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Tuesday wasn’t par for course

On one grassy stretch of lawn, men and women in sports attire sat under umbrellas at tables scattered about, lunched on crepe vegetrienne or tomato caprese or un plaiser, sipped tea and talked quietly about something probably unrelated to their surroundings, which was a golf course.

Their fare was purchased at concession stands just outside the Quail Hollow clubhouse. As the week wears on and the practice rounds end and the Wells Fargo Championship gets under way, more of the hot dog and beer crowd will show up, eat stuff that doesn’t require italics and raise some hell, but this was Tuesday, a practice day for golf’s knights, and there was not a lot of cheering going on.

Several hundred yards away, on the practice range, thousands of golf balls would fly through the warm, soft breeze before the day was over. Men at work, many of the best in the world, trying to get better, tweaked and honed million-dollar swings.

Even on the range, though, there was no sense of urgency. The caddies stood by with bags full of clubs and whatever else they put into those steamer trunk sized sacks that look like they weigh more than an offensive lineman, and some agents and equipment pushers hovered about. Conversation slipped in between shots, or vice versa.

Watching Vijay Singh practice is a show worth a ticket. That swing he has swung a million times looks silky but it can send a golf ball into another county.

He’s a relentless practicer and an advocate of swing aids. Tuesday, he employed a line in the turf, a rolled up umbrella stuck in the ground and a shaft on an angle that mirrored his backswing. He took a hook stance, placed balls directly behind the umbrella, well…he set up like he was going to hit the ball into the umbrella just inches in front of the ball but cut across it and hit pretty fades. Not many of us practice that shot.

If he gets behind an umbrella this week, he’ll be ready.

Tuesday is a good day for autograph-seekers. In a way. If they work at it, they get a lot of signatures. Only problem is they can’t read most of them. I saw one hole flag that had been signed by about 40 or 50 players and I couldn’t identify any of the autographs. Not one.

A player leaving the 18th green walked up a hill to the clubhouse. A man asked his son, a kid about 6 or 7 years old, if he wanted to get the player’s autograph.

The kid said, “Is it Freddie Couples?’

“No,” dad said, “it’s not Freddie, but we’ll get his autograph anyway. Come on.”

They got the autograph and as they turned away, I said, “Well, he didn’t get Freddie, but he did get an autograph. Who was it?”

Dad said, “I don’t know. William something, I think. I can’t read it.”

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