus dumbness: I was on a train back to Los Angeles during the Monday playoff. DAMN.
So, total bonehead move by me, horrible management of how to navigate a tournament and all I got out of it was a kick-ass Italian dinner at a nice restaurant near my hotel. I will say, not as a excuse but as an observation: Being at a tournament is a totally sucky way to see golf. No matter what option you choose, you're always missing things, for one. I was in the stands Saturday when Tiger had his great shot on 17; all we knew about it was the huge roar from the crowd, because there was no video boards to see anything on and TV's and cellphones were banned. The other bad part, for me, is that you can never see the ball on tee shots or drives, especially on misty days like Saturday where it just disappears in to the haze.
Some of the stands/roped off areas were so far away from some of the putting greens, you spent your time squinting at the stick figures in the distance playing. In compensation, the atmosphere is great, the golfers are close by -- Brandt Snedeker, woah -- and there's tons of eye candy, from military dudes from the bases that dot San Diego County to frat boys to guys that look like Junior Vice Presidents at a bank to hottie straight guys with their girlfriends to hot older guys in good shape.
It's not an experience I think I'll ever repeat --with the hotel situation being a nightmare and only a $215/night room that was a 20-minute bus ride away being available, I spent close to $1,100 for the whole 3 1/2-day experience-- but I'm glad I went and at the very least, I'll always have that memory of that incredible putt by Tiger Woods on Saturday to cherish. --Jim Allen