2004: Perspective - Breakups, wake-ups and shake-ups . . .

Spraying it off the tee:

OK, Elin, let’s get this straight right away: In case that Boston gossip column is right about the possible split from Tiger, my number is listed in the back of this magazine. I may not have much money or play golf well or be young enough, but then why ruin this by counting?

My son took golf and guitar as college summer school classes. I applauded his interest in two possible lifelong pursuits and his ability to see an easy good grade. But then the tuition bill came. It was $3,900. “For that amount,” I told him, “you could have gotten golf lessons from Butch Harmon or guitar lessons from Eric Clapton. Maybe both.”

Phil Mickelson is changing equipment for more money after having his best season. It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, the switch will have. Some have adjusted well, some haven’t. Payne Stewart, Corey Pavin and Mark Brooks are among those whose games declined after changing equipment following a major championship victory. Point is, cash grabs can be as risky as a 20-handicapper’s flop shot.

Monkey business: Now the guy who jettisoned the major monkey off his back at the Masters is in position to get the major monkey off his new equipment company’s back. That’s right, believe it or not, no man has won a major as a Callaway staff member.

David Duval tied for 13th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, his best finish since October 2002. He has a new grip and a new confidence and seems on the verge of proving wrong the many people who doubted he could come back from the bottom. This perhaps would be golf’s best comeback since Hal Sutton found the right woman and reclaimed himself and his game.

The United States has failed to win the Ryder Cup in six of the last nine meetings against Europe, and now this: Mickelson changes equipment and Tiger Woods reportedly is having girl problems. What next? Fred Funk starts missing fairways? Chris Riley starts missing putts? Jay Haas turns nasty? As Beano Cook said after Ronald Reagan freed the hostages and Bowie Kuhn gave them lifetime passes to Major League Baseball, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”

One good thing for the U.S. side, though, is that Bernhard Langer isn’t bringing his clubs to Oakland Hills.

You know you’ve made an impact when they change the rules because of you. So take a bow, Colin Montgomerie. Not only will alcohol be prohibited on the course at the Ryder Cup, as it was in 2002 at The Belfry, but spectators received a code of conduct with the tickets. Hence, the so-called Monty Rule. In part it says, “Booing or jeering is inappropriate. Spectators who breach this conduct by directing profanity or insults toward a player . . . are subject to immediate removal from the grounds.” In other words, they’ll never have a Ryder Cup at Bethpage Black.

The 2006 Ryder Cup is in Ireland, so how about two captains with Irish blood: Mark O’Meara and David Feherty. O’Meara will make sure pal Woods shows up on time; Feherty will make sure Europe has no curfew.

The Ryder Cup not only has come a long way in terms of interest since the mid-1980s, its sensibilities have improved. That 1987 U.S. team played without the PGA Player of the Year in 1986 (Bob Tway) and ’87 (Paul Azinger) because they couldn’t accrue points until attending PGA night seminars.

The passing of ball-striking legend Moe Norman of Canada made me think of the time I asked the late, great Dave Marr if Norman was one of the best ball-strikers ever. Marr’s answer: “He couldn’t carry (Ben) Hogan’s shag bag.”

Speaking of hitting the dimpled sphere, all things considered, the best shot ever witnessed by these eyes, and maybe by anyone, was Vijay Singh’s 3-iron in the PGA playoff on Whistling Straits’ treacherous 236-yard 17th hole. Singh played that hole five times and that was the only time he hit a draw. The draw is not Singh’s shot because he tries to take left out of play at all costs. A couple of days later, he said, smiling, “No, that’s not my shot, but I’ve been practicing it.”

BTW, seven-time winner Singh lends credence to the old saw that it’s not how you drive, it’s how you arrive. He ranks 148th in driving accuracy but first in greens in regulation.

Stranger than fiction: Never imagined to see anyone win six more Tour titles than Tiger Woods in the same season.

Earl Woods, 73, recently underwent radiation treatment for a second bout against prostate cancer. Here’s wishing well to a wise and amusing man, a longtime quote machine adored by microphones and notepads everywhere. Once asked what percentage B.S. he was, he smiled, took a drag off a cigarette and said, “Yes, I have a Bachelor of Science degree.”

A week after another major near miss at the PGA Championship, Ernie Els sounded burned out. But then he played in Switzerland and last week played in the Korean Open for a handsome appearance fee. Seoul is a long way to go to chase a buck, tired or not. Is it fair to ask, How much is enough? And because of the private plane, he doesn’t even get frequent flier miles.

Best player never to have won on the PGA Tour? With respect to the likes of Skip Kendall, Harrison Frazar and Montgomerie, maybe it’s Bill Haas. Or, for that matter, Ryan Moore.

In case you haven’t noticed, the upper echelon of golf isn’t reserved just for U.S. country club silver spooners anymore. The man who just ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking was born in a country of 800,000 people – roughly the size of Columbus, Ohio – and many of his compatriots are too poor to pay to even watch him win a PGA Tour event on television in Fiji. He replaces a longtime No. 1 who grew up playing muni courses. What’s more, the LPGA’s hottest rising star (Lorena Ochoa) calls Mexico home, and people from Paraguay won the same July week at the PGA Tour’s U.S. Bank Championship (Carlos Franco) and U.S. Girls’ Junior (Julieta Granada).

The only thing certain about Ryder Cup team uniforms is that they will stifle the sartorial creativity of one Ian Poulter.

Speaking of the Ryder Cup, any word yet on the site of the 2056 matches?

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