Memphis may be Home of the Blues, but for Ken Green it was the
city of his salvation. In the FedEx St. Jude Classic last week
at the Tournament Players Club at Southwind, Green proved his
career wasn't headed for the ER by finishing in a tie for second
with Jay Delsing, one stroke back of Jim Gallagher, who won for
the second time this year. Just two weeks ago Green was 255th on
the Sony World Rankings, having earned a mere $19,927 this year;
he more than quadrupled that total in Memphis, with a payday of
$110,000. "It seems like I haven't totally lost it yet," Green
said after Sunday's finish.
Until last week, Green was part of an unholy trinity, along with
Ian Baker-Finch and Jodie Mudd, of once-hot players whose games
were on life support. Baker-Finch and Mudd also played in
Memphis but with less desirable results. Baker-Finch shot his
best back-to-back rounds of the year, but his scores of 71-71
were not enough to qualify for weekend competition. In 11 events
this year, he has missed eight cuts and withdrawn three times.
Mudd didn't even make it to Friday. He shot 78 on Thursday,
withdrew and headed home to his farm outside Louisville. "I
tried to get back into it, and it just wasn't happening," said
Mudd, who had taken a month off. "My heart just wasn't into it.
I don't know if it's burnout or what, but I'm not the type of
player that goes through the motions. I just can't put myself
through that misery."
When this decade began, all three were considered among the best
young players in the game. In 1988 Green had finished fourth on
the PGA Tour's money list and made more than $1 million
worldwide with tournament victories in the Canadian Open, the
Greater Milwaukee Open and the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. "I was
five strokes away from Player of the Year," Green says.
July 9, 1995
Mudd has been on the decline ever since 1990, when he won both
The Players Championship and the Tour Championship and was fifth
on the money list with $911,746. Last year he finished 214th,
and this year he is 170th. As for Baker-Finch, he once may have
looked the most promising of the three. In 1990 he made nearly
$1 million in tournaments around the world and followed that up
by winning the British Open at Royal Birkdale, England, a year
later. He hasn't earned a penny on the Tour this season.
"They didn't just step in a hole, they fell off a cliff," says
Steve Elkington. "Unfortunately golf is that way. There are no
safety nets. Some of us know the cliff is out there. We know we
can step off it, because you see it happen so many times."
You talk to Green, Baker-Finch and Mudd, and they say the same
thing: There's not much difference between their game then and
their game now. Confidence, as any player on the Tour will tell
you, is the difference between success and failure in golf. It's
here, it's gone, and if you're lucky--like Bob Tway and Peter
Jacobsen have been this year--it comes back again. "I never knew
what confidence was until I didn't have any," Tway said after
his win at the MCI Heritage Classic in April ended a four-year
"There's a line, and sometimes you can't get back once you've
crossed it," says Green. "There are guys who have not come back.
Then there are guys who have. Tway's come back, and look at
Peter [Jacobsen]. Every year it happens. All of a sudden, guys
do something to reinforce their confidence. Whether it's
personal or physical, everybody has his own problem that he has
to cut through."
Green's troubles started out with a bitter divorce from his
second wife, Ellen, which was finalized last summer. In the
midst of those proceedings, his play declined and his earnings
dropped. Earlier this year he found himself three months in
arrears in alimony and child-support payments. A warrant for his
arrest on assault charges was also issued in Florida after Ellen
accused him of injuring her during an argument.
At the time, he was living in an apartment near his hometown of
Danbury, Conn. The message on his answering machine began, "This
is Ken running-from-the-law Green. I'm out on the lam right
now." But he knew it was not a humorous position to be in.
Clearly, it was not easy being Green.
He had to withdraw from the BellSouth Classic in May because he
didn't have the funds to make the trip to Atlanta. He entered
but did not show up at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic the
following week in Irving, Texas, for the same reason. At
Westchester Country Club for the Buick Classic in May he missed
the cut. He had also withdrawn from three other tournaments
after having poor opening rounds. His game was in such horrible
shape that, at one point, he began using a 26-inch putter that
belonged to his son Hunter.
With a reputation for being abrasive and abrupt on the way up,
Green hasn't met too many friends on his way down. He is one of
the most fined players in PGA Tour history, so there isn't much
sympathy coming from Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Fla. His
manager and attorney, Kevin Richardson, rarely gets a phone call
for Green to do a corporate outing.
"I've got a piece of land, and I've got a sparsely furnished
house in Danbury, that's it," Green said before heading to
Memphis. "That's all I've got left. I'm so far in the hole, it's
Green needs to make $30,000 a month to cover his alimony and
child-support payments plus his travel and caddie expenses. At
one point this year, he had to tap into a self-employment
retirement fund. But in early June, the week after a judge found
him not guilty of the battery charge in Palm Beach county court,
Green made his first cut in six weeks and had his best finish of
the year to that point, 38th, in the Kemper Open. He picked up
$6,160, which like all of his paychecks these days, had 55%
garnisheed by the state of Florida for his child support and
alimony debts. "It's quite a circle I've traveled," says Green.
Now 36, Green, the player Johnny Miller once said was the best
fairway-wood player in the game, is facing the possibility of
having to make a return trip to the PGA Tour Qualifying
Tournament, which will be held this year in November at the club
he used to represent, Bear Lakes in West Palm Beach. The problem
is, Green is persona non grata at Bear Lakes, having had a
falling-out with the club's management in 1994. "I don't know if
they'll let me play," says Green. "I may be the only guy going
back to Tour school who won't be allowed on the 1st tee."
Baker-Finch doesn't have to worry about the qualifying school.
He got a 10-year exemption for his victory at the British Open.
But he has other demons to battle.
