Hello, you've reached the World Golf Tour. If you're a golfer and
would like to play against Greg Norman for jillions of dollars,
please press 1 now. . . .
Nobody answered the phone last Thursday at the offices of the
World Golf Tour, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Maybe everyone was
down south at Doral Country Club, in Miami, watching the real
world golf tour. Eight of the top 15 golfers in the Sony Ranking
showed up to play in the Doral-Ryder Open last week. (Fred Couples
withdrew on Wednesday with back trouble.) At least as many are
expected this week at the Honda Classic, and all 15 will probably
be at The Players Championship in two weeks.
Meanwhile Norman, who is looking more and more like the captain of
the Titanic, is the only guy still talking about his controversial
project in the present tense. It's no wonder, because for the next
month we can expect to see the best against the best on the PGA
Tour, and isn't that precisely what the World Tour was supposed to
give us? ``There are so many marquee names here at Doral this week
that I couldn't even make the pro-am,'' said Paul Azinger. ``The
tournament officials told me they looked at the list of players,
and I just didn't make the cut.'' Azinger paused, then added with
a smile, ``How quickly they forget.''
Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie, ranked Nos. 5, 6
and 8 in the world, respectively, each chose Doral as his first
U.S. event of the season. Seve Ballesteros turned up as well,
blowing off a tournament for which he's the spokesperson, the
Turespana Masters, which is a little like Jack Nicklaus playing
hooky from his Memorial Tournament to play a tour stop in
Pamplona. Norman himself was on hand, making his second appearance
on the Tour this year, and caused a stir with his suggestion that
Doral was the first meaningful tournament of the PGA season. All
of this illustrated that Doral is much like the opening of spring
training, the initial tuneup for next month's Masters. ``I think
all of us Europeans feel that Doral is the beginning of the U.S.
Tour,'' Montgomerie said. ``It's a good course with an excellent
field. That's what we're all looking for to get us adjusted to the
``Doral is where everybody comes to get warmed up,'' said the
winner, Nick Faldo. ``Everyone is done with their world hops, and
this is the start of the countdown to you-know-what.'' For Faldo,
who played in four tournaments on the West Coast, the win at Doral
was sweet vindication of his decision to leave Europe and play a
full U.S. schedule this year in an effort to pull out of a
After eight weeks of tournaments out West, featuring fields
thinner than Nicklaus's new waistline and not a single winner with
a major championship in his bag, the Tour's annual barnstorming of
the Sunshine State came not a moment too soon, though just because
the best show up doesn't mean the best show up. After two rounds
the Doral leader board was peppered with an eclectic set of names.
There was a part-time bank teller (Woody Austin), a club designer
(Harry Taylor), the best golfer ever from Anchorage (Tray Tyner)
Order was restored on the weekend, but by then almost everybody in
the field had been teasing the 6,939-yard, par-72 Blue Monster.
The 36-hole cut was one under par, the lowest in the tournament's
34-year history, and on Saturday only 10 of the remaining 77
golfers shot over par. The assault was due mainly to favorable
breezes, velvet-smooth greens and an overseeding of the fairways
that kept even wayward drives from hopping off into the rough.
But above all, the Doral-Ryder Open was a melodramatic Love story.
Davis Love III, who hasn't won a PGA tournament since October
1993, needs to win one, any one, to qualify for the Masters. For
the first two rounds it seemed that Love would conquer all. He
shot 65-69 and led Russ Cochran by a stroke. Then he found himself
caught in a cavalry charge without a horse. Just like last year,
when he averaged nearly a stroke higher in his weekend rounds than
he did on Thursdays and Fridays, Love soured late, shooting 70-71
and finishing tied for fourth, two shots behind Faldo.
Love spoke about his frustrating Masters quest after his 65 on
Thursday. In the second round of the Western Open in July, Love
recounted, he had marked a one-foot putt on the 4th hole. He then
moved his coin to clear the line for a playing partner but forgot
to return the mark to its proper spot before replacing his ball
and putting out. No one else noticed the oversight, but Love
assessed himself a two-stroke penalty and missed the cut by those
He finished his season in 33rd place on the money list and just
$766 from being one of the 30 invitees to the Tour Championship,
which would have guaranteed him a trip to Augusta. ``If I'd have
moved that coin back, I'd be in the Masters right now,'' Love said
last week. ``But what if I'd said nothing and made the cut and won
five thousand dollars that week and got in the Masters? And say I
win the Masters, then I'd always wonder if I cheated my way into a
The Masters has always been special for Love, and not simply
because he was born the day after the 1964 tournament. His father,
Davis Love Jr., later a highly regarded teaching pro, had shot a
first-round 69 that year, which tied him for the lead with four
others, including the eventual winner, Arnold Palmer. But Love Jr.
