From the Shark to a tank, Rude's thoughts on Show

Greg Norman in the Cobra-Puma booth at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Fla.

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Random thoughts after roaming miles of concrete at the PGA Merchandise Show:

• Ran into Bart Collins, Greg Norman’s longtime agent, and asked when the Shark will play next. Collins made a level motion with his hands, the kind of sign a football referee makes when a pass is incomplete. The message was: No more.

A minute later, after Norman’s last photo op on his way out the door, I asked if I’d see him at the Open Championship at Hoylake. He flashed a large smile and made a motion with his hands, the kind that implies iffy, the kind you’d make if you were imitating an airplane pilot shifting the plane from side to side. The message: Probably not.

So we might have seen the last of the Shark inside the ropes. The very occasional golfer seems trending toward fully retired.

• If golf has a more meticulous, methodical golfer than red-hot Zach Johnson, it’s probably a robot at the PGA Show. Johnson seemingly has a game plan for everything he does, including tying his shoes. What’s more, his eye for detail extends past golf and to his beloved Iowa Hawkeyes football team. As his agent Brad Buffoni says, Johnson can “tell you the broad jump and 40 time of recruits coming in three years from now.”

• Spent 10 minutes with the legendary peacock Doug Sanders at the Show on Wednesday. Could have listened for 10 hours. Among other things, the 20-time PGA Tour winner and notorious former playboy said . . .

– He rarely goes five minutes without thinking about that missed 30-inch putt on the 72nd hole that would have won the 1970 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Sometimes, he said, he’ll see a plane at an airport and think that he would have owned his own jet had he made the putt. He said his problems started at the tee when someone asked him to use a white tee commemorating his late friend Tony Lema. Sanders said he equated a white tee with a 5 on the scorecard, not the best thought to have on the 72nd tee of a major.

– He used to run with the Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. Sanders said he went to the first tee with no or little sleep many times after all-night parties. Asked for his best Rat Pack story, he smiled and said, “I can’t tell you. They’d kill all of us.”

– Sanders, seen for years getting autographs under the big tree by the Masters clubhouse, has collected golf memorabilia for years. He has signed golf bags from multiple presidents and astronauts, as well as Hall of Fame golfers. His walls at home are covered with the stuff. But apparently there’s a method to the madness. He said he plans to donate the collection, worth multimillions, to junior golf when he dies.

• One of the best stories on the Show floor belongs to Mancil Davis, the so-called King of Aces. Davis holds the world record for most documented holes-in-one: 51. His secret? “Aim at the hole,” he said.

If you are counting at home, his 51 aces are 49 more than Ben Hogan, probably the best ball-striker ever, made. And Davis says he doesn’t count the several more he made on par-3 courses. Davis once made three in a week, five in a month and eight in a year. He said he had at least one a year for 21 years.

One came on a 379-yard dogleg hole. Another ball hit a tree and sprinkler head before finding the hole. He says he has made an ace with every club in his bag but 9-iron.

His story is at once crazy and lucky.

• Blair O’Neal is a Ford Agency model who has appeared in the last three Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. She also plays on the LPGA Symetra Tour and Cactus Tour. Her goal? One is to be known as golfer/model instead of model/golfer.

• Graeme McDowell gets to scratch off an item on his bucket list in a couple of weeks. In his first trip back to Pebble Beach since he won the 2010 U.S. Open there, he will play the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am with his father.

• Here’s one significant way Tour golf has changed in the last 35 years: When Dave Pelz started working with Tour players, players carried two wedges. Then Tom Kite added a third wedge in 1981. And now Phil Mickelson has played multiple majors with five wedges in his bag.

• Pelz says when he started working with Mickelson some 11 years ago, Mickelson would try a shot if he thought he had a 10 percent chance of pulling it off. Now he’s closer to 50 percent, Pelz said. That might help explain the five majors since the start of 2004.

• It used to be that the new Tour season began in January. Then, when Norman and Nick Price ruled, people said the Tour didn’t start until the Florida swing. Then the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval elevated the West Coast.

Now the new wraparound season starts in October, if you believe the Tour media guide. If you don’t, then you should know the new season in effect, at least for John Q. Couch Potato, starts Thursday because Woods and Mickelson are making their 2014 PGA Tour debuts at the Farmers Insurance Open.

• The PGA Show is so big I somehow missed the big 106,000-pound tank at the Callaway exhibit people were yakking about. But that’s OK. The feet hurt enough.

• Pelz says his comprehensive data suggest that the short shot to master is the 14-yard chip shot with a lob wedge. So I’m closing out here and heading to the range.

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