When he shot 64-66 on that 1991 weekend at Royal Birkdale,
outputting everybody on spongy greens, Baker-Finch figured his
career was set. He was 30, good-looking, always smiling, very
marketable. And then everything started to go horribly wrong.
One theory is that Baker-Finch tried to capitalize on his Open
victory by chasing appearance dollars all over the globe in
tournaments and outings arranged for him by International
Management Group. "That's one theory everyone always mentions,"
Baker-Finch says. "I actually did a lot less than I could have
More likely, Baker-Finch's troubles began when he tried to
change his swing in an effort to get more distance off the tee.
By winning the British Open, the Australian suddenly found
himself getting paired frequently with stars such as Greg
Norman, Fred Couples and Ian Woosnam, all big hitters.
Baker-Finch's great strength had always been consistency, but
now he wanted to stay with the long hitters and win more majors,
and he felt he couldn't do that when he was always hitting his
second shot on 440-yard par-4s from the 200-yard marker.
But instead of becoming longer, Baker-Finch became erratic. He
went from hitting 75.4% of his fairways in 1991 to 48% this
year. "I tried to change my swing plane, make my swing better,"
he says. "In hindsight, I wish I had left it the way it was."
Matters just keep getting worse. He missed the cut at the AT&T
Pebble Beach Pro-Am. At the Nestle Invitational in March, rounds
of 82-76 sent him home early. The next week he withdrew after a
first-round 85 at The Players Championship. When he put up a
79-81 at the Masters in April, the 34-year-old Baker-Finch
decided to take six weeks off and try to regroup.
Even before his self-imposed moratorium from golf, Baker-Finch
had begun working again with Mitchell Spearman of the David
Leadbetter Golf School in Orlando. He had drifted away from
Spearman in 1993 and begun listening to too many other experts.
"He needs to go through what Nick Faldo did in 1985, start all
over and create good habits again," says Spearman.
Baker-Finch had been playing with a slightly torn rotator cuff
in his right shoulder and a weak lower back, ailments that were
a result of overpracticing. Since mid-April he has been working
with a nutritionist, a fitness trainer and a sports
psychologist. He didn't touch a club until the middle of May,
when he began practicing again, getting ready for his return at
the Colonial. Most of his rehab time was spent on massage,
aerobic exercise and twice-weekly yoga sessions.
"I'd been playing hurt for a long time, and the mental stress
had been too much," says Baker-Finch. "My body got to the point
where it couldn't completely handle it. It was completely
Baker-Finch missed the cut at the Colonial and three weeks later
at the U.S. Open, but he looked recharged at Shinnecock, where
he was paired for the opening 36 holes with Jack Nicklaus.
Statistically, he ranked dead last the first two days at the
Open in both fairways hit (five total) and greens in regulation
(six), but he fought his way to two respectable 76s.
"Your mind is like a bucket of water," says Baker-Finch. "Every
time you hit a positive shot, it's like putting a stone in the
bucket. A little bit more of the negative water falls out. I've
got to fill the bucket with positive stones."
Jodie Mudd's golf bucket started to fill up with negative water
three years ago, and like Green, his troubles may have started
with a divorce, from his wife, Jennifer, in 1993. But unlike
Green, Mudd's parting did not lead to bitterness but to
enlightenment. It made him realize that there is more to life
than just the PGA Tour.
"I'm not a religious person," Mudd says. "I don't believe in the
Second Coming or second lives. I'm 35 years old, and the way I
look at it, I'm pretty much halfway through my life. The divorce
made me change my thinking. It made me realize there was much
more to life."
His mother, Helen, thinks the change in her son's life is linked
to the death of his father, Ed, 14 years ago. Ed was 54 when he
died of a heart attack in 1981, just two weeks after Jodie won
his second Public Links Championship. Jodie's grandfather,
Hobart, had died of heart disease at the age of 47. For Jodie
the death of his father gave him a sense of his own mortality.
Money isn't especially a problem for Mudd. He has plenty of
that--$2.7 million in career winnings--and he also has five years
remaining on a 10-year exemption for winning the 1990 Players
Championship. The biggest reason for Mudd's steady decline is
that he doesn't play many tournaments. Mudd entered the minimum
number of events last year (15), preferring to spend more time
on his farm in Finchville, Ky., than on the golf course. He
stables three horses at Glencrest Farms in Lexington, reads the
Racing Form every day and has two yearlings that will be up for
sale in September at Keeneland Race Track. One filly,
Somethingmerry, could bring as much as $150,000 at auction. His
long-term goal is to make enough money breeding horses to buy
land he can develop into a public golf course.
Last year's Tour earnings weren't much help. Mudd made only
seven cuts. He played one tournament in April, one in May and
didn't play at all in June and August. For the year he collected
When the '95 Tour got under way, he played well at the Nissan
Open in February, finishing in a tie for sixth, his first top-10
showing since the Nissan Open in 1993. But that was a false
start. Since then he has played in only five events, missing the
cut or withdrawing in every one. "I'm just trying to get the
juices flowing again," Mudd says.
He would like to play well enough to qualify for the '96 PGA
Championship at Valhalla Golf Club near Louisville. His 10-year
exemption for winning the Players does not extend to majors, and
Mudd thinks it would be a good way to close out his career if he
could earn a place in a major tournament so close to home.
"He just does what he wants to do," says his mother. "Yes, we'd
love for him to be up there in the top 10. We love seeing him
play. But he told me, 'Mom, I don't have to play golf ever again
if I don't want to. I've got enough money.' He's just a
different type of golfer. It's nice to take time and smell the
Mudd was paired with Baker-Finch last Thursday in Memphis, just
as they were in March at The Players Championship when
Baker-Finch withdrew after shooting an opening-round 85. Neither
has smelled the roses lately, certainly not the way Green has.