Weekley the deer hunter calls the shots

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The Independent Online

It was Thanksgiving in America yesterday, although here it was the Chinese organisers giving thanks to America. It seems so fitting that a tournament desperate to start afresh began with a pair of leaders who have exactly the sort of attitude the World Cup needs to justify its title.

Boo Weekley was in a tree when he received the call. "Serious, I was up there hunting deer when they phoned to ask me to represent my country," he said, after a first-round 61 in the fourballs gave him and partner Heath Slocum the advantage going into this morning's foursomes.

"I didn't fall out or anything as I was well-harnessed in. But I did nearly about cry and then to be able to call up one of my good friends, Heath, and him to play, too made it even better. See, to us this is like our Olympics. It's one heck of an honour."

Compare this with the indifference shown, of late, by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the rest of the better-known home performers on the PGA Tour. Perhaps it is their experience in recent Ryder Cups that has put them off, but they treat this particular team event as "one heck of an honour" to be avoided at all costs. Could Weekley ever imagine a scenario in which he would turn down the chance to play for his flag? "Honestly sir, I don't think I could," he replied. "But that's just me."

Indeed, the 34-year-old makes no apologies for who he is or where he comes from. In his short time alongside the game's elite he has emerged as a character, maybe the character, on the oh-so-samey Starred and Striped fairways. Whispers may have gathered this time around a professional who is not quite as daft as he seems, but if it is a wise man who plays the fool then it is an even wiser one who does it so adroitly as Weekley.

Stories have been written of Boo wrestling alligators, of a boxing bout with an orang-utan and of a disease caught off a cow that meant not wearing cotton trousers. In fact, wherever he has gone – which as it happens has not been that far, having left the US for the first time to go to Mexico in February and secondly for The Open in July – he has not disappointed and here, so far, has been no exception. What did he know about China before arriving on Monday? "Nothing, apart from the rice," he said, in the small-town drawl that fits his image so perfectly. "Oh and the Great Wall. But I thought it was closer to where we're at."

Still, his knowledge was slightly more detailed than that of his caddie, who arrived at the Hong Kong border without a visa. He was detained and did not join up with his employer here at Mission Hills until Wednesday afternoon. "He went straight to bed and slept 'til about four this morning" revealed Weekley. "He awoke saying he was ready to get after it. And that's what we did today."

In the event, it was Weekley doing most of the getting after, Slocum confessing he was happy to sit back and "watch Boo play, very, very well". He probably has been doing exactly that, though, since they first started playing together in high school in Milton, their home city in Florida. It seems strange to report that of all the nations competing here it is the American team boasting the boys who know each other the most intimately (except for, naturally, the Italian Molinari brothers). But then, when there happen to be just over 3,300 males living in Milton you realise this is an unlikely story. Just to add to the legend that may about to be written, the place used to be known as "Scratch Ankle" because of all the prickly briar bushes that grow there.

It is obviously a different world to what the pair are experiencing here, although Weekley is similar to the locals in at least one respect. Just as they are unfailingly courteous, so too is Weekley, referring to everyone as "Sir" or "Ma'am" even when he probably doesn't much feel like it. A classic case came yesterday when one brave female reporter asked what he made of the criticism America had received for not sending their optimum team. "Nothing Ma'am," he said. "I thought they'd sent the best team."

The scoreboard as the second round teed off did not contradict him. One back on 10-under were Germany, while in joint third after 63s were the Welsh pair of Bradley Dredge and Stephen Dodd and the pre-tournament favourites England comprising Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.