PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Boo Weekley would be just as comfortable in an episode of “Swamp People” as he would on “Inside the PGA Tour.”
He proved that again Thursday at the Honda Classic.
Weekley’s best save in the first round was braver than any other save in any round on the PGA Tour this year.
At the fifth hole, marshals were growing frantic with a snake wriggling near the green.
“They were calling in on the radio for somebody to bring out a shovel or something so they could remove the snake,” one of the marshals said. “They were thinking about maybe trying to pick it up with one of those ‘Quiet Please’ paddles.”
None of the marshals was especially eager to do that. The snake was a small water moccasin, which are poisonous and capable of delivering a fatal bite.
That’s where Boo came to the rescue.
“Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” star Jim Fowler couldn’t have swooped in more heroically.
Weekley scooped up the snake with the end of his driver and deposited it into a canal, the marshal said.
“Somebody could have stepped right by there and been bit,” Weekley said. “He blended in perfectly with the grass; wasn’t but about 18 inches long, but he was big enough that he could have bit you and hurt you pretty bad.”
After opening his round with back-to-back bogeys, Weekley’s rescue act was quickly rewarded. He birdied the next hole and went on to make a run onto the leaderboard.
With a 4-under-par 66, Weekley finished his morning round tied for third, a shot behind Branden Grace and Graham DeLaet.
“I’m up, I’m pumped,” Weekley said.
Weekley’s outdoor adventure continued with a little Dr. Doolittle encounter at the 15th hole. Weekley appeared to try to talk to a small gator there, letting out some kind of gator call as he passed by the reptile.
“I’m not doing it again here,” Weekley said when asked to do the gator call after his round.
The affable Weekley was pleased to get off to a fast start. He is looking to regain the form that helped him win a pair of PGA Tour titles and make the 2008 American Ryder Cup team. He turns 40 in July.
“Boo’s starting to build back the confidence in his game,” said Barry Williams, who started caddieing for Weekley this week but has known him for several years.
After losing his fully exempt status in 2011, Weekley started last year undergoing the third shoulder surgery of his career. The year was literally a pain in the butt. Weekley actually had two other surgeries last year to remove a pair of painful cysts from his rectum.
Only the guileless “True Boo” would reveal the nature of those last two surgeries.
Weekley was undaunted, though. Despite a run of missing seven of nine cuts in the second half of last season, he won back his PGA Tour card after entering the season-ending Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic as one of the PGA Tour’s bubble boys on the money list. He did so having to play with the help of a half-dozen sponsor exemptions.
Always one of the PGA Tour’s top ball-strikers, Weekley’s Achilles’ heel, his putting, is beginning to come around after some hard work with his coach, Scott Hamilton.
Weekley, an avid hunter and fisherman, connects his improved putting to other outdoor skills. He says he’s smoothing out the pace of his putting stroke and working on his breathing.
“Kind of like when I’m shooting my guns long range,” Weekley said. “I have to take a deep breath and exhale and blow it out, and then pull the trigger.”
Weekley has some dramatic history at PGA National. Back in ’07, he was one short putt away winning the Honda Classic at the 72nd hole. He missed a 3-footer and ended up losing in a four-man playoff won by Mark Wilson.
“I just choked,” Weekley said in typically unvarnished fashion. “That’s the bottom line of it. I had a 3-footer to win, and I just choked.”
After missing the cut his last three starts at the Honda Classic, Weekley is looking to give himself another chance to make a better memory at the 72nd hole.
“My confidence is getting there,” Weekley said. “My swing is starting to come around. I’m actually healthy right now. I feel good. I’m not eating good, but I feel good. I mean, other than that, everything’s going in the right place.”