A TOUGH TIME FOR FAXON
None of the four members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team who played
in last week's CVS Charity Classic--Brad Faxon, Jim Furyk,
Justin Leonard and Jeff Maggert--finished in the top 20. In fact
Faxon and Maggert didn't make the cut.
Faxon's performance poses the greatest concern for the team. He
won the Freeport-McDermott Classic in New Orleans in April and
had three seconds before the end of May, but he hasn't cracked
the top 10 in his last nine starts. Last month his wife of 10
years, Bonnie, filed for divorce. "[The divorce] has definitely
affected me," says Faxon, who has three daughters--Melanie, 8;
Emily, 6; and Sophie Lee, 2. "Friends tell you what it's like
but you don't know how tough it is until you experience it. You
never think it's going to happen to you. I don't know what to
think now. It's been hell."
To make matters worse for Faxon, he learned last week that Steve
Minelli, his roommate and teammate on the golf team at Furman,
had been killed in an automobile crash in Florida. "Seeing
something like what happened to Stevie makes me feel like, O.K.,
[the divorce is] not the end of the world," Faxon says. "I could
be in a better mind-set. I could be playing better. Right now,
though, I'm just trying to cope."
STOP US IF YOU'VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE
Colin Montgomerie is talking about becoming a full-time member
of the U.S. Tour. This, of course, is not the first time the
top-ranked European has hinted at such a possibility. In April
he told friends he was considering playing in more U.S. events,
only to later dismiss the idea, citing family priorities and his
belief that he could still improve his game on the European tour.
This time, however, Montgomerie insists that he is not crying
wolf. In the last month he has been livid about the poor
condition of some of the courses in Europe. "I don't want to be
wasting my time playing the sort of courses we've seen in
Germany and Switzerland recently," he says.
Montgomerie says that if he decides to join the PGA Tour, he
will commit to it wholeheartedly. "It would not be a case of
getting in the required number of events by March and then
coming back to Europe," he says. "I would play the big
tournaments in the summer as well."
Among those who have most actively encouraged Montgomerie to
play full time in the U.S. are Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and
Callaway, Montgomerie's sponsor. In the end, however, one factor
will govern his decision. "There would be no point to playing
the PGA Tour unless [by doing so] I become a better golfer," he
says. "I look at Nick Faldo, and I don't believe he is any
better than he was three years ago [when he joined the Tour].
Then again, I look at Jesper Parnevik. He has improved beyond
EARLY LINE ON THE EUROPEAN LINEUP
While he has been outspoken about his decision to remove
Spaniard Miguel Angel Martin from the European Ryder Cup team,
Seve Ballesteros has been tight-lipped about how he will pair
his squad at Valderrama. Other members of the European
entourage, though, have been less circumspect. When asked if he
thought he would be paired with Nick Faldo, his partner at the
last two Ryder Cups, Montgomerie dismissed the possibility.
"Seve has told the experienced players that he would like to
pair them with the rookies," Montgomerie said. "I would imagine
that means I shall be playing with Darren Clarke, which suits me
fine. We're good friends and have great respect for each other's
Given Montgomerie's comments and those made by some of his
teammates, one can expect that the rest of the pairings will be
Nick Faldo-Lee Westwood. Faldo himself has endorsed his playing
with a neophyte. "It makes perfect sense," he says.
Costantino Rocca-Thomas Bjorn. A pairing of adventurous players,
this twosome is unlikely to be seen outside the four-balls,
which require less discipline than the foursomes.
Jose Maria Olazabal-Ignacio Garrido and Jesper Parnevik-
Per-Ulrik Johansson. Two Spaniards, two Swedes.
Bernhard Langer-Ian Woosnam. Here's Ballesteros's lone departure
from his veteran-rookie approach. There's a good reason: Woosnam
and Langer have won both of the Ryder Cup matches in which
they've been paired.
THE DOUBLE, DOUBLE EAGLE LANDS AT NEW YORK COURSE
Tom D'Ottavio was feeling supremely confident about his chances
of pocketing some cash after he double-eagled the 495-yard par-5
9th hole at Elmwood Country Club in White Plains, N.Y., on Sept.
9. After hitting a 245-yard drive, D'Ottavio, who was
participating in a skins game with 10 other pros from
neighboring courses, let fly with a three-wood. "I checked the
fringe for my ball," says D'Ottavio, who is the head pro at
Dutcher Golf Club in Pawling, N.Y. "When my caddie told me it
was in the hole, I was overwhelmed."
