John Smoltz attempts to qualify for U.S. Open (FINAL UPDATE: He fails)

John Smoltz, with his friend and caddy, Josh Arieh, warms up on the practice range before his round today.

John Smoltz, with his friend and caddy, Josh Arieh, warms up on the practice range before his round today.

(Updated with comments below.)

John Smoltz stood in the Marietta Country Club parking lot, between the trunk of his car and a golf cart.

“The hardest thing is picking 14 clubs,” he said, referencing the club limit. “That’s a dumb rule.”

With the Braves, he had his choice of pitches. Same in golf — there are just a few more restrictions. Smoltz will get used to this. The former Braves’ pitcher and now broadcaster, who has long desired to play to play 0n the PGA Champions (formerly Seniors) Tour one day, is playing in a U.S. Open qualifying tournament this morning at Marietta Country Club.

If Smoltz finishes in the top nine — which he puts “20-1″ odds on — he will advance to the 36-hole, sectional qualifying tournament next month in Roswell. Success there would land him in the U.S. Open in Pebble Beach. It’s a long shot but Smoltz isn’t overly concerned.

“This is just a gauge for me,” he said. “I’m out here to have fun, and I’m taking advantage of the schedule.”

Smoltz lines up a 15-foot putt on his last hole of the day, making par.

Smoltz lines up a 15-foot putt on his last hole of the day, making par.

What should we expect? His caddy, friend and professional poker, Josh Arieh, believes Smoltz has a good chance to advance.

“I’ve seen him make four birdies in a row. I’ve seen rounds of 66, 67 all the time,” he said.

Asked to describe Smoltz’s golf game, Arieh said: “He’s just like everybody else: streaky.

“He loves being a hero. My

Smoltz signed a few autographs after his day.

Smoltz signed a few autographs after his day.

job is just to keep him [in check]. It’s going to be important to make a par or take bogey rather than try be a hero and make birdie and possibly play yourself into a double bogey. One of his favorite things to say on the course is ‘plaques.’  Like putting a plaque down at some spot where he made an amazing shot for birdie from. That’s not what this tournament is about.  You have to take what the golf course gives you.”

It’s windy at Marietta Country Club this morning and Smoltz said he doesn’t know what kind of score to expect.

“This is like if I just started pitching, getting ready in two or three weeks  for Opening Day,” he said. “I really haven’t had the time to put in. But I’ve had enough rounds where I think I can be competitive.”

UPDATE: Smoltz teed off at 9:40 a.m. at hole 10 and bogeyed.

UPDATE 11:09 a.m.: He missed a 5-foot birdie putt on par-5 13.

UPDATE 11:38 a.m.: Uh oh. Smoltz double bogeyed 7 on par-5 14th hole. He told his caddy, “Three-run homer. I gave it up.” Tee shot was far left,  off the fairway into woods and way down embankment. He tried to get back onto fairway but the second shot went into woods on right side. Scrambled for a 7.

UPDATE 12:25 p.m.: After double bogey on 14, Smoltz pars 15, 16, 17 and 18. So he makes the turn at plus-3. Pretty good.

UPDATE: 1:25 p.m.: Smoltz three-putts hole No. 1 for a bogey, then misses a tap-in for potential par on No. 2 hole (his 11th hole for tournament) for another bogey. That puts him 5-over. He’s very unlikely to make it past today.

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.: Smoltz pars his next two holes, barely missing birdie on a 70-foot chip on No. 4. But he bogeys No. 5 when he misses a five-foot putt for par to drop to 6-over. After a par on No. 6 (his 15th hole), he goes into the final three holes of the day at 6-over.

UPDATE: 2:55 p.m.: Smoltz parred his last three holes of the day, finishing with a nice 15-foot putt on No. 9 (his 18th hole). At 6-over, he will not qualify to move onto the sectionals. Only the top 9 of 144 golfers Monday will move on. (The day was not expected to finish until at least 7 p.m.) Smoltz said he had fun but struggled with his putting most of the day, three-putting on three holes. He failed to birdie a hole. He also struggled with the timing of playing in a tournament, as he normally plays at a faster pace.

Smoltz had a few humorous comments during his round. In addition to the, “Three-run homer” comment above, he walked over to me after missing a two-footer for par on No. 2 and said, “That’s what happens when you don’t putt gimmes. I was already picking that ball up. … I can live with a bad shot but I can’t live with a two-footer.”

I told him it helps that he’s not doing this for a living. “True,” he said.

When Smoltz’s friend Steve Strickland told him to, “Pick it up,” late in the round, Smoltz smiled and said,  “I should be playing you. I’d have five birdies by now.”

