2004: Matchups and misconceptions
Spraying it off the tee:
The U.S. Golf Association, as well as the PGA Tour and PGA of America, reacted to the 1990 Shoal Creek fiasco by no longer conducting tournaments at courses whose memberships exclude minorities and women. Yet 14 years later USGA president Fred Ridley is a member of two all-men’s clubs, Augusta National and Pine Valley, and vice president Walter Driver and secretary James Reinhart are Augusta members. Having it both ways doesn’t pass the smell test, no matter how clogged the nostrils. Please make up your minds, fellas.
At least one radio talk show host, if not one hundred, asked the past two weeks, “What’s wrong with Tiger Woods?” Answer: Not too much, considering he just won the WGC-Match Play three Tour starts ago. When another twentysomething pro ties for 16th at the Players Championship, he’s billed as a rising star. When Woods does so, silly slump talk recurs.
Woods’ swing is a little loose, especially with the driver, that’s all. He has fixed it before and will fix it again. Even while not finely tuned, Woods stands an excellent chance of winning his fourth Masters title. Augusta National is more conducive to the sprayed tee ball than the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course, and Woods’ short game is as good as ever. And the dangling carrot of history tends to get his attention.
Phil Mickelson entered the Masters with as good a chance as ever to win his first major title. He has improved his game, body and strategy. Now all Mickelson needs to do is add to the Ford-logoed shirt that makes him look like an automotive mechanic. A name seems missing on the other side of the chest. Stitching on “Mick” or “Lefty” would work.
Beloved Arnold Palmer, of course, is playing in his 50th and final Masters. Farewells again will flow. Which begs the question: Which king has retired more often: Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Palmer or the four in an old deck of cards?
Popular caddie Bruce Edwards hasn’t been doing well in his battle against ALS and wasn’t expected to attend the Masters to receive his Ben Hogan Award for courage.
But his spirits perked up when some players, including Peter Jacobsen, Craig Stadler and Billy Andrade, and numerous caddies visited him at his Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., home during the Players. Jacobsen was at his entertaining best, playing guitar and singing, doing impressions and telling funny stories. Edwards laughed and laughed.
Once again, golf sends sunshine through a dark cloud.
A 76-80 weekend at the Players was good enough to squeak John Daly back into the Masters after a year absence. Now comes the hard part: Trying to concentrate the week his wife, Sherrie, and her parents were to begin trial proceedings on federal drug and gambling charges. Amen Corner is hard enough without the feds in the back of your mind.
With the TV age and fan connection in mind, the Tour suggested to its players at a recent meeting that they show more personality on the course. The Tour and the networks wouldn’t mind seeing more Trevino and less Hogan in terms of playfulness. It won’t be easy for players to alter their normal behavior – nor is it fair to ask – but perhaps the Tour can start by handing out joke books at the next meeting.
Shell’s or “Battle of . . .” matches I’d watch: Annika Sorenstam-Vijay Singh, Sorenstam-John Riegger, Michelle Wie-Philip Francis, Arnold Palmer-Ken Venturi, Wie-Danielle Ammaccapane with parents, and right-handed Mac O’Grady against left-handed Mac O’Grady or Deane Beman.
Wie said she would turn pro before 18 if someone comes up with “Tiger money . . . a hundred million dollars.” Suddenly the Stanford men’s or women’s team doesn’t look as strong in 2007-08.
Architects Jack Nicklaus and Tom Doak will collaborate on a new Long Island course. Apparently Nicklaus didn’t see the zero rating Doak gave Nicklaus’ Grand Traverse (Mich.) Bear course in his Confidential Guide.
Woods will go through military training the week after the Masters. Didn’t he already do that? Before reaching puberty?
Adam Scott won the Players Championship swinging like Woods. And finally putting and chipping like him. If he keeps it up, the Next Tiger could be a silhouette.
Padraig Harrington finished a close second at the Players despite calling his wedge play “pathetic . . . a zero or 1 out of 10.”
Then he finished fourth at BellSouth last week. Looked like a man ready to break through at Augusta.
People who say Woods didn’t win a major last year haven’t seen Elin Nordegren.
Bob Fagan, 52, 2003 Golf Nut of the Year, spent more money on caddies, carts and green fees in 2000-01 than he made in total household income. He played in 65 mph wind and rain the morning of his wedding. He played six 18-hole courses in 114-degree heat in Palm Springs on one July day. He broke par and won $800 in 35 degree below zero wind-chill temperatures.
All of which means golf junkies should cut and laminate his exploits for presentation to their complaining significant others.
The choice: Masters merchandise profit or Woods’ first-quarter earnings?
Visited with the delightful Tommy Bolt the other night, just hours before his 88th birthday. Still sharp as a divot-repair tool, the Hall of Famer as usual told several stories about his late friend Ben Hogan. They included one about a guy who asked Hogan, “How can it be that you, the greatest ball-striker ever, never had a hole-in-one?” To which the Hawk replied, “Maybe I was never aiming at the hole.”
Yes, Hogan never made an ace, in or out of competition, according to Bolt. Add that to the “Anything Is Possible” campaign.
Remember, the four most important clubs in the bag are the driver, putter, wedge and Canadian. And as Bolt might say, don’t break any of the two in the same round.