The Champion course at PGA National is part golf course and part nature preserve. That provides a warm welcome for Boo Weekley, the rarest bird on the PGA Tour.
Early in his four-under-par 66 on Thursday, while Boo and his partners in the leadoff 6:45 a.m. pairing were still trying to get their eyes open, a marshal at the Honda Classic came hustling up to warn them of a snake nestled in the grass near the No. 5 green.
“It wasn’t but about 18 inches long but it was big enough it could have bit you and hurt you pretty bad,” said Boo, who identified the varmint as a poisonous moccasin, which can be deadly when full grown. “I told the guy, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll just move him,’ and I took my driver and turned him over and moved him out of the way.”
A marshal on the scene said Boo did more than move it. He carried the snake on the end of the club and deposited it in a canal, where it belongs.
The man clearly knows his reptiles from growing up in the rural scrubland of the Florida panhandle. Even talks with the animals, too, on occasion.
Walking from the 15th green to the 16th tee later in Thursday’s round, Boo noticed a little alligator, maybe 3 feet long, floating out in the lake. Reflexively, he summoned a quick gator call from way down inside his throat. An eyewitness said it actually caused the scaly thing to react with a swish of the tail and a quick jerk forward in the water.
Boo declined, however, to demonstrate the gator call to a group of reporters following his round. Loaded up with a chaw of tobacco as he was, it might have been messy.
“Gator hunting? I’ve done some,” said Boo, who’s clearly within spitting distance of Camilo Villegas’ lead round of 64, “but mostly it was just moving them from pond to pond, getting them out of the way from the cows when we were kids.”
Now maybe you’re sitting there all smug, thinking that 3-footers aren’t much of a danger whether it’s a gator or anything else, but a missed par putt of that same distance was plenty long enough to give Weekley one of the worst wounds of his career.
It happened in 2007, the first time the Honda was played here, and Boo needed only to two-putt from 30 feet on the final hole to clinch his first Tour victory. The ball never touched the cup on his short par-saving try, sliding past the left edge, and that crushing disappointment was followed by a four-man Monday playoff in which Mark Wilson held off Boo, Camilo Villegas and Jose Coceres.
“I’ve got fond memories of being here,” said Boo, who bounced back to win the Heritage Classic, back-to-back, after that haunting Honda experience. “I’ve got one bad one, but other than that, it’s all good.
“Really it wasn’t a bad one. I just choked. That’s the bottom line of it.”
Would a sports psychologist find that kind of honesty as refreshing as it sounds, or would he chide Boo for indulging in the negativity of a nightmare? Doesn’t matter. There’s no changing Boo, 39.
This guy is more bubba than even Bubba Watson, who attended little old Milton High School just like Boo and went on to win the 2012 Masters title in his own wild and wooly way.
A few more hot rounds like Thursday’s would do wonders for Weekley, who barely kept his PGA Tour card last season and hasn’t done much in 2013, making three straight cuts out west but finishing no closer than a tie for 34th.
Let him near the Honda lead this weekend, though, and there’s no telling what might happen. In the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., he helped the U.S. team to victory with a 4 and 2 win over England’s Oliver Wilson in the Sunday singles matches. Not bad, but what everybody remembers is the way Boo broke the tension and claimed the day for his own by galloping off the first tee riding his driver like a grade schooler on a hobby horse.
In the mood to boo somebody at the Honda Classic and feel really good about it? Weekley tees off at No. 10 Friday at 11:45 a.m., ready again to tame the Champion course and, if necessary, its wildlife, too.