Here are some post-tournament comments from Smoltz:

“Back to the putting green,” he said, smiling, as he walked off the ninth green. “My biggest thing was to see how my body and mind felt when I was swinging. It felt great. I just wasn’t making any putts.”

On the slower pace of a tournament play: ” I probably would’ve had 27 holes in already. … This is my first real stroke play tournament that’s something other than a celebrity event.”

On his round: “I felt 70 to 73 would be a good gauge.  So I was three off my mark. Three three-putts just ain’t gonna cut it. I missed two two-footers that I’ll never miss again. But it was fun. I would’ve liked to have made a birdie though.”

Comparing golf to baseball: “In baseball I loved being under the gun and having that pressure on me. I love that about golf too. It’s just that there’s some exposure in golf that I still haven’t had. I still have to fake my way through some shots.”

On what would’ve happened if he made the U.S. Open field and a baseball team had phoned him to be their closer: “I would’ve been in the Open. I would’ve ate crow and shot 81-81. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”

On plans to use one of his other 20 to 25 putters in his next tournament (smiling): “It’s not the Indian, it’s the arrow, that’s what I always say.”

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125 comments Add your comment

Danny O

May 10th, 2010
10:20 am

Go Smoltz, make us proud

Pi$$onaDAWG

May 10th, 2010
10:37 am

Good Luck #29. I wish I could be a HoF Pitcher and then maybe play Golf for money. Man What a Life.

PMC

May 10th, 2010
10:38 am

Dr. Phil

May 10th, 2010
10:39 am

Smoltz has a great attitude about this new endeavor, and he will apply his usual intensity. His chances are better than those of the Braves.

RedandBlack

May 10th, 2010
10:44 am

Is it a good idea that John Smoltz play professional golf with a professional gambler?

jacket3

May 10th, 2010
10:50 am

Go Smoltzie…we are all pulling for you…and I think I speak for a few baseball fans that just wish we could do what you have done….on and off the playing field of life. Good luck…maybe you pull a Tom Watson this summer.

Fan

May 10th, 2010
10:50 am

1 over after 3 holes…. bogey, par, par

Blood soaked worm

May 10th, 2010
10:50 am

I’ve played this course before. It’s not that tough really. Let me rephrase…..It’s not that unfair of a layout. He should do fine.

Will

May 10th, 2010
10:55 am

I would call Wren and ask him if I could get back into the Braves rotation first. Because the Braves stink.

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reservoirDAWG

May 10th, 2010
11:06 am

Why would you rephase? Does your keyboard not have a backspace button?

Base

May 10th, 2010
11:08 am

Maybe he needs a sports shrink.

reebok

May 10th, 2010
11:09 am

good luck, john! here’s hoping you advance!

Dawg 93

May 10th, 2010
11:13 am

Jerry Rice is a scratch golfer and played in the nationwide tournament and got shellacked. It will be interesting to see how Smoltzie does.

Jacq Strap

May 10th, 2010
11:14 am

Hope the Bluebird of Happiness makes doo doo on the wedges of the rest of the field

John E.

May 10th, 2010
11:20 am

Best wishes to Smoltz. But I don’t expect him to make it past the initial level. Not because he doesn’t have the game, but he doesn’t have the experience in this kind of tournament. Playing well is one thing, playing well when it counts is another. Better odds for Smoltz if he tries again next year, I think. BTW, Larry Nelson had a great quote about scratch golfers and PGA tour pros: something like “The difference between a scratch golfer and a PGA tour pro is the same as the difference between a 15 handicapper and a scratch golfer.”

Michael

May 10th, 2010
11:27 am

Come on Smoltz

Ted Striker

May 10th, 2010
11:28 am

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that post-tournament, Smoltz will have found something else a little more difficult than choosing 14 clubs.

Never liked that smug bastage, never will.

German accent

May 10th, 2010
11:29 am

Geez, how come Bradley’s not doing this one? 3:)

Buzz

May 10th, 2010
11:36 am

My guess is 74 to 78 range.

Clay

May 10th, 2010
11:41 am

Tiger Woods said that Smoltzie is the only amateur he’s played golf with who could play on the PGA Tour. Most (not all) guys in their 40s start losing the putting stroke. The yips.

And did y’all see Jerry Rice’s swing? I need to join his home course if he is a scratch golfer . . .

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C. Tampa Ironworse

May 10th, 2010
11:42 am

Smotlz plays golf??? Wow…since he never talks about it and it’s never been a big focus for him over the last few years…I had no idea. If he would have focused on golf and not focused on totally rehab-ing his body over the last few seasons, he could have been AWESOME at hitting the little white ball. (Fast forward to reality) This topic is played. Golf is ALL Smoltz has cared about for years (that includes the last few years with the Braves). Just another bitter former Braves pitcher that threw the team under the bus in comments while not with them and then wants to make a living in the afterlife here in ATL. Golf a bit harder without “clean and place” on each shot, 29.

luke

May 10th, 2010
11:47 am

Great post C Tampa Ironworse. Smoltz is the biggest hypocrite ever.

