WHY WOODS WON'T PLAY
If you wish Tiger Woods would show up more on the PGA Tour,
you're not alone. So does Tiger Woods. "I'd love to play more,"
he says, "but I can't." Why? Because the unprecedented attention
he gets from the fans and the media drains him. "I'm honored and
flattered, but it's too much," Woods says. "I've bled twice from
people sticking pens in my face."
At least 40,000 more spectators attend events in which Woods
plays, and most of them want his autograph. He has also received
death threats and therefore has a coterie of marshals and
security guards shoulder to shoulder with him at all times. The
jostling will never keep Woods out of a major, but he's
rethinking his Tour aspirations. He wants to win the Vardon
Trophy for low scoring average and make a run at the record for
most wins in a year (18, by Byron Nelson in 1945) and a career
(81, by Sam Snead). But at his current pace--this week's GTE
Byron Nelson Classic will be his eighth start in 19 Tour events
this year--he'll never catch Nelson or Snead. And it's not
because Woods is burned out on golf. "He plays with friends
every day," says his agent, Hughes Norton. "He's got all kinds
Woods and Norton are working with the Tour to try to give Woods,
and other players, some breathing room, including more roped-off
corridors between greens and tees, players-only areas between
clubhouses and parking lots and better security.
Until a plan is in place, Woods says, "I wish people could
respect the fact that the golf course is our office and we're
trying to make a living. I wouldn't come into some guy's office
while he's in a serious negotiation and say, 'Excuse me, I hate
to bother you, but could I get a picture?'"
It's all part of the wild new world Woods has wrought for golf
and himself since winning the Masters. The Sultan of Brunei has
asked him to fly over and play golf with his nephews, and he was
recently cited in a poll as the second-most-popular American,
behind Colin Powell. But with the honey come some stings. Woods
was unhappy with a remark by Greg Norman, who said in March that
he felt "sorry for Tiger. I think he doesn't have a life for a
21-year-old. I know what I was doing at 21; I was having a
helluva time." Says Woods, "That's so wrong. I have a great
life. For someone to make a comment like that, he ought to get
to know me."
Woods pauses, then says, "Did you ever see that Michael Jordan
ad? He's in a gym by himself, and he says something like, 'What
if there were no people, no media, no fans? What if it was just
a game? I wonder what I could do.' Well, sometimes I wonder, too."
OZAKI WARNED ABOUT RULES: NOT THE FIRST TIME
During the final round of the Chunichi Crowns tournament in
Nagoya, Japan, two weeks ago, Greg Norman accused Jumbo Ozaki of
breaking the rules, claiming that the Japanese star had tamped
down the rough behind his ball with his driver before changing
clubs for his second shot. Ozaki wasn't penalized, but the
accusation alone would have made headlines in the U.S., as did
Norman's charges against Mark McCumber at the 1995 World Series
Curiously, the affair had a short shelf life in Japan, partly
because Norman took pains to counsel Ozaki about the possible
violation rather than be confrontational with him, as the Shark
had been when he attacked McCumber; and partly because of
Ozaki's stature in his native land, where there's a
disinclination to question the integrity of someone held in high
esteem, no matter the transgression. Me wo tsuburu, a Japanese
phrase that means closing one's eyes to the truth, might best
describe the way Ozaki was treated.
Nevertheless, this was not the first time that Ozaki had been
accused of breaking the Rules of Golf. In 1971 at the Nihon
Series in Tokyo, a pro named Teruo Suguhara complained to
officials that a 24-year-old Ozaki had moved his ball in a
bunker. Ozaki was slapped with a two-stroke penalty and the
incident was forgotten. Suguhara, now 59 and retired from
competition, was the only person to speak out against Ozaki two
weeks ago. "I'm glad that it was a top golfer like Norman who
spoke up. It takes guts," he said. "Ozaki may finally have
learned his lesson."
NEW SENIOR ATTRACTION
"Magnets," says Larry Gilbert, "They're great. Without 'em,
you'd have 20 guys who couldn't play." Gilbert is one of several
Seniors, who, in their quest for long drives and longevity, tape
magnets to their bodies. "When you apply a magnetic field to an
electrolyte-containing solution, it can alter the movement of
the ions and thereby alter the dynamic of fluid movement," says
Jeffrey Borer, the chief of cardiovascular pathophysiology at
Cornell Medical Center. Translation: Magnets may allow better
blood circulation. The players say that eases pain.
