Following Ron Philo, Jr. at the PGA ChampionshipRon Philo, Jr., head PGA professional at Metropolis Country Club in White Plains, NY, won the PGA Professional National Championship this year, qualifying him for this week's PGA Championship. Philo, who will play the first two rounds with former PGA Champion Larry Nelson (1981, 1987) and Jonathan Byrd, will check in each day this week to give a first-hand account of his experience at Medinah. He tees off Thursday at 12:35pm EST.
Friday, August 18
|Ron Philo, Jr. and his caddie,sister Laura Diaz|
It was a much better day today. I had birdies on 3, 5, 8 and 10 and some nice recoveries for par. Jonathan Byrd made the cut from our group and is five behind the leaders going into the weekend. I look forward to following his progress over the weekend.
All I can say is what a golf course! It should be a very exciting finish with some of the game's greatest players still in the hunt. It is also great to see Davis playing well. We'll be pulling for him and the rest of the Titleist team.
After getting in and having some lunch we're getting all packed up and changing flights to try to be back at work on Sunday. All in all, it was another great experience, and one in which I enjoyed sharing with visitors to titleist.com.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 17 - First Round
Well, it was a long day! We started on No. 10 and my round was promising with a birdie on the 15th to go to 1-under through the first six holes. I was hitting the ball well and hit what I thought was a great tee shot off 16 which ended up through the fairway and into a bad lie in the rough. That lie resulted in a bogey 5 and back to even par. And then came the par 3 17th.
I settled on a 6-iron which I though would be plenty to get across the water on any line. I may have pushed it a bit and it hit the retaining wall and bounced hard right and into the water. My third shot was strong and went through the green to make for a tough up and down and the result was a triple-bogey 6. I lipped out on 18 for birdie to make the turn in 39.
I still felt good about the way I was hitting it and thought I could make some birdies on the front. After hitting what I thought was a good drive on No.1 I was dissappointed when I found my ball up near the front edge of the fairway bunker. I didn't quite get the 8-iron up over the front lip and ended up just short of the green. I failed to get up and down and made bogey, and then came No. 2.
Today was the first time for this wind direction. It was blowing right to left in our face. I had been hitting six iron to the front and now that wasn't enough, so the 5-iron was the club. I hit a little fat and found the water again. After dropping in the drop zone I had 148 to the hole, I hit an eight iron but caught that a little fat too and hit it into the water. The result was 7.
Bogey on four, the result of a missed five-footer, and bogey on seven after my second shot ended up in a very bad lie just outside the bunker.
And that about wraps up the round.
I played with Johnathan Byrd who played very steady and shot a very routine 69. Larry Nelson struggled like me, but more off the tee. Both were great playing partners.
Tomorrow's another day and the goal is to do something miraculous. The course is playing fast and there are lots of chances to make birdies, although I only made one, they are out there as the scores today showed.
Off to dinner and an early night to be ready for tomorrow.
I will check in again tomorrow.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16
I had great fun today playing a casual round with Titleist staff players Jason Bohn and Ryan Palmer, as well as Alan Schulte, my opponent when I won the PGA Professional National Championship in a playoff. I had never met Jason or Ryan before, but Alan and I met them on the 10th tee and played the back nine together. I really enjoyed their company and they are great, up-and-coming players. Ryan and I were successful partners which made it even better.
Medinah has certainly taken on a major atmosphere as the week has progressed. It has gone from being very quiet on Sunday and Monday to buzzing with fans and cameras today. It takes a little longer to get from one place to another trying to satisfy as many autograph seekers as you can.
I've had the opportunity to play with some great players at the PGA Championship in the past. I already mentioned Robert Gamez yesterday, but also guys like Rod Pampling and Geoff Ogilvy at Oak Hill and with Loren Roberts among others at Baltusrol last year. This week I was scheduled to play with two former champions, Larry Nelson and Wayne Grady, but Wayne withdrew on Tuesday due to a sore wrist and will be replaced by Jonathan Byrd. I certainly know of Jonathan and appreciate his game, but I have never met him.
I almost literally ran into Larry after I played my practice round on Sunday. The club had not put up the parking signs yet for the past champions when I first arrived, but they must have posted them when I was playing because when I came out of the locker room to leave I was in Larry's spot! Just as I was pulling my car out, he was arriving and I introduced myself. Larry won the PGA Championship in 1981, and then again in 1987 in a playoff with Lanny Wadkins. I was still in college in Florida at the time and remember that second win at PGA National.
We'll be teeing off tomorrow from the 10th tee at 12:35 p.m. My routine will pretty much stay the same as usual, with the exception that it takes about 20 minutes to get out to the tee. I like to start preparing about an hour and a half before my tee time. I will probably arrive about 10:00 a.m. to have breakfast, or a mid-morning snack in this case, and then get out to the putting green at about 10:30 a.m. I'll hit a few putts just to get used to the green and make sure I am not shocked that it is running two feet faster than it was the day before! On the range, I'll hit some very loose easy swings with the driver and let the club loosen me up a little. I'll work my way down to my wedges and then work my way back up to the driver again. I am not really structured that I have to hit the exact number of shots with each club. I will hit each until I feel comfortable that I am hitting it solid.
