THE COLD SHOULDER
There are certain truisms in golf: Never up, never in. Drive for
show, putt for dough. It's not how, but how many. And Andy North
gets no respect.
North's victory in the 1978 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills was called
a fluke, and when he won the Open again in '85 at Oakland Hills,
all anyone wanted to know was what kind of champion has only
three career wins? Therefore the treatment he has received this
year comes as no surprise.
Although his 10-year exemption for winning in '85 ran out last
year, North thought the U.S. Golf Association might waive him
into Oakland Hills when the Open returns there next month. Think
again, Andy. "Competitiveness remains an important factor," says
David Fay, the USGA's executive director. "That's subjective,
but Andy hasn't played very much, and when he did play, he
didn't seem to be very competitive."
In fact, North has missed the cut in seven of the last 10 Opens,
and last year at Shinnecock, where he shot 75-75, he had to
walk up some of the hills backward to spare his aching knees. He
has not played in a tournament since finishing eighth in a
non-Tour event at Pebble Beach last November.
So North, who won't criticize the USGA other than to say, "I
think I've got more class than they do," will play in 36-hole
sectional qualifying for the first time since 1975. "I
understand their rules and regulations," he says, "and what the
heck, Arnold Palmer had to qualify. If they made him do it, I'm
not going to sit around and complain."
He is less charitable when it comes to this week's Memorial
Tournament, which declined his request to be included in the
field. It was the first time North had made such an appeal to a
tournament, and he did so because he wanted to use the Memorial
as a tune-up for Open qualifying. "I was shocked by their
decision, absolutely shocked," he says. "I guess that's just the
way it is."
Hoping to land Tiger Woods, the Skins Game will hold off naming
its four-man field until after the U.S. Amateur, which ends Aug.
25. The field for the Thanksgiving weekend made-for-TV event is
usually announced two weeks earlier, after the PGA.
If Woods turns pro, he would get the sponsor's invitation given
by the International Management Group and ESPN. (One spot goes
to the defending champion, and two are voted by a committee.)
"We would not do anything to jeopardize his amateur status or
his NCAA eligibility," says Skins Game cofounder Barry Frank,
"but we are definitely interested in him."
GERRING IN, ALCOTT OUT
That was the big news to come out of qualifying for next week's
U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C. Cathy
Gerring, who played her first LPGA tournament in four years
earlier this month at the Sprint Titleholders, eagled the 17th
hole, shot 73 and birdied the first hole of a playoff at Myers
Park in Charlotte to earn a spot in the field. She had been
inactive since suffering second- and third-degree burns on her
hands and face in a fire at the 1992 Sara Lee Classic.
It was Amy Alcott's case, however, that raised eyebrows in some
USGA circles. Alcott, who won the Open in 1980 and received an
exemption in 1994, shot an 81 in qualifying at Hartefeld
National in Avondale, Pa. Many, including Gerring, believe
Alcott should have been exempted. The USGA instead invited two
past champions, JoAnne Carner and Hollis Stacy, as well as Donna
Andrews, who lives in Pinehurst, N.C.
"I think [Alcott] has a record that deserves being in a few
Opens past being exempt," says Gerring. "They gave one to
somebody [Andrews] who doesn't have the record Amy has. It looks
like they did it just to sell tickets." Some USGA officials
concur, speculating that if Alcott lived in Pinehurst instead of
Santa Monica, Calif., she would have been granted an exemption.
Colonial is lobbying for the 2003 Ryder Cup, and Kerry Haigh,
the PGA's senior director for tournaments, scouted the course
last week....Next month Bob Murphy will take his wife, Gail, on
a birthday trip through Europe on the Orient Express....Greg
Norman hardly endeared himself to Colonial organizers by flying
into Fort Worth last week to do a corporate outing for Bell
Helicopters, then returning to Mexico to resume his vacation....
Mark Calcavecchia made his second 10 of the year last Thursday
at Colonial. Calc dropped from a pair of unplayable lies and
four-jacked when he finally reached the green....Mark McCumber
learned last week that he needs right rotator cuff surgery.
He'll try to play through the PGA Championship, have the
operation and return for the 1997 Florida swing.
BEST OF TEXAS
The Colonial marked the end of the trail for the Texas swing of
the PGA Tour, so we asked the players for the lowdown on their
hoedown in the Lone Star State. Here's how they rated the TPC at
The Woodlands (Shell Houston Open), the TPC at Four Seasons
Resort (GTE Byron Nelson Classic) and the Colonial Country Club
No contest, podnah, not as long as Houston and Dallas are held
at TPC tracks.
Locker Room: Nelson
The players go for the '90s-style amenities. Some guys like the
workout room, some like the basketball court, while others opt
for a massage. "It's the total package," says Steve Elkington.
Clubhouse Food: Colonial
One of the first stops to offer complimentary lunch and dinner,
the Colonial now has three Texas-sized buffets, with a killer
dessert table. Houston was cited for its full breakfast and
fried catfish lunch.
Practice Facility: Nelson
Almost by default. Colonial has improved from the days when some
players warmed up on the nearby Cullen Davis estate, but they
still have to ride a cart from the range to the practice green.
Outside Attractions: Houston
Hands down. Want some Rockets playoff tickets? You got it. Want
to check out the Astros? No problem. Want to spend a rainy
afternoon in a movie theater? Here are the tickets.
Fans: Tie, Houston and Colonial
Houston gets the numbers, but Colonial's galleries are more
knowledgeable. The fans in Dallas are just there for the party.
Which leads us to the next category.
Party Area: Nelson
Phoenix has the Bird's Nest, the Nelson has the Pavilion. Both
rank as the top pickup spots on Tour. "It's just one step short
of divorce court," says Mark Brooks.
Margarita: Tie, Colonial and Nelson
Because the same outfit, Frozen Drinks Unlimited, makes 'em for
both events. Last Saturday in Fort Worth, fans stood 20 deep in
nine lines waiting to shell out $9 for 32 ounces and $4 for 16.