AKRON — There aren’t many professional golfers that would compare their line of work with punching a clock at a chemical plant.
But, of course, there aren’t many Boo Weekleys in this world. In a sport where the words are measured and the characters are few, Weekley is a breath of fresh air.
Before becoming a pro golfer in 1997, Weekley worked as a laborer at a Monsanto chemical plant for $15 an hour. He wears his deep southern roots on his sleeve, speaking of Milton, his hometown in the Florida panhandle, as an oasis from the bustle of the PGA Tour.
For all his twang and southern drawl, Weekley has become a pretty impressive golfer. On Thursday, the opening day of the Bridgestone Invitational, Weekley tied for second, firing a 2-under 68.
But when Weekley speaks about his craft, it becomes clear that it’s only his second love, falling well behind hunting and fishing. As far as Weekley’s concerned, golf is nothing more than a job.
“I enjoy the game and I love the competing,” he said. “If I don’t win, great. If I do, whatever. I’ve got a good paycheck and I’m ready to go to the next tournament.”
Weekley was asked to describe his experience at the British Open — which also happened to be his first trip outside the United States. But all he wanted to talk about was what he ate afterward once he returned to Florida.
“We went out for Mexican,” he quipped. “Then I had some fried chicken and a bucket of sweet tea.”
When asked to describe the history of the Bridgestone Invitational, Weekley responded, “It don’t really interest me. I failed history in high school and college.”
Later Weekley added that he also failed geography. Was there any subject he passed in high school?
“P.E.,” he chuckled.
Furyk backs out
Only four days after winning the Canadian Open, Jim Furyk withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational after aggravating a back injury. As a result, the tournament lost the second-ranked player in the world. But more importantly, the injury casts doubt on Furyk’s status for next week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
Furyk arrived at Firestone riding a wave of momentum after successfully defending his title at the Canadian Open on Sunday by shooting a 64 in the final round for a one-shot victory over Vijay Singh.
But during Tuesday’s session at the practice range at Firestone, Furyk said he felt a sharp tightness in his upper back and rib area. Over the next two days, the pain increased and he informed tournament officials Thursday morning of his intentions to withdraw.
Furyk was considered one of the favorites for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. He has seven other top-10 finishes this year — not to mention six top-10s at the Bridgestone Invitational, including runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2001 after a thrilling seven-hole playoff.
“You know, I’m a little disappointed after playing so well last week and coming to a place that is probably one of my — it’s in my top five events,” Furyk said. “I love the golf course and getting the chance to come here. But obviously the first thing is getting healthy.”
No fewer than 20 countries are represented at Bridgestone. The United States leads the way with 33 golfers and is followed by Australia (10), South Africa (7) and England (7), Sweden (4) and Spain (3). Other countries represented include Ireland, Canada, South Korea, France and Argentina, which each have two, while China, Denmark, Fiji, India, Japan, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Thailand have lone representatives, making it a true World Golf Championship.
Spreading the wealth
Want to know another reason Bridgestone attracts so much of the world’s top golf talent? There is no cut and the winner collects $1,350,000 from an $8 million purse, spread among just 84 players.
Youth is served
There are 21 players in the field who are making their first appearance in the Bridgestone Invitational and 12 of the 21 are making their first start in a World Golf Championship event.
Shot of the day
Colin Montgomerie’s 7-iron for eagle from 156 yards out on the fairway on the 17th hole.
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.