Q&A: NASCAR's Hamlin on Bubba, golf
January 29, 2015
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Denny Hamlin typically plays in four or five pro-ams every year. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin was among the celebrities who participated in Wednesday’s pro-am at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx car fittingly played with the FedExCup champion, Billy Horschel. After his round, Hamlin spoke with PGATOUR.COM about his golf game and his friendship with Bubba Watson.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s your handicap and how would you assess your golf game?
HAMLIN: I’m a 5, but I have good days and bad days. I’m just kind of stuck where I can’t break past those barriers right now. Over the last couple years I’ve dropped a few (strokes) and a few years before that I dropped about five strokes. It’s getting better. I think I need to be truly retired to get past the brink where I am right now.
PGATOUR.COM: What are your strengths and weaknesses?
HAMLIN: My strength is my short game, by far. As long as I have a putter in my hand, I always have a chance. Long irons are probably my biggest struggle.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s your low round?
HAMLIN: 72. I’ve been a couple under going into the last hole, but you start thinking about score and it bites you.
PGATOUR.COM: Any holes-in-one?
HAMLIN: I have. I’ve had one, from 133 yards out with a 9-iron.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s more nerve-wracking, playing in a PGA TOUR pro-am or driving?
HAMLIN: This is by far more nerve-wracking. I don’t get nervous anymore racing, but this right here, in front of an audience, especially on 16, where they’ll boo you, you want to hit a good one. Luckily for me today, I hit it 15 feet, so that was good.
PGATOUR.COM: How long have you been playing, and what do you love most about it?
HAMLIN: I’ve only been playing for seven years or so. I love the competition, and there’s so many mechanics to it, to being good. I enjoy the challenge. Anything that really challenges me, especially like golf, I like a lot.
PGATOUR.COM: How’d you get started?
HAMLIN: As soon as I started racing, I started playing golf. A lot of the crew guys would go play on their time off. I really didn’t have any other sports that I did growing up, so I took it up and went out for a few rounds. The next thing you know, I kind of got addicted to it. I just love it, and it’s a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll play a lot more once I retire.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s your favorite course near a NASCAR track?
HAMLIN: Probably Old Farm near Bristol Motor Speedway.
PGATOUR.COM: Do you have any kind of modified, souped-up cart at home?
HAMLIN: The one that I use on a regular basis, it’s souped-up. It will run 55, 60 mph. It’s a regular golf cart, just souped-up quite a bit.
PGATOUR.COM: You’re friends with Bubba Watson. Have you driven the General Lee?
HAMLIN: I haven’t yet. It would be fun, though.
PGATOUR.COM: Have you gotten Bubba into a race car?
HAMLIN: I can’t remember if we’ve actually gotten him in a race car yet, but he’d probably be too scared to do it. He said he doesn’t want to go fast.
PGATOUR.COM: What’s the best shot you’ve seen him hit?
HAMLIN: The year he won the Masters, I caddied for him at the Par-3 Contest. He got in that position (in the playoff) where he had to hook one around those trees. I was like, ‘I’ve seen that on the range.’ He’d pick a distance and hit one hook, one fade, one straight. And then he’d go to another distance. One hook, one fade, one straight. I was like, ‘He’s got this shot.’ And the next you thing you know, he hooks it around the trees and makes it and wins the Masters.
PGATOUR.COM: How many pro-ams do you think you’ll play in this year?
HAMLIN: I usually play in 4-5 per year. Schedule-wise, that’s what I’m able to do.
PGATOUR.COM: What course do you most want to play and what is your favorite course that you have played?
HAMLIN: I’d, of course, love to play Augusta National. My favorite course that I’ve played is probably either Shadow Creek in Las Vegas or Diamond Creek in Banner Elk, North Carolina.
Jerome Bettis and Denny Hamlin square off in Phoenix