According to The Forecaddie, which is Golfweek’s “Inside the Ropes” gossip column, and which everyone reads, legendary golf writer and former Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly is back on the golf beat filing stories at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Florida last week.
Reilly was first observed sitting on a Players Championship media shuttle bus. A boisterous gent wearing a “Pray For Birdies” flat-brimmed cap was looking eerily like Rick Reilly, and low-and-behold it was the longtime Sports Illustrated-writer-turned-retiree who is making a writing comeback with The Athletic, a subscription-based sports website that’s brought in Reilly to generate some buzz.
If his presence at the Tournament Players Championship is any indication, Reilly’s return to covering golf will, if nothing else, will add zest to major-championship interview rooms. Away from covering the game for almost five years while enjoying the spoils of a lucrative and now-expired $3 million ESPN contract, Reilly’s been splitting time between Tuscany, Italy and southern California. Judging by how many changes in the game Reilly became aware of during Players week he said, “Guys read the greens with their fingers and their books are filled with arrows” and “Tuscany doesn’t have much Internet service. Or the Golf Channel.”
Asked what’s changed, Reilly reeled off a long list.
“People are wearing shirts with no collars, guys are wearing office shirts, I’ve seen a pair of high tops, and Golfweek is a monthly (in print),” he said.
What about inside the media center?
“Looks like a lot of guys got fired,” the 60-year-old said somberly. “A hell of a lot of really good magazines look like they went on an Atkins Diet. And Phil [Mickelson’s] a lot harder to get to than he used to be.”
Reilly is the author of “Missing Links” published in 1997 about a legendary tale at Ponkapoag Golf Course, a municipal course in Canton, MA. He also authored “Tiger, Meet My Sister” and he hasn’t lost his sense of humor or his sense of self.
Reilly’s reputation among his peers in the media is somewhat hostile but the guy can write. One of my favorite golf books of all time is “Who’s your Caddy?” which had Reilly writing in 2004 ten chapters on ten famous characters he caddied for including Jack Nicklaus, John Daly, Deepak Chopra and Donald Trump. At the time Reilly was the funniest and most popular sportswriter in America and it became a New York Times bestseller.
Can’t help but like Reilly’s passion and his reasoning as he quipped, “One thing got me out of Italy. I love golf. I really missed being out here.”