followed with rounds of 75-74-76, to finish 34th. Davis believes
his father faded because he had other matters on his mind, namely
the impending birth of his first child. ``I heard the same story
every year, about my mom doing everything she could to postpone my
arrival,'' Davis says. ``My dad always kidded me that he would
have won the Masters if it wasn't for me.''
As his son's teacher and mentor, Love Jr. passed along the family
dream of winning a Masters title. That dream took on even greater
significance for Davis III after his father died in a plane crash
To help him fulfill that dream, Davis has turned to another family
member, his younger brother, Mark, 28, who is working as his
caddie this season. This is Mark's second stint as a looper -- he
was also on his brother's bag in '92 when Davis won three
tournaments, including The Players Championship. Mark had been a
golf-equipment representative until Davis all but begged him to
come back this winter. ``I wouldn't have done this for anybody but
my brother, but I believed in my heart that I could help him
win,'' Mark says. ``I can tell him things that nobody else can.''
A scratch golfer and former assistant pro at Sea Island, Ga., Mark
is sage when it comes to yardage and reading greens. ``Mark's a
good caddie: He keeps his mouth shut,'' Davis jokes. ``For some
reason I have more confidence and faith in what he says. It's like
having my dad out there watching me. He gets to the simple stuff
like my dad always did.''
In Miami, Love's fellow players seemed aware of his Masters
quest. ``A lot of guys like Davis and want him to make it to
Augusta, but sentiment will make you a poor man on the PGA
Tour,'' said Peter Jacobsen, who has won twice this year and
will be making his first trip to Augusta in four years. Jacobsen
celebrated his 41st birthday on Saturday by shooting a 64 for a
share of the third-round lead. He ended up tying Norman for
second, at 14 under.
``Sure, I know Davis needs a win to get there,'' said Norman.
``There's a tremendous amount of pressure knowing that you must
win, and it builds up with each week that you don't do it. I've
been there. Believe me, I feel for him.''
Nobody knows suffering like Greg Norman. Once again at Doral, he
coughed up a chance at victory on the final hole. This time he
splashed his six-iron approach shot into the lake at 18 and made
bogey to lose by a shot to Faldo. Where have we seen this before?
How about the '93 Tour Championship at Olympic, when Norman flew
an eight-iron over the 18th green, bogeyed and lost by a stroke
to Jim Gallagher Jr. Or the '89 British Open at Royal Troon,
where Norman misclubbed on the tee and hit a driver into a fairway
bunker on the fourth and final playoff hole, giving Mark
Calcavecchia a gift- wrapped major. Or how about the infamous
four-iron on the final hole at the '86 Masters that Norman blocked
into the gallery, handing the green jacket over to Nicklaus.
But at least Norman will have another shot at a green jacket come
April. Love may not. He felt so good about his chances of winning
at Doral after Friday's round that he decided to skip the Honda
Classic. Now he finds himself with only three more opportunities
to win before the Masters. ``I know I'm pressing a little
lately,'' Love says. ``But I feel that no goal can put more
pressure on me than I already do.''
He recalled trying to watch the 1988 PGA Championship on
television after failing to qualify. He watched a few holes,
then turned the TV off in disgust. ``I don't like being left out
of anything,'' Love says. In a way that statement seemed to sum
up the players' attitudes to the Tour in Florida, where fields
should be strong throughout March. ``This is a tough draw, but
we're expecting that every week down here,'' said Lanny Wadkins.
Proximity is a factor in the strong fields. More than 50 of the
players at Doral live in Florida, a fact due less to the chamber
of commerce weather than to the lack of a state personal income
tax. One of the most popular neighborhoods is near Orlando, at
the Lake Nona Club, where Els, Faldo, Nick Price, Payne Stewart
and Mark O'Meara, among other pros, all live. ``Maybe all these
great fields in Florida will put the issue of a world tour to
rest once and for all,'' Els said. ``Heck, where I live, I'd
have to play out of my socks just to win the club championship.''