While Borer doesn't totally buy into the concept, the players
do. Gilbert wears a magnet in a gold bracelet to relieve stress
in his aching right elbow, as well as several under his shirt to
ease back pain. Dick Hendrickson wears magnets in his shoes to
soothe his aching feet. Jim Colbert and Bob Murphy sleep on
magnetic mattress pads. "I used to miss a year at a time due to
back pain," says Colbert, the tour's leading money winner for
the last two years. "I've been using magnets for 44 months, and
I haven't missed a day."
JACKSON STATE'S O'NEAL DECIDES TO SIT OUT NCAA
Statistically, Jackson (Miss.) State senior Tim O'Neal is the
country's second-best Division I golfer, but he won't be teeing
up with his region's best in the NCAA Central Regional at the
University of Oklahoma golf course this week.
Jackson State, winner of four tournaments this season, including
a ninth straight Southwestern Athletic Conference title, plays
in District Six, which sent eight teams to the regional. The
Tigers felt snubbed when they were told on May 7 that they had
not received a bid even though they had gone 56-14 against
district teams and had 2-0 records against two of the teams
(Southwestern Louisiana and Rice) that got invites. O'Neal,
however, was given an individual invitation to the NCAAs based
on his three tournament titles and 71.83 stroke average.
But on Sunday, O'Neal turned down that invitation, choosing to
stay in Jackson with his teammates to prepare for the May 19-20
National Minority Championship, in Cleveland. "The more I
thought about it, the easier my decision was," says O'Neal, an
African-American who was on last year's Jackson State team,
which became the first from a historically black college to
compete in the NCAAs. "We played well enough to make it as a
team. The selection process wasn't fair. If they don't think
we're good enough as a team, I'm not going either."
Jackson State coach Eddie Payton says that while the NCAA
selection process isn't racially biased, the deck is stacked
against teams outside the close-knit fraternity of traditional
powers such as Oklahoma State and Texas. The NCAA selection
committee emphasizes competition against top-ranked teams, but
up-and-coming programs don't get invited to the top tournaments
in which the good teams play. This season in 12 tournaments
Jackson State played against only two top-25 teams.
"It's a flawed system, and until the NCAA changes it, you're
always going to have people like me upset," says Payton, who
advocates switching to a setup similar to the one in place for
basketball, in which conference champions get automatic bids.
"We could be like Coppin State [the Mid-Eastern Athletic
Conference champion that upset South Carolina in this year's
NCAA basketball tournament]. In sports, any day can be your
day--if you get a chance to play the game."
EURO TOUR CADDIES A LOGO UP ON U.S. LOOPERS
European tour sponsors looking to exploit every inch of space
have found some prime locations under the players' noses--on
their caddies. With the help of David Barlow, a former player
rep at IMG, the 120-member European Tour Caddies' Association
has signed deals to wear corporate logos on hats and shirts. At
last week's Benson and Hedges International, in Thame, England,
the tournament's sponsor paid caddies $320 each to wear a logoed
visor. Peter Coleman, who carried for winner Bernhard Langer,
picked up $1,000 in bonus money. The caddies' most lucrative
deal is with Hippo, a British clothier that outfitted 85 caddies
in shirts, socks, pants and rain gear. At the end of the year
Hippo will pay bonuses according to where the caddies' players
finish on the money list. "Next to the player, no one is more
visible than the caddie," Barlow says.
Caddies in the U.S. would agree. They've been grousing for years
about their marketing potential but are still sponsorless.
THE SHAG BAG
Terry-Jo Myers, a 12-year veteran who had endured nine winless
years on the LPGA while battling interstitial cystitis, a
chronic bladder disease, won her second event of 1997, in sudden
death over Laurel Kean and Nancy Harvey at the Sara Lee Classic
outside Nashville.... In the third round of the BellSouth
Classic, Charlie Rymer unsuccessfully tried to wedge his ball
from a stream at the par-4 310-yard 13th hole, then swung his
club in disgust at the water. Bad move, Charlie. Touching a
hazard that contains your ball is a two-stroke penalty. Rymer,
who had come to the hole two strokes off the lead, took a 9....
By winning his second event in a row, Bernhard Langer moved from
19th to second on the European Ryder Cup points list, assuring
himself a spot on the team.... Thomas Mascaro, who helped
revolutionize golf-course turf, died on May 6 in Fort
Lauderdale. He was 81. Mascaro invented several important
products, including Grass-Cel, a chemical that helps grass grow
despite heavy foot traffic.
The consecutive Senior tour events--a record--that Bruce
Summerhays has been eligible for and played in, including last
week's Home Depot Invitational, since joining the tour in 1995.