STATELINE, Nev. - The first thing that Charles Barkley said on his first hole at the American Century Championship was, "Oh (crap), you're still alive. That's a miracle."
He was speaking to course marshal Norm Green. Barkley would proclaim his amazement again that Green was in fact breathing and walking before leaving the tee box.
"Every year I come here I'm just shocked you're still alive."
Green took a picture with Barkley, giving him a high-five. The marshal had to stand on a chair in the middle of the tee box to do so. That was just a start to the Barkley shenanigans.
He arrived to the first tee early, just in time to watch Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane tee off. Barkley, being Barkley, wanted a closer look and stood about a foot from Beane's ball. He moved back, eventually, and Beane skied a shot that wouldn't have gone out of the infield.
"Don't worry if it hits you, it won't hurt," Barkley shouted.
The NBA Hall of Famer left tee one and crossed the bridge to tee 10 to say "hi" to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Many people commented on Barkley's weight loss, as he sported a white shirt that looked a size too big and black pants, complemented by black shoes.
The stands for the first tee were significantly more full than the ones next to them for tee 10. He was announced as the "one and only Sir Charles Barkley."
Barkley set his ball on a tee and tried to move a piece of grass that sat behind it with his driver several times before he finally gave up and took a practice swing. It was smooth and clean, giving promise that his actual swing might be improved. It was a false promise.
When he stepped to the ball and pulled his club back, all looked good. His swing down was smooth, just like in practice, but he stopped about two-thirds of the way down and then continued. His ball did not go far, but it did go farther than Beane's.
As Barkley walked, fans shouted at him. One said, "You're the man, Chuck."
"Thank you my man. I'm blessed," he answered.
Luckily for him - and his group, and the group behind them - they played the best ball off the drive. Only two in the group hit the green from about 120 yards out, and wouldn't you know it, one was Barkley. His swing mimicked his drive, with the stutter on the swing down, but he hit a line drive that landed 30 feet from the hole.
He putted from the right side of the green, going downhill. It looked good, but died about eight inches from the cup. A two-putt. Good for par.