Boo Weekley makes welcome return

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- There are dozens of stories about Boo Weekley, so where do you begin?

He once had a job as a hydro-blaster at a Pensacola, Fla., chemical plant. For protection, he wore rain gear and a bulletproof vest and was lowered into steaming hot tanks with a high-pressure hose to clean up.

He once dropped his rental car keys in a portable-bathroom toilet, and needing to get to the airport to catch his flight and having no other way to get there ... well, he reached in to retrieve the keys.

And, of course, there is the orangutan story: On a bet at a county fair, he jumped into the ring with the animal ... and woke up later, having been knocked out.

So the poisonous water moccasin he encountered on Thursday at the Honda Classic? Not a big deal, really.

"He blended in perfectly with the grass, wasn't but about 18 inches long, but he was good enough that he could have bit you and hurt you pretty bad," Weekley said. "A guy come running up to us right before we teed off, and when we got done I told the guy not to worry about it. I took my driver, turned it over, and just moved him."

Boo, where have you been?

He got on the leaderboard Thursday with a 66, but it's been awhile.

The guy who grew up in the Florida panhandle and never gave up his country roots while climbing into golf's elite had fallen off his perch in recent years. And he's going to turn 40 later this year. A shoulder injury suffered in 2009 festered, causing him to lose his card two years ago.

That meant a year of writing letters and asking for sponsor invites while trying to regain the swing and the game that saw him make the 2008 U.S. Ryder Cup team, where he famously "galloped" off the first tee at Valhalla to start his Sunday singles round. His 66 at PGA National left him two strokes behind Camilo Villegas at the Honda Classic, a tournament Weekley lost in a playoff in 2007 when he missed a short putt. But he went on to win later that year at the Heritage, defended his title a year later, and became known as a tremendous ball striker who might fare even better if he could learn how to putt.

"It's just part of golf," Weekley said. "Talk to everybody out here -- it's tough when you have to write letters. And thank the good Lord that I have been friendly enough, and been an outgoing guy to a lot of these tournaments. I've done about everything they have asked me to do, to let me in like last year, because I was playing on all sponsor exemptions and everything that I could do to get in.

"I got in enough just to keep my card, and it's an honor to be able to say that they called me up and asked me to play that many times."

Weekley got into 25 tournaments in 2012, making 13 cuts, with three top-10 finishes. His tie for fifth at the season-ending Disney tournament helped him finish 108th on the money list, which meant full-exempt status for this year.

So far, his best finish is a tie for 34th in four starts, including a missed cut.

But he feels much better about his game, and in typical Boo fashion, explained how his putting is getting better.

"I've been working real hard," he said. "We've just been trying to find some small things in and out that can help me, and the thing is, pacing my putters, the way I stroke the ball ... it's slowing my putter face down a little bit to keep me from popping it and getting my right hand involved and breathing a little bit.

"Kind of like when I'm shooting my guns long range; I have to take a deep breath and exhale and blow it out and then pull the trigger. And that's what we try to work on a little bit -- Scott Hamilton, my coach, he's kind of helped me on that side of it to get me to realize, get it more natural where it just flows instead of just sitting there. You tense up."

For Boo, whatever works.