PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — If Smylie Kaufman comes out with a clever line during an NBC/Golf Channel telecast of a PGA Tour event, thank a gang of cronies he plays golf with at the Vestavia Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Most of my good bits come from this group,” the 31-year-old Kaufman said a few days before the beginning of Players Championship week. “We do a lot of trash-talking, bet a lot and never pay each other.”
More importantly, golf is fun again for Kaufman.
The LSU graduate was a PGA Tour winner in Las Vegas in 2015 with a final-round 61, played in the last twosome with Jordan Spieth in the 2016 Masters, tied for 12th in the 2017 Players Championship (and played with winner Si Woo Kim in the third round) yet found himself off the Tour by 2021 after injuries to his wrist and elbow caused yips with the driver and a series of poor performances that defied belief.
Kaufman got as high as 48th in the world, was in demand by sponsors and was part of the spring break posse that include Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.
Life was good but Kaufman said he now realizes that he didn’t have the Thomas or Spieth type of game. He eventually came to peace with that and knows what’s important now: his wife Francie, who has been with him since they were in high school in Birmingham, and a two-month baby daughter, Anna Carter.
“I still love being on a golf course,” the former LSU player said. “I love being with so many of the guys I played with on the Tour. I really did miss those guys.
“I’m on a different journey now.”
Kaufman is part of a new announcing crew that will work The Players Championship this week at the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
A mix of veterans and new voices
The NBC/Golf Channel crew will be a mix of familiar faces and voices and like Kaufman, some new blood. Mike Tirico continues with his host duties, Dan Hicks is back as the play-by-play announcer for a 24th year and Paul Azinger is the lead analyst.
Faxon and Paul McGinley are analysts, Curt Byrum and Steve Sands will be in the tower and Notah Begay III and former Tour caddie John Wood join Kaufman as on-course analysts.
Jimmy Roberts will do essays during the week and Damon Hack will do post-round interviews. Tommy Roy, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident, is in his 31st year overseeing The Players coverage.
There will be live streaming on Peacock, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Network coverage will be Thursday and Friday from noon-6 p.m….
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