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Jonathan Byrd is making his first appearance at the Open Championship. (Getty Images)
Jonathan Byrd is making his first appearance at the Open Championship. (Getty Images)

After whirlwind Sunday, Byrd ready to tackle Carnoustie

Print News

Before last Sunday, Jonathan Byrd wasn't even in the Open Championship field. After a win in the John Deere Classic -- and a celebration at Waffle House -- Byrd is ready to play

By Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland - In the wee hours of Monday morning, he was in the Waffle House on St. Simons Island, Ga., celebrating his third PGA TOUR victory.

"It was the only thing that was open," Jonathan Byrd said with a grin. "I ordered extra cheese and tomato and covered it."

By 5:30 that afternoon, though, the newly crowned John Deere Classic champ had packed his bags and was on a plane bound for Scotland. There Byrd would play in his first Open Championship at Carnoustie.

The quick turn of events was not unlike what had happened to Byrd's golf game. He came to the TPC Deere Run frustrated, on the heels of four straight missed cuts where he'd shot a collective 22-over par.

"I needed a course to give me some room off the tee, and John Deere was that," Byrd said. "I'd played well there in the past and I kind of got it going. My game was a lot sharper that week than the week before."

So Byrd left the TPC Deer Run as the only American PGA TOUR player under the age of 30 with three wins. Four rounds in the 60s, including a closing 66 that allowed Byrd to overtake Tim Clark, sealed the victory and put him over $1 million for the fifth time in the last six years.

"I was kind of having a good laugh the day before with my local home reporter from South Carolina," Byrd said. "He had called me (after the win), and I swear if he had interviewed me the week before when I'd missed the cut, I can't tell you the difference in that interview.

"He wouldn't have been talking about my stats, I know that. He'd be asking: how do you feel? Do you feel like you're underachieving? You haven't won since '04, and now I've won three, and I'm under 30.

"It's just so fickle, this game is so fickle. One minute ya'll love us and one minute you're dogging us. But that's just the way it goes. That's life. I guess I had reason to be dogged."

Byrd certainly was the top dog on Sunday, though. He and his wife were a little overwhelmed at the reversal in fortunes - and what needed to be done -- as they walked to the 18th green for the trophy ceremony.

Paramount in their thoughts was finding a way to get home to the resort island in southern Georgia that night. Byrd needed to get his passport and find sweaters and rain gear to pack. Luckily, the John Deere folks stepped in and provided the plane.

Once home, there was the impromptu celebratory dinner - or, was it breakfast? -- at the Waffle House. Byrd's agent, Mac Barnhardt, who had gotten the news of the victory when he landed in Scotland, called early Monday and helped sort out the details, not the least of which was finding a place for Byrd and his caddy, Mike Hicks, to stay.

To say it was a whirlwind 24 hours or so would be an understatement.

"Probably the best time was just being on the plane and on the drive on the way home because there were no phones and no one could call me," Byrd said. "Ever since I've been home, the phone hasn't stopped ringing. There hasn't been a whole lot of down time."

Nor will there be now that Byrd is in Scotland. He landed in Scotland at 9:45 a.m. and got to the course about five hours later. He talked with a trio of reporters before going out to play a practice round with Davis Love III, another Tuesday morning arrival.

Byrd, who graduated from Clemson in 2000, has always wanted to play in an Open Championship. He withdrew from the U.S. qualifying, though, "because my game wasn't where I wanted it to be, and I decided it would be best for me to stay over (in the America) and play," he said.

That decision turned out to be a prescient one.

Byrd actually had come close to making the field at Royal St. George's in 2003 when he missed by a shot in one of the UK qualifiers. When he and his wife couldn't change their flights, they went to Paris, instead - but not before being robbed in Sandwich, England.

"My wife's book bag got stolen," Byrd said. "It had all her jewelry -- the earrings I gave her on our wedding day - and a journal we had that we write to each other. That was probably our most prized possession.

"So I took her to Paris, got her some new earrings and it's all put in the past."

And just think of that journal entry Byrd could make with a win come Sunday.

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