NETWORKS DO TOUR'S BIDDING
The PGA Tour's network television contracts expire after the
1998 season, and the principals are deep into negotiations,
intent on hammering out a deal by the end of next week. Already
four significant changes appear certain.
The Tour will be paid considerably more. The Tour was shrewd to
hold the bidding now to exploit Tiger Woods's popularity. (The
value of events in which Woods will play regularly, such as
Pebble Beach, Los Angeles, Bay Hill and the Tour Championship,
should skyrocket.) But the main reason for the timing was to get
the deals done before the soon-to-expire, and expensive, NFL and
NBA packages go up for bid. Estimates that the Tour's rights
fees will increase from $95 million to $150 million may be high,
but not by much, especially with Fox eager to make its first
serious foray into golf.
Viewers will receive an unprecedented amount of golf coverage.
The Tour is demanding more early-round telecasts--currently, 14
events do not receive Thursday and Friday coverage. The Tour
also wants late-running tournaments shown to their conclusions.
In other words, no more episodes like the one in February, when
ABC ditched the Hawaiian Open playoff to show America's Funniest
May 11, 1997
The schedule will be altered. The season-opening Mercedes
Championships may be moved to Hawaii, with the Hawaiian Open,
frequently skipped by top pros in the past, slotted for the
following week. Weaker events, such as Tucson, might be
replaced, possibly by a consolidated version of the Andersen
Consulting World Championship. The biggest schedule change,
though, could be the date of the Players Championship. Earlier
this year the Tour, sensing a potential financial windfall,
asked the networks to make two bids on the Players, one in
March, when it's currently held, and another in May.
Longtime affiliations between networks and certain events will
end. Tournaments are being offered in 11 packages of up to five
events each. The first half of the West Coast swing in January,
for instance, might be offered as one package. The second half,
in February, would be a separate package. (The majors, which the
Tour does not own, will continue to make their own deals.) This
plan has been the key stumbling block in the negotiations.
Unlike CBS and Fox, ABC and NBC could face serious scheduling
conflicts. ABC, for example, sees conflicts in 10 of the 11
proposed packages. Complicating NBC's bid is the uncertainty
surrounding the date of the Players, a ratings heavyweight that
NBC has carried for 10 years. Because of its commitment to the
NBA playoffs, NBC likely wouldn't be able to televise the event
HENRY PICARD: A TEACHER AND A CHAMPION
During his 90 years, Henry Picard taught at some of the most
exclusive country clubs in the U.S., including Canterbury in
Cleveland and Seminole in West Palm Beach, Fla. But Picard, who
died last week in Charleston, S.C., would have argued that his
most satisfying teaching was done at Plantation Pines, a
threadbare nine-hole course 18 miles southeast of Charleston,
where a bucket of range balls cost $3.50, the same price as the
greens fee. Well into his 80s Picard gave lessons there, and any
golfer, whether touring pro or hacker, could drop by and get a
few pointers from the 1938 Masters champion. "Money and fame,
they never meant a damn to me," Picard told SI two years ago.
Picard, who also won the '39 PGA and 23 other events, eagerly
doled out wisdom throughout his playing career. His most famous
student was Ben Hogan. In 1940 Hogan was struggling with a
wicked hook when Picard slightly altered his grip. Hogan went on
to win four tournaments that year and 58 more thereafter. So
touched was Hogan by Picard's magnanimity that he dedicated his
instructional book Ben Hogan's Power Golf to his old teacher.
"He was one of my best friends, one of my very best friends,"
Hogan said through his wife, Valerie. "He was a gentleman and an
THE OPEN PREPARES FOR TIGER AND THE PRESIDENT
The U.S. Open is a month away, but with Tiger Woods attracting
an unprecedented amount of attention, officials at the USGA and
Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., are making security
preparations fit for a president (even if Bill Clinton doesn't
show up). "You can put him in the context of any rock star or
politician," Open general chairman Dennis Spurgeon says of
Woods. "He's the Number 1 personality in golf right now, and
with that comes concerns."
There will be 50% more security than at last year's Open at
Oakland Hills, according to Steve Worthy, the USGA's
championship manager. Normally two to four uniformed guards
would accompany Woods (and selected other marquee players such
as Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman), but at Congressional between
nine and 12 will be assigned to Woods. As many as 40
plainclothes state police officers--some of them armed--will
roam the gallery. The heightened security will even extend to
the Congressional mailroom, where all arriving packages will be
Complicating matters is a probable visit by the First Golfer, a
13 handicapper who lives only 10 minutes, by helicopter, from
the course. The White House has already informed tournament
organizers that the President is likely to attend. While a final
decision won't be made until the last minute, the Secret Service
is expected to begin sniffing under divots at Congressional
In fact, preparations are so intense at the club that it was
hard to tell if Spurgeon was joking when he said that he was
building a 20-foot-high wall around the perimeter of the course.
"We don't want to make security overwhelming," says Joe Corless,
a private security consultant working his first Open, "but we
want it to be there."
