TIGER WOWS, BOWS IN JAPAN
This is an article from the Nov. 17, 1997 issue
If you've got Tiger Woods anchoring your foursome, you don't
expect to finish 34 strokes out of the lead. Alas, Team
Thailand, made up of Woods and three teenagers from his mother's
homeland, did just that, finishing dead last in an 18-hole
juniors match held at the Musashigaoka Golf Course in Hanno,
Japan, on Sunday. Teams from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan
(captained by touring pros Shigeki Maruyama, Mark O'Meara and
Nick Price, respectively) posted much lower scores. Maruyama's
Team Japan won with an eight-over finish but had the advantage
of not having to play in front of Tiger's galleries. "I didn't
sleep well last night," admitted Ekapak Nirapathpongporn of
Thailand. "I wondered if I was lucky or unlucky to be playing
The juniors exhibition, which followed a pro-am and a skins game
at the three-day Tiger Woods Invitational, capped Woods's first
visit to Japan and helped raise about $250,000 for inner-city
junior golf programs there. How Woods performed seemed secondary
to his appearance in the country, which was just as well. In
addition to his dismal showing with Team Thailand, he also
finished last in the skins game with the three other pros the
previous day, though his payoff for that event was a generous
What was the extent of Tigermania in Japan? Considerable,
according to The Japan Times, which opined, "The furor could not
have been equaled by a simultaneous arrival of Michael Jackson,
Madonna and the Pope." Little, according to more sober
observers. The estimated 13,500 who attended the Invitational
were enthusiastic but respectful, and the rest of the nation got
only a glimpse of Woods, on a noontime TV show. "The culture
here reminds me so much of Thailand," said Woods, meaning he
found it clean, orderly and disciplined. "I love that."
On Sunday his three young teammates demonstrated the sort of
behavior he finds so appealing. Accepting their fourth-place
medals, each pressed hands together, fingertips to nose, and
ANOTHER DUVAL RISES, ON THE SENIOR TOUR
The best player who has yet to win a tour event might still
answer to the name Duval. While that title may no longer fit
David Duval, who won his last three starts on the PGA Tour this
season, it may have been inherited by his father, Bob. At last
week's Senior Tour Championship, the elder Duval capped an
impressive rookie year by tying for the lead after the second
round before fading to a tie for seventh. That upped his 1997
earnings to $555,601 and left him 28th on the final money list.
A former club pro who honed his game on the Golden Bear
mini-tour last year, the 51-year-old Duval won a playoff for the
15th and next-to-last conditional exemption at the 1996 Senior
Q school. He got off to a slow start this year but had 11 top 20
finishes, including a pair of seconds, in his final 14 starts.
He attributes the turnaround in his game to the less defensive
style of play he adopted this summer. A long hitter and an
aggressive player, Duval had been bunting three-woods off the
tee to stay in the fairway. "At the Northville Long Island
Classic in August, I told John Bland what I was doing,'' says
Duval. "He said, 'Why? Just hit it as far as you can and go
chase it.'" Duval took advantage of his length to climb into the
top 10 in eagles, birdies and driving distance.
Duval was the last to make the 31-man field at Myrtle Beach. He
failed to qualify for the last full-field event, the Ralphs
Senior Classic, and ended up only $2,080 ahead of No. 32 Bob
Dickson. "It was hard sitting on the sidelines not being able to
defend what you have done all year," says Duval. "I don't have
the Golf Channel at home, but I figured I would hold on to 31st.
We had the car packed for South Carolina, but I wasn't sure, so
I called the Tour office. I said, 'Am I officially 31st or not?'
They said, 'You are.' I said, 'Thank you. I'm heading to Myrtle
COLLEGE ACES PUT FUTURE PLANS ON HOLD
Brad Elder and Marisa Baena, the 1997 men's and women's college
players of the year, have always wanted to be professional
golfers. However, after recently coming down with mysterious
ailments, both players face uncertain futures.
Early in the fall, Elder learned that he has Kienbock's disease,
a rare vascular condition that has impeded the flow of blood to
his right wrist. If the wrist goes untreated, the Texas senior,
who was runner-up in the NCAA championships in June and was 4-0
in last August's Walker Cup, could lose the use of his hand.
"There's some blood getting to it, so it's not completely dying,
and there's hope," Elder says. "But the doctors have told me
they've never seen the disease this early [in a patient's life]."
The 22-year-old Elder has sought opinions from doctors in
Alabama, California, Georgia and Texas since Sept. 15, when the
pain got so bad that he quit midway through a practice round at
Texas. His doctors, though, have been unable to reach a
consensus on how to treat the condition. Elder hopes to avoid
surgery because it might decrease the mobility in his hand, and
there's no guarantee it would provide a cure. For now he wears a
cast that extends from his hand to just below his elbow and has
electrical stimulation therapy for at least 12 hours a day.
After finishing 28th at the Mercedes-Benz Women's Championship
in Knoxville, Tenn., in late September, Baena, the Arizona
junior who was also the '96 college player of the year,
complained of severe pain in her left shoulder. Doctors,
however, have been unable to pinpoint why she is experiencing so
much discomfort. Baena, who hasn't hit a golf ball in seven
weeks, will sit out at least the rest of the fall. "If you want
to have a long career," says Arizona coach Rick LaRose, "you
have to take care of these things when they happen and make sure
you're well for the long haul."
THE SHAG BAG
Already buoyed by the news that Colin Montgomerie would not play
full time in the U.S. in 1998, the European tour received
another boost when 24-year-old Lee Westwood of England,
considered the best young player in Europe, said that he too
would not try to join the U.S. Tour. "I'm as excited about the
future now as I was in the late '70s and early '80s, when Seve
Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and the rest were emerging," European
tour executive director Ken Schofield told London's Daily
Lee Trevino, who tied for fourth at the Senior Tour
Championship, credited his performance, in part, to a new putter
that his caddie, Ralph Hackett, found in a golf shop in Napa,
Calif. Knowing that Trevino collected the old Taylor Made line
of TPA putters, Hackett bought a XVIII model for $30. Trevino
put it to good use in Myrtle Beach, needing only 22 putts in the
third round. "The guy wanted $50 for the putter, but [Hackett]
gave him a ball I'd autographed and got $20 off," Trevino said.
"Man, I wish I could sell every ball for $20. I'd sit up all
night signing 'em."...
Charles Coody, who won the MasterCard Champions portion of the
Senior Tour Championship, was mistaken for Miller Barber by an
autograph seeker. Said Coody, "I know I'm ugly, son, but not
Golf Plus will next appear in the Dec. 8 issue of SI.
What do these players have in common?
They're No. 1 on their tours in driving distance. Daly topped
the PGA this year (302.0) and Jacobs the Senior (290.7), while
Mehra leads the LPGA (263.0).
Victories by Liselotte Neumann in three starts in Japan this
year, including last week's Japan Queens Cup. She has one win in
27 other starts in '97.