All week, reporters have grilled Alabama players and assistant coaches looking for any glimpse into the personality of Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. The general consensus? He smiles more than you would expect him to. He has a dry sense of humor, so his jokes tend to sneak up on you. And then there's this, from defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. Saban apparently is quite the creative interpreter of the unwritten rules of golf.
Even guys who only occasionally pick up a club know the rules that don't appear in any official USGA publication. For example, if your tee shot doesn't pass the ladies tees, you play the rest of the hole with your pants around your ankles. (As long as you're wearing collared boxers, most clubs will allow this.) Another common rule is that each player is allowed one mulligan off the first tee - just in case he isn't warmed up.
As the rule is (un)written, the mulligan only applies to the first hole. If you don't use it, you lose it. According to Smart, Saban reads it differently.
"He's been known, on the 18th, to pull his out," Smart said. "He calls it a Hooligan. It travels with him. At a criticial moment, he's down a couple strokes, he hits a bad shot and he says, ‘I didn't use my mulligan on the first hole.'"
When Smart has fallen victim to the Hooligan, he has kept his mouth shut like a good subordinate. Smart isn't sure if he could hit his own Hooligan against Saban, but he isn't about to start. "Lord, no," Smart said. "He probably would say, ‘I did it. You can do it.' But it's just more of a golf ethical rule for me."
Maybe Smart, the stickler, should have followed his boss's example the last time they played. "No, I didn't beat him," Smart said. "He got me with the Hooligan."