Ladies and gentlemen, now on the 1st tee...everyone! Golf's not
just cool anymore, it's mandatory. Did every Baby Boomer pick up
a club in 1997, or did a kazillion other folks simply conclude
that they liked the way the game looks on people such as Kevin
Costner, Bob Dylan, Michael Jordan and Robert Ludlum and decide
to try it on themselves?
It's easy to blame Tiger Woods for the overcrowding. His
performance and presence created so much interest in the game
among so many nongolfers--especially kids--that TV ratings
doubled for tournaments in which he played, as did the lines for
rest rooms and concessions out at the course.
Yes, everybody played golf in '97, and the game was constantly
working itself into the news. Did you know that the last thing
John Denver did before his fatal crash in an experimental plane
was play a round at Spyglass Hill? Friends tried to talk him
into another 18, and if Denver had gone along, he might still be
with us today.
Guess where Stanford economics professor Myron Scholes was when
he learned that he had won the Nobel Prize? He was about to play
a round at Pebble Beach.
December 8, 1997
Oscar De La Hoya, the WBC welterweight champ, built a putting
green at his training compound near Los Angeles. We can hear him
now: "This putt goes to the left...and a right...and another
Alice Cooper and Dennis Miller appeared in golf equipment
commercials in 1997. Pat Boone played in knickers one day at
Cooper's charity tournament and in a kilt the next. We assume he
wore white bucks in both rounds. Jordan and fellow golfaholic
Charles Barkley skipped the media day at the NBA All-Star Game
in Cleveland so they could play golf. Oscar Robertson gladly
donated one of his kidneys to his daughter, Tia, but hated that
the operation kept him off the links for a while. The Big O
learned later that Tia wanted more than just a body part. "I
need titanium clubs to keep up with dad," she said.
A bunch of Green Bay Packers players were miffed at coach Mike
Holmgren during Super Bowl week last January in New Orleans.
Practices too tough? No, the players were upset because Holmgren
issued a no-golf edict. Jacques Demers did the same thing, and
got the same reaction, when he took over as coach of the Tampa
Bay Lightning last month.
We always thought that guys like Billy Graham didn't have a
prayer on the golf course, but in his recently released
autobiography, Graham writes that he often uses the game as a
chance to exercise his ministry. He cites the round he played
with Richard Nixon in 1967, during which he advised Nixon, who
had suffered bitter losses in the 1960 presidential election and
the '62 gubernatorial race in California, to run again. If only
Nixon had instead done what most golfers do when they're feeling
down: Play an emergency nine.
Golf became politically correct this year. Even First Lady
Hillary Rodham Clinton played nine holes. She ripped her opening
tee shot only 40 yards, but unlike her husband, we're happy to
report, she didn't take a mulligan. Looking back, 1997 doesn't
need one either.
1997 IN REVIEW
First seen at the British Open: T-shirts sporting the familiar
line I AM TIGER WOODS on the front and BUT I WISH I WERE ERNIE
EL on the back.
ON SECOND THOUGHT, I WOULD RATHER BE TIGER WOODS
The new Miss Universe, Brook Mahealani Lee of Hawaii, likes
alligator wrestling and speaks Japanese. When judges asked what
she would do if there were no pageant rules, she answered, "Eat
everything...twice!" She's working on a master's degree in
communications at Hawaii. One of her goals? Interview Woods.
SO HOW COME I STILL CAN'T GET THE GOLF CHANNEL?
A scientist for the Mars Pathfinder mission describing the
probe's successful flight adjustments: "It was a par-5 hole from
Earth to Mars, and we shot a 4."
WHAT, NO RELISH?
A prank by a country club employee in Walkersville, Md., could
prove costly. When a friend stopped at the snack bar for
refreshments, the employee handed his pal a hot dog that was
actually a mustard-covered mouse in a bun. The buddy took a
bite, discovered the mouse and--yuck, yuck--filed a $500,000
lawsuit against the club.
BUT YOUR HONOR, I WAS WITH A CLIENT
A Tennessee man, sentenced to six months in a work-release
program after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide, was hauled
into court when the judge saw his name in the paper in the
results from a local golf tournament. The man served the
remainder of his sentence in jail.
THE PRESIDENT'S TRIP
Where were you when Hacker One went down? President Clinton
visited Greg Norman's estate in Hobe Sound, Fla., the night
before they were to play in a member-guest tournament. On the
way out of Norman's house, at about 1 a.m., Clinton caught his
heel on a step, tripped and tore a tendon in his right knee.
Norman caught him as he fell. The injury required surgery, kept
Clinton off the links for four months and drew worldwide
attention. As he was loaded aboard Air Force One the next day,
Clinton joked, "My handicap is going up."
BACK TO YOU IN THE BOOTH, GIFF
The dumbest question a reporter asked Woods this year: "Is there
a chance you'll play another sport?" Woods's answer: "Is
sleeping a sport?"
THAT'S NOT WHY YOU STINK
Rock musician Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, after seeing a
scoreboard at a celebrity tournament with his handicap posted
next to his name: "I stink. It was almost as high as my age."
NO WORD YET ON CALLAWAY'S OFFER TO BUY NASA
During a recent mission by the space shuttle Columbia,
astronauts ran tests on zirconium-based alloys. "The findings
may be used to improve sporting-goods products, such as golf
clubs," said NASA scientist Jan Rogers.
SO WHO'S REALLY THE BEST MAN?
Comedian Bill Murray, playing in the pro-am at the Kapalua
International, ducked into a church between the 2nd and 3rd
holes during his round, interrupted a wedding, kissed the bride
and told the groom, "Here, I warmed her up for you."
--Jeff Sluman's victory in the Tucson Chrysler Classic was his
first since his only other win, the 1988 PGA, a span of 241
--Jose Maria Olazabal, fully recovered from a foot injury that
threatened to end his career, went 2-2-1 as Europe won the Ryder
--Chris Smith lost his