Tryon cold from the start: 77

Weather, pressure take toll on teen in PGA Tour debut

Golf

January 25, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Bill Tryon sent his 17-year-old son off to work yesterday and sounded very much the concerned father. What the elder Tryon didn't want to do was interfere with his son's new job.

"I told him to dress warmly," Bill Tryon said later. "It would have been an insult if I gave him any other advice. He's a professional."

When he stepped onto the first tee for the opening round of the Phoenix Open, Ty Tryon didn't look like someone playing in his first event as a PGA Tour rookie or, for that matter, like a typical high school junior.

But the black designer golf jacket, sweater vest and matching cap that made Tryon seem like any of the other human billboards out here, couldn't prevent Tryon from being dressed to chill in 41-degree weather that included a 20-mph wind.

It took Tryon quite a while to get warm - about 12 holes. If the scorecard he signed for a 6-over-par 77 could have been turned into one of those credit card commercials, it might have read like this:

Number of fairways hit on back nine: One.

Number of shots taken on back nine: 43.

Experience: Priceless.

Neither Tryon nor anyone in his rather large entourage that included his parents, three siblings, an uncle and two grandparents - including Grandpa Bill celebrating his 72nd birthday - seemed too distressed about what had transpired.

"I was never comfortable from the beginning," said Tryon, who was able to recover from his disastrous start to finish the front nine at 1-under 34, including a birdie on the final hole. "It's always hard when it's cold and windy.

"You've got all the people and all the hype and stuff, which made it tougher. Plus, it was my first PGA tournament. I had to get through the toughest part, so I guess it might be a little easier from here. I'm glad I got through it."

As he walked to the 10th tee after a double-bogey on the par-4 18th hole, it seemed as if Tryon wanted to be somewhere else - maybe even in one of his classes at Dr. Phillips High School back in Orlando, Fla.

Playing his first competitive round since shooting a 66 in the final round of the tour's qualifying school in early December to become the youngest player ever to earn his card, Tryon was clearly a boy among men.

Asked what he was thinking about at the turn, he said, "I was kind of not thinking anything about how bad I did the first nine holes in a PGA Tour tournament. I was thinking it can't get much worse."

It took another bogey, this time on the par-5 third hole after hitting a 3-wood from the fairway into a rocky, lateral hazard left of the green, before Tryon made his first birdie, on the par-3 fourth hole.

After his 15-foot putt dropped, and what little was left of his once substantial gallery applauded, caddie Tim Thalmueller lived up to his nickname - "Smiley" - and pumped his fists.

Bill Tryon breathed a sigh of relief.

"Let's get a couple back now," he said.

Tryon had his chances, just missing a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fifth hole and another from a similar distance on the par-4 eighth that came after he sent a 329-yard drive down the middle of the fairway.

That he ended with a birdie from 15 feet on the par-4 ninth hole left Tryon feeling a little better about his game. But it still left him 13 shots behind first-round leader Steve Flesch and in serious jeopardy of missing the cut for the weekend.

"I'll look back on the good shots," he said. "You've just got to keep the faith, I guess. It wasn't that I was tentative. It was just that it was windy, and it kind of magnified everything that went wrong."

Tryon said he wasn't nervous coming in, having spent the night before taking a one-hour massage from his personal massage therapist at the hotel where the family is staying and spending some time talking with Jim Fannin, his sports pyschologist.

"I wasn't that nervous until I started playing a little bad," he said. "The more bad shots I hit, the more nervous I got."

There were times yesterday when Tryon seemed to be playing with a couple of buddies back home, such as when he fished his ball out of the water on the par-5 13th hole and bounced it a couple of times on the blade of his club.

"I even tried to rake one of the traps," he said sheepishly. "I'm a rookie."

He didn't look like one, but he played like one.

It didn't matter to his father.

"It was a great learning experience," Bill Tryon said. "One of the best things about Ty is his resiliency. He's going to be a lot better three months from now because of what happened today."

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