Meet my new caddie.
No, Bob Dyer won’t actually be carrying my bag. He barely knows the difference between a lob wedge and a foot wedge.
But he seems to be a pretty decent writer, so the two of us are teaming up to give you an inside look at the big Bridgestone Invitational, which tees off this morning at Firestone Country Club in South Akron.
This is the third time I’ve qualified for the event, and I get pretty good vibes around here.
My rookie year I wound up in 33rd place, but last season I tied for second and finished strong, carding a 66 in the final round. I’m hoping to move up one spot this time.
Although I grew up in California and now live in Florida, Ohio has been good to me.
Way back in 2005, when I was only 16, I won the Hudson Junior Invitational. In 2009, I almost won a Nationwide event in Columbus. And in 2010, I finished second at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament at Muirfield.
Most players consider the Bridgestone Invitational just one step below a major. The purse is $8.5 million this year, and the field includes the very best golfers on the planet. This is one of only four annual World Golf Championship events.
The golf course itself is special. It is always in great shape and has a rich history. They’ve been playing professional tournaments here for half a century.
Last year, Firestone South ranked as the 18th toughest course out of 51 on the tour, and little wonder. It’s long, so you have to be in control of your mid- and long-range irons, and you definitely have to drive it well off the tee.
The first time I set foot in Akron was three years ago. I had no idea what to expect, because the only thing I knew about the city was from watching the tournaments on TV. I didn’t even know that much about the course, because a golf course looks so much different in person than it does on television.
But I’ve discovered this is a great course and a fun city.
This has been a breakout year for me. I won my first PGA Tour event in May, the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, and I’ve had five top-10 finishes.
Winning in Charlotte lifted a weight off my back. You haven’t fully arrived until you’ve actually finished first. A bunch of my fellow pros tweeted their congratulations, including Rory McIlroy, who at the time ranked No. 1 in the world.
I’m currently 20th in the world rankings and 12th in the FedEx Cup standings. Not a bad place to be when you’re only 23 years old. But I’m certainly not satisfied. I still have a long way to go before I get where I want to be.
If you follow pro golf at all, you already know that I don’t fit the mold of the traditional golfer. I wear some pretty wild outfits, including my trademark Puma caps, oversized with a flat bill, and brightly colored clothes with matching shoes.
Various writers have described my on-course garb as “neon threads” and “40-kilowatt clothes” and “Crayola colors” and “candy-colored outfits,” including “fruit-snack purple” and “Oklahoma State orange” (which I wear on Sundays as a tribute to my alma mater).
You might also know me from the goofy music video I made last year with three of my fellow pros and pals: Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Ben Crane. It’s called Golf Boys, and it has gotten an amazing 5.3 million hits on YouTube.
I hope you’ll watch it — or watch it again if you already have — because Farmers Insurance pledged to donate $1,000 to charity for every 100,000 views. In other words, we’ve managed to generate more than $53,000 so far.
Being part of a music video watched by more than 5 million people was inconceivable when I was growing up back in Murrieta, Calif., a small town that is roughly in the middle of the triangle formed by Los Angeles, San Diego and Palm Springs.
It used to be a lot smaller. These days, it’s about half the size of Akron, with more than 100,000 residents. But when I was young, the population was about 20,000. It was a great place to grow up.
I have a different background that most of the other guys on the tour. My golf swing is basically self-taught, and the sport of golf barely won out over my passion for motocross racing, which I gave up at age 14 after breaking some bones in my foot.
I don’t mind standing out. That’s who I am.
It should be a great tournament this year. I hope you guys will come out and root us on.
And don’t forget to read these columns.
By the way, if you put our names together, this column is being written by Rickie Bobby.
Never did any NASCAR racing, but sounds like fun.
Messages for Rickie Bobby can be left at 330-996-3580 or at email@example.com.