NORMAN'S TOUGH NEW TURF TURNING HEADS
Always the entrepreneur, Greg Norman has never been one to let
grass grow under his feet as he hopped from one business
opportunity to the next. But that might change now that one of
his companies, Greg Norman Turf, has developed a strain of grass
that could change the surface of sports.
The main product of Norman Turf, based in Avon Park, Fla., is
GN-1, a hybrid bermuda that has a deep-green hue--considerably
darker than the standard bermuda used on most Tour courses--and
an extremely high tolerance of low temperatures and
root-munching organisms called nematodes. Four courses use GN-1,
including the TPC at Sugarloaf, a Norman design in Duluth, Ga.,
which will host this week's BellSouth Classic. Several other
courses under construction plan to try the turf.
What has really whetted the Shark's appetite, however, is the
turf's potential beyond golf. Last year the NFL's Baltimore
Ravens became the first professional sports team to play on
GN-1. (The Atlanta Braves' Turner Field also has the turf.) The
Ravens placed Norman's strain atop a layer of artificial turf in
Memorial Stadium. The GN-1 roots grew downward through the
plastic grass, thus increasing the turf's durability. When a
player makes a cut on the GN-1, for instance, he might rip up
the surface, but the roots are more likely to stay intact. "I've
been in grass since 1983, and I've never seen a grass this
aggressive," says Vince Patterozzi, the Ravens' head
groundskeeper. "It repairs itself."
By heating the grass to 74[degrees] from underneath, Patterozzi
and his crew kept it growing into winter. "We were mowing plush,
green grass at the end of December," says Patterozzi. "Usually
bermuda goes dormant by Halloween. This stuff can take the cold,
and it doesn't need much light. It's the grass of the future."
For now, GN-1's major drawback is that it sounds too good to be
true. "I've seen an unbelievable interest in the grass," says
Norman. "This year we're totally sold out."
THE SHAG BAG
Kevin and David Sutherland, second and 20th, respectively, at
Houston, weren't the only brothers to have a good week. Lanny
Wadkins tied for sixth at Houston, his first top-10 finish since
last year's Nissan Open, while brother Bobby tied for fourth in
the Nike South Carolina Classic in Florence, six shots behind
winner Harrison Frazar....
After shooting a course-record 64 on Sunday to win the Italian
Open, Bernhard Langer improved from 19th to sixth in the
European Ryder Cup standings. Jose Maria Olazabal, who finished
second, rose from 15th to 10th....
Nick Faldo will skip the Colonial to enter the Volvo PGA
Championship at the end of the month; that puts all 12 members
of the 1995 European Ryder Cup team in the same tournament for
the first time this year....
How far had Nancy Lopez fallen before winning the Chick-fil-A
Championship two weeks ago, her first victory since 1993? Even
her youngest daughter, five-year-old Torri, couldn't resist
dissing her. "Every time I go play, I say to Torri, 'Mom is
going to try to win a tournament,'" says Lopez. "And she says,
'Oh, Mom, you're not going to win.'"...
In 1964 Jay Sigel, who won last weekend's Bruno's Memorial in
Birmingham, planned to join the PGA Tour. But those plans were
dashed when Sigel, who was a student at Wake Forest, put his
left hand through a fraternity house window and severed several
tendons in his wrist. Instead, he went on to become one of the
country's top amateur players, winning two U.S. Amateur titles,
three Mid-Amateurs and a British Amateur. "If I hadn't cut my
hand, I would've turned pro," says Sigel, who has earned more
than $2.5 million since joining the Senior tour in 1994. "But if
I turned pro, I might have failed. And then I might have soured
on the game."
With his penchant for colorful clothes and quotes, Ken Green has
long been a favorite of golf fans and writers. But Green's
shtick, like his game, is getting old. Last week Tour
commissioner Tim Finchem threatened to suspend Green for 90 days
and fine him $5,000 for verbally abusing Ray Floyd and for
drinking beer on the course during the Masters. (Green is
appealing.) Those incidents were the latest blemishes on the
38-year-old Green's once-promising career. Here's a chronology
of his decline.
1988 MONEY RANK: 4
Wins the Canadian and Greater Milwaukee Opens, is second three
times and has 10 top-10 finishes.
1989 MONEY RANK: 37
Wins for the last time, at the Greater Greensboro Open, and makes the Ryder Cup team.
1992 MONEY RANK: 41
Tosses his putter into the ocean during the U.S. Open at Pebble
Beach, then walks off the course during the second round of the
PGA at Bellerive and uses profanity to describe the venue.
Incidents earn him $1,000 in Tour fines.
1995 MONEY RANK: 108
Falls $27,000 behind in alimony and child support payments to
his second wife, Ellen, and has half his Tour earnings garnished
by the state of Florida.
1996 MONEY RANK: 133
Misses the cut in 19 of 31 starts, has only one top-10 finish
and loses his Tour card.
1997 MONEY RANK: 196
Reveals he has been treated for clinical depression. During
Masters he calls Floyd a dirtball and accuses him of cheating,
then toasts Arnold Palmer with a beer as they play.
Consecutive tournaments in which Vijay Singh has been in the
money, the longest current streak on Tour. Singh last missed the
cut at the 1995 PGA.