I was headed out to the range when I saw The Sand Crab watching TV in the grill. The 17th at Sawgrass was on the screen, and The Crab was staring at it like he was checking his lottery numbers.
As I got closer I saw his smartphone, a pen and notebook, and a copy of The Rules of Golf on the table next to his usual beer and well-chewed cigar. “How’s the tournament going, Crab?” I asked.
“Watch Pavin real close here,” he replied. “He might ground his club on that bulkhead, and it’s behind the yellow line. It’d be real easy to do.” We watched as Corey Pavin hit his usual precision shot, putting off the bulkhead with the bounce of his wedge. “OK, I guess he pulled that one off,” Sand Crab sighed.
I sat down at an adjoining table and looked back up at the screen. A new hole had appeared, maybe the 14th. “And you’re doing what?” I asked.
He gave me a self-congratulatory grin and a thumbs up. “Upholding the integrity of this magnificent game,” he said in his best Scottish brogue.
“You don’t think Pavin does a pretty good job of that by himself?”
The Crab tapped the earpiece of his sunglasses. “Another set of eyes never hurts.” I think he winked, but it was too dark behind those lenses to know for sure. He pointed back toward the TV. “Watch Sergio now. He’ll be really ticked if he misses this putt.” We watched as Garcia rolled in a four footer.
“Didn’t you miss one about half that length on eighteen an hour or so ago, Sand Crab?”
He nodded as he picked up his cigar. “But I didn’t want to make mine. Sergio did.”
“You didn’t want to make yours?”
“Nah. My partner had already won the hole. I need to keep my handicap up there for that big charity scramble next month. There’s some good prizes, you know. And our foursome lost our regular ringer when he moved north. We gotta find another stick with a phantom handicap.”
He pointed back at the television and waved away the comment he knew I was about to make. “Here comes another one. Watch to see if Mickelson nicks the grass on his takeaway in that bunker. He’s mighty close to the lip.”
“It’s OK if he touches the grass on his backswing, Crabpot. It’s live grass, not a loose impediment.”
“I bet there’s dead crap there too. They could always check if I called it in, like they did with Padraig and that divot on the tee. Phil was even there to help. He’d be all for me suggesting they have a look.”
“I doubt it. And I seem to remember you moved some twigs out of the way in the bunker the last time I played with you, Sandman.”
“Yeah, but we don’t have the kind of grounds crew those guys have. That junk wouldn’t have been there for them, so I figure it’s OK if I moved it.”
I changed the subject before I lost my temper. “You see the basketball game last night? Pretty good game, I thought.”
I got a grunt in return. “Would have been if the refs would have let them play. Half the game was ticky-tack fouls. Just let the guys play their game, that’s what I say.” He eagerly pointed back to the screen. “Here it goes again in slo-mo. I think Mickelson might have double hit that ball on his follow through. Watch this.”
“You do that for me, Crabs. I’ve got some balls to hit.”
As I went out the door I heard him call after me. “Before you go, could you attest this card for me? Everybody took off before they could sign for me.”
I let the door slam like I didn’t hear him.