Tiger said he is good, Clay? The same Tiger that told all these sluts he was leaving his wife for them?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 10th, 2010
11:50 am

Agree with Tampa- however, still would be nice to see him make the tour.

SEC Rules!

May 10th, 2010
11:53 am

Jeff – anyone else in the field that we would know?

Dawglasville

May 10th, 2010
12:01 pm

This is the only exciting local sports news. Well, this and Herschel’s MMA career. Man, we have hit rock bottom in this town.

BobDog

May 10th, 2010
12:02 pm

So how is he doing??????

The Ping Meister

May 10th, 2010
12:09 pm

Good luck Smoltzie. You’ve got the distance off the tee but do you have that 6 foot putt under pressure down pat? The reality is if you aren’t dominating your state amateurs and mid-amateur tournaments, the Champions tour is going to be a 1 in a million shot. Those guys are good!

luke

May 10th, 2010
12:10 pm

Smoltz double bogey 7 on par-5 14th hole. 2 over thru 5 holes. pull out and tell them your neck hurts, Johnny!

the truth

May 10th, 2010
12:15 pm

what do you bet that somewhere in his post game analysis he will utter the phrase “what people don’t understand ……. ” .

Reid Adair

May 10th, 2010
12:15 pm

That’s very interesting to see Josh Arieh is John Smoltz’s caddy. Hope he can recover from that earlyl double bogey.

Fan

May 10th, 2010
12:18 pm

3 over after 8 holes. #10, John’s first hole is played as a par 4 for the qualifier and John made 5. Bogey, par, par, par, double bogey, par, par, par.

Braves fan in Budapest

May 10th, 2010
12:18 pm

Q: How do you know when your team is horribly underperforming?

A: When the newspaper writers for your team’s section prefer to write about the other sporting activities of former team members who are no longer playing?

Haha, wow! Have the Braves really sunk this low?…..yep.

The D

May 10th, 2010
12:18 pm

Bobby Cox has called him the best athlete he has ever scene, I actually grew up playing a few rounds a year with him and Chandler. He is legitimate, and will defintely play on the Champions Tour if this Open bid doesn’t work out, all you haters have no idea how good he actually is! And please don’t try and make remarks about one of the greatest Braves ever

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Garett Anderson

May 10th, 2010
12:19 pm

In a few years he can make the senior tour!

Buzz

May 10th, 2010
12:21 pm

You have to be 50 years old to play the Champions tour!!! You morons!!!

Skeezix

May 10th, 2010
12:22 pm

Good luck Smoltzie, but I’d rather see you back in a Braves uniform. Even if it’s just as an assistant coach. The Braves need someone with some heart in that dugout.

MR

May 10th, 2010
12:22 pm

Does any one edit these articles before they are printed? What is a Profesional Poker, a male prostitute. I guess does not have anything professional.

MR

May 10th, 2010
12:24 pm

Skeezix, you have got to be kidding. He is just what the Braves do not need. They have enough washed up playes now.

steveo

May 10th, 2010
12:24 pm

Dood’s got some big feet

Delbert D.

May 10th, 2010
12:28 pm

Is Smoltzie saying he didn’t play by USGA rules all along? I never played with more than 14 clubs, and neither did any of my friends. He may be just saying that as a general statement, to give him the benefit of the doubt.

MR

May 10th, 2010
12:33 pm

WOW, somebody brought up Tiger. I guess that is where the term professional poker came from.

Jacq Strap

May 10th, 2010
12:34 pm

Does anybody know how many golfers there are in the qualifier today?

Fan

May 10th, 2010
12:41 pm

144. 9 spots and 2 alternates up for grabs.

PKS

May 10th, 2010
12:48 pm

It shows me that Smoltz isn’t too serious about this… having a poker player caddy for him. There are plenty of real caddies in this area and I would be curious if Arieh has ever looped before. Seems like a bad choice for Smoltz

John Smoltz

May 10th, 2010
12:48 pm

@steveo You. Me. Amaco at Cheshire and Lindbergh. 3td Bathroom stall. 5pm pronto.

And thanks for noticing. You won’t be disappointed.

PDawg

May 10th, 2010
12:48 pm

Can’t say I’m impressed with Smoltz’s clothing selection. Shorts for a US Open qualifier? That and the “14 club” comment are probably not impressing the USGA too much.

Donny Corleone

May 10th, 2010
12:53 pm

He left his mashie niblick at home.