I picked up my wife and kids today and we have a big group going to the White Sox game tonight. I think there are 17 of us, including my family, six or so members from Metropolis where I work in New York, and a few others. Randy Walker, the hitting coach for the White Sox, is one of our students at the Ron Philo School of Golf at Amelia Island Plantation in Florida, and was kind enough to arrange for the tickets. I am going to go relax, watch some baseball, get a good night's sleep and be ready to go at 12:35 p.m. tomorrow.
This is my seventh PGA Championship as a participant. My only goal is to stand on the 10th tee tomorrow morning and play every shot. I have to be fully committed to every swing and just continue to play the way I have in the other tournaments this summer. I can't look at it as playing in the PGA Championship, but rather to just go out to try and shoot the lowest score I can. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
I will check in again following my round on Thursday.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 15
Last night (Monday), I spent a couple of hours with sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella, who has worked with many golfers over the years. My sister (Laura Diaz), her husband and I visited with him after dinner. He has been working a little with Laura lately and he and I were getting reacquainted. I first met him back in 1991 when he spoke at a seminar when I was first getting my golf school started in Florida. He truly changed my entire perspective on playing golf. We have spoken intermittently since then. I have been playing so well lately that I just want to find a way to stay mentally where I am, regardless of what happens. With golf and shotmaking, one time you are in the zone and another time you are out of it and you really don't know why that happens. Basically, if you can keep yourself mentally loose, it is a lot easier to get yourself back to where you were.
I had a pretty casual and enjoyable day today (Tuesday). I got together with Titleist staff players Robert Gamez and Arron Oberholser, as well as 2002 PGA Championship winner Rich Beem, and we had a little game starting about 11:30 a.m. I played with Robert at the 2004 PGA Championship when we were paired together at Whistling Straits, and Arron dates a young lady on the LPGA Tour so he runs into my sister frequently. I had played with Arron a few times previously, as well, including the U.S. Open qualifier and a practice round at Westchester (Barclays Classic). I stuck to my plan of only playing nine holes today and they went on, but we had a great time. I made three birdies and no bogeys and just had fun playing golf.
The golf course is extremely long. Yardage-wise (7,561), it is the longest in major championship history. Fortunately, some of the length is eaten up with downhill tee shots so it doesn't really feel like it plays that long. Alot of the yardage is made up in the par 5's and the par 3's. For example, the 14th hole is a 245-yard par 3 and the 15th is a 650-yard par 5, so those two holes alone is where you'll find alot of the length. It also depends on if and how the wind blows. Today I hit a 7-iron into No. 6, the same hole I had a 3-iron into on Monday because of the change in wind direction. The forecast looks good with warm days, cool nights and less humidity. The fairways aren't as firm as I expected them to be, but the greens are starting to firm up already, so I am sure by Thursday and through the weekend the ball will be rolling pretty good.
The only time I played Medinah before this week was August 1. I came out for the day to get acquainted with the course and then flew directly to Providence to play in the Rhode Island Open (which he won). I arrived here for the PGA Championship on Saturday evening and played practice rounds by myself on Sunday and Monday. I just try and create my own strategy and hit the golf ball to places where I know I can hit it. I need to play my own game and play the golf course and be careful not react to what the PGA Tour players are doing or try and take the line they take.
Laura walked the course with me today, but will not actually be on the bag until the tournament starts on Thursday. She will definitely be helpful in her knowledge of my game and her knowledge of the game itself. She knows how to find the right targets, and where it is we want to go and where not to go. This is her first experience at Medinah, as well. She was out today shooting yardages with the laser, making sure we have all the right numbers.
In the meantime, I've had a wonderful young man on the bag who is a club caddie. His name is A.J. Ostrowski. He is a 14-year old who works at Medinah who I met when I was out here on August 1. Hopefully, he is having a great time being able to walk around inside the ropes this week. I know he had a good time today.
I will check back in again on Wednesday. I am looking forward to picking up my wife and kids and heading to a White Sox game tomorrow night.
Thanks for your support,
Ron Philo, Jr. (center, with Titleist sales representatives) is keeping a diary this week as he competes in the PGA Championship
MONDAY, AUGUST 14
It was a pretty quiet day which began with a 7:00 a.m. tee time for an early 18 holes. The weather has been great and the course conditions here at Medinah are fantastic. Most noticeable is the rough, which is deep and a place you just do not want to be. After my round I met up with some family members who began arriving today, including my sister (LPGA Tour player Laura Diaz), who will be caddying for me again this year. I visited the Titleist Tour Trailer and had the grips on my irons changed. While I was there, Bob Vokey checked the loft on my wedges. He bent my sand wedge and increased the bounce on it to help in getting out of the softer bunkers. I am also looking to possibly work one of the new PT 585 utility metals into my set. We'll see how that goes tomorrow. At 2:00 p.m. I had a press conference to answer questions as the reigning PGA Professional National champion. That was pretty cool. It was conducted in the big media center and attended by alot of reporters, most of them from New York or Florida, where I work. All in all, I am just having a great time getting to know the golf course. I am looking forward to playing a practice round tomorrow (Tuesday) with Robert Gamez and then try and get some rest as we get closer to Thursday.
I appreciate all the well wishes that I have received since winning the PGA Professional National Championship and earning an invitation to this great event.
I'll check in again tomorrow.
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