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Plenty of tales from the tour in 2017

By DOUG FERGUSON
Dec. 27, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Pat Perez, left, and Dustin Johnson on the 5th hole during the second practice day at the British Open Golf Championship in July at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England.

Brooks Koepka is tweaking his schedule next year to play Pebble Beach, which only makes sense.

The U.S. Open champion has become an expert on beaches.

That conversation he shared with caddie Ricky Elliott on the 15th fairway of the final round at Erin Hills had nothing to do with club selection to a back pin. They take a fall vacation to the beaches of Asia and were discussing where to go.

"We had talked about Vietnam," Koepka said. "Then he handed me the club and we hit it, and he says, 'Good shot,' and then we continued the conversation," he said.

They ended going to Vietnam and Thailand's Phi Phi Island, adding to a long list of beaches where he has run his toes through the sand, from Bali to Phuket, from Bermuda to the Bahamas. On the bucket list is Costa Rica.

What makes a good vacation spot?

"Clear water, a nice beach, not too many people, beautiful views," Koepka said.

The next stop is Kapalua on Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the start of a new year. If next year is anything like this one, golf is sure to deliver up plenty of tales from the tour that go beyond green jackets and claret jugs.

Jordan Spieth was on the first tee at Spyglass Hill during the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the wait was longer than usual because Smylie Kaufman in the group ahead couldn't find his tee shot. When he saw Kaufman trudge back up the hill, Spieth immediately called for a rules official.

Could he spot something wrong?

No. He just realized that only an official can give a player a ride in the cart, and after Kaufman hit another tee shot, it would speed up the round if someone were around to drive him back.

Does the brain ever stop working?

"Only when alcohol-induced," Spieth said.

Rory McIlroy began the second round of the PGA Championship by sailing a 3-wood right of the par-5 10th green. It bounced onto a cart path and then rolled down the path along the right side of the 11th hole. By the time it stopped, McIlroy was more than 100 yards away, unable to see the green, trees on both sides of the path.

No problem.

He punched a 6-iron that skipped twice along the cement path and had so much speed that it went into the bunker, out of the bunker, onto and across the green until it settled in light rough. He chipped to a foot and escaped with par.

As he waited to tee off on No. 11, McIlroy leaned over with a smile and whispered, "For what it's worth, it's 110 yards if you're ever down there."

Pat Perez is known to call it as he sees it. Give him a radio show, and he's even more blunt.

The topic was Tiger Woods.

Perez praised him endlessly for the way he moves the needle in golf, but then he assessed the current status of Woods, whose comeback lasted all of seven rounds before he withdrew in Dubai with back spasms.

"He knows he can't beat anybody," Perez said, one of several comments that went viral.

Perez said he explained the full context to Woods in a text message. He said he heard back from Woods, though it didn't sound as though Woods was all that happy. Perez figured that out late in the year, when he was hoping for an invitation to Woods' Hero World Challenge and heard nothing back.

He was on the range in Shanghai when the topic of the Bahamas tournament came up. Perez had just won in Malaysia to move to No. 18 in the world. Dustin Johnson, hitting balls next to him, wasn't aware that the cutoff to qualify for the World Challenge through the world ranking was a month earlier.

"You'll get in," Johnson said.

"No chance," Perez replied.

Johnson insisted, and so Perez turned and asked an observer, "How many players are listed in the world ranking?"

He was told about 1,900 players.

Perez turned back to Johnson and said, "There are 1,899 players who have a better chance of getting in than I do."

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