The bean counters at Andersen Consulting are probably scratching
their heads over this one. They put up a $3.65 million purse,
call it the World Championship of Golf, and what do they get?
Barry Lane versus Massy Kuramoto and David Frost versus Mark
McCumber. Rarely has so much been paid for so little marquee.
This is precisely why the PGA Championship went to medal play in
1958. Although wonderful theater in the Ryder Cup, match play is
too unpredictable, so unpredictable that it's TV's worst
nightmare. One bad round, and the big name is gone. And what are
you left with? In the case of the Andersen event, the world's
14th- (McCumber), 15th- (Frost), 49th- (Lane) and 111th-ranked
And exactly how did tournament organizers get into this pickle?
The 32-player field was divided into four geographic
divisions--the U.S., Europe, Japan and the Rest of the World--and
the winner of each bracket advanced to the Dec. 30-31 finals at
Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Those dates, more than
anything, persuaded eight of the top 10 players in the Sony
Rankings to skip the tournament. A $1 million payoff for winning
five matches wasn't enough to get the biggest names in golf to
rework their hectic global schedules.
Greg Norman, Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Fred Couples, Ernie Els,
Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Jumbo Ozaki all took
passes. The tournament took a couple of big hits when Lane
knocked off Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer in the European
semifinals and finals. Last week at Blackwolf Run in Kohler,
Wis., McCumber and Loren Roberts both rallied to spoil a
potentially sexy final between Corey Pavin and Paul Azinger.
"I'm sure people would rather see Pavin-Azinger," admitted
McCumber. "But I've got news for you. If you want a real
champion, not based on what the hype is, then play it like this.
Other than Freddie [Couples], the best Americans played in this
event. There were no management companies involved. There wasn't
any under-the-table money. It wasn't staged. Nobody ever said,
'Stop, don't hit until we get a camera in place.'"
McCumber became the U.S. champion by clinching all three of
his matches on the final hole, which should be some sort of
statement to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Lanny Wadkins. In his
opening-round match against Tom Lehman in April at Reynolds
Plantation in Lake Oconee, Ga., McCumber started birdie-double
eagle and won on the 19th hole. Against Pavin, he was 4 down
after six holes and 3 down with five to play. And he trailed
Roberts early on before rallying on the back nine.
If McCumber wins it all, he'll have Pavin to thank most. The
reigning U.S. Open champion played like anything but a U.S. Open
champion down the stretch, finishing bogey-bogey-bogey-par-
double bogey and losing the match to McCumber's 18th-hole bogey.
The horrendous close was hard to fathom from a player of Pavin's
caliber. At the 1993 World Match Play Championship, he ran
through Price, Mont gomerie and Faldo on his way to the title.
What happened to the G.L.B.--Gritty Little Bruin--who was
incredible down the stretch at Shinnecock Hills? "I just made
mistakes coming in, and Mark was there to clean up on them,"
Pavin said. "That's a big credit to Mark for hanging in there
and staying with it. He could have laid down a lot earlier in
In the finals McCumber set the trap again, falling 2 down to
Roberts after four holes. He was even at the turn and one up
after making a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th. The 18th on
Blackwolf Run's River Course is a 469-yard par-4 with water down
the left side. The water was added for the championship; the
left side typically plays as a waste area. Pavin had found the
water with his drive, and Roberts found it with his second shot,
"I was just trying to get the ball close and make birdie,''
Roberts said. "Mark was in the middle of the fairway and had to
do something stupid to make a bogey. I'm just not swinging good
right now. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was wet."
Roberts, Lehman and Pavin have secured spots on the U.S. Ryder
Cup team, but at No. 19 in the standings and with only the PGA
Championship left to accumulate points, McCumber remains a long
shot to gain one of the 10 automatic spots. And Wadkins has not
mentioned him as a candidate for one of his two wild-card
selections. In his only Ryder Cup appearance, at The Belfry in
1989, McCumber was 2-1, winning his singles match against Gordon
Brand Jr. Last year he won three times on the PGA Tour,
including the season-ending Tour Championship at The Olympic
Club in San Francisco, and finished third on the money list with
$1.2 million. "Lanny has to pick somebody he's comfortable
with,'' McCumber said. "I politic for nothing. I was second in
the U.S. Open there [at Oak Hill in 1989], but I haven't heard
my name mentioned. I'm not going to start now and say, 'Do you
know how good I am?' "
McCumber will play Frost, a bland South African who defeated
Australians Robert Allenby and Steve Elkington in the Rest of
the World finals, played July 24-25 at The Oxfordshire Golf Club
in Thame, England. Lane, who is best remembered for blowing a
3-up lead with five holes to play against Chip Beck in the 1993
Ryder Cup, knocked out Langer in the morning and Ballesteros in
the afternoon in the European bracket, which was also played at
The Oxfordshire. That put him in the finals against Kuramoto,
who advanced through the Japan PGA Tour competition Feb. 25-26
at Golden Palm Country Club in Kagoshima, Japan.
The four finalists have already made $200,000, the same amount
John Daly earned for winning the British Open, and are
guaranteed another $100,000 just for showing up in Scottsdale.
For his trouble, Ballesteros earned $150,000 in three matches
before boarding a private jet to Spain. "The good thing about
losing,'' he said, "is that I don't have to spend the New Year
Flippant attitudes like that have tournament founders looking
for ways to tweak the format for '96. The finals almost
certainly will be moved to the first weekend in January, just
before the Mercedes Championships. Players also have suggested
the regionals be compressed from four days at two sites to two
days at one site. Basically, the World Championship of Golf is a
good idea that needs a little better execution.
"With all the different events in golf, there ought to be a
place for the oldest, purest form of golf competition," said Tim
Smith, a former PGA Tour deputy commissioner who is managing
director of ISES, the company that organized the tournament.
"It's going to be an important championship. To us the idea is a
powerful one. Any given match may produce upsets and surprises.
That's part of why we're doing it, to reintroduce and put on a
worldwide stage this form of golf."
Smith has long-term commitments from Andersen Consulting, ABC
Sports and ESPN. And with the exception of Ballesteros, the
players who competed were high on the concept, the golf courses
and the purse. You can bet that when the four survivors are
playing for $1 million, Ballesteros and the others will wish
they were there.
"I've got news for you,'' McCumber said. "If Seve won, he would
love to be in America on New Year's Eve.''