Given that only three double eagles have been made on the PGA
Tour since the start of '96 (by comparison, over the same time
there have been 64 holes in one), the 42-year-old D'Ottavio was
not being presumptuous when he started to contemplate the ways
in which he would spend the couple of hundred dollars that went
to the winner of the hole. "As far as betting that no one else
would keep me from winning that skin," he says. "I would've
wagered my life savings on that."
It's a good thing he didn't. Less than half an hour later, Dave
Fusco, the head pro at Phillip J. Rotella Municipal Golf Club in
Thiells, N.Y., hit a crisp drive on the 9th that left him 230
yards away from the flag. Then he, too, holed his second shot
with a three-wood. While impossible to verify, it is believed to
be the first time two players have made double eagle on the same
hole during the same round of a tournament. "It was the kind of
coincidence where you have to say, 'Wow!' and shake your head,"
says D'Ottavio, who has three double eagles but no aces in his
career. "Next time Dave and I play a round together, I hope
someone brings a video camera."
GILBERT SIDELINED INDEFINITELY BY LUNG CANCER
Throughout his five years on the Senior tour, Larry Gilbert has
been one of those cigar-chomping guys who probably would have to
think hard if asked to make a choice between his stogie and his
putter. Last week, however, the 54-year-old Gilbert announced
that he has lung cancer. He dropped off the tour and checked
into the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville, where he
underwent further tests and will most likely have surgery.
"You're feeling like everything is going your way," Gilbert
says. "Then all of a sudden something like this happens and
you've got to take a step back and look at life differently."
Gilbert had been having the best year of his career. In July, he
won his first major, the Ford Senior Players, in Dearborn, Mich.
With nine other top 10 finishes this year, he ranks eighth on
the money list, with $902,816. Earlier this month, though,
Gilbert was feeling more fatigued than normal and went to his
doctor in his hometown of Lexington, Ky., for a physical. "I
thought maybe it was just a sinus infection," Gilbert says, "or
maybe it was the fatigue that comes from the grind of the tour."
Instead, X-rays revealed a small tumor on one of his lungs.
Gilbert kept quiet about the news through the Bank One Classic,
which was held in Lexington for the last time two weeks ago. He
played poorly, finishing 49th. Perhaps the telltale sign that
something was wrong was that he played without his cigars. "I
threw 'em away the day I got the news," Gilbert says. "I guess
it's kind of late, but better late than never."
Before joining the Senior tour in 1993, Gilbert had been a
longtime cigarette smoker. He switched to cigars after becoming
good friends with Larry Laoretti, another inveterate chomper.
For a few years now, Te-Amo has been supplying Gilbert and
Laoretti with free cigars. They, in turn, appeared in some of
the company's ads. "Like an idiot, I didn't think they [the
cigars] were hurting me," says Gilbert.
THE SHAG BAG
Karrie Webb overcame a three-shot deficit to win the Safeco
Classic in Kent, Wash., by one stroke over Annika Sorenstam,
marking the 26th time in the last two years that at least one of
them has finished first or second in an LPGA event....The most
encouraging tune-up for the Ryder Cup by an American was that of
Mark O'Meara, who won the Trophee Lancome outside Paris. "The
best aspect of my performance is that [U.S. captain] Tom Kite
and my teammates will know that I have won against some very
good European players," said O'Meara, whose competition in
France included Lee Westwood (8th), Bernhard Langer (13th),
Colin Montgomerie (22nd), Ian Woosnam (36th) and Darren Clarke
(missed the cut)....Peter Jacobsen on the decision by Seve
Ballesteros to remove Miguel Angel Martin from the European
Ryder Cup team: "Seve's ruined their team. The European team
will be in disarray."
REVERSALS OF FORTUNE
How the mighty have fallen. Only four years ago Chip Beck
(above) and Corey Pavin were members of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
In the last year, however, their performances have plummeted.
Here are the greatest leaps and falls on the Tour's money list
from 1996 to '97, through last week's CVS Charity Classic
(minimum of 15 events last year and 12 this season).
PLAYER 1996 1997 CHANGE
STUART APPLEBY 130 15 +115
BILLY RAY BROWN 185 76 +109
DON POOLEY 169 65 +104
MIKE STANDLY 164 63 +101
BOB ESTES 149 59 +90
CHIP BECK 98 259 -161
WOODY AUSTIN 32 174 -142
COREY PAVIN 18 156 -138
HUGH ROYER III 114 232 -118
ED FIORI 83 197 -114
What do these players have in common?
They were the first on their respective tours--the Senior, PGA
and LPGA--to win more than $1 million in a season.
The most consecutive Senior tour starts in '97 by Hale Irwin
(winner of last week's Boone Valley Classic) without a victory.
Golf Plus will next appear in the Oct. 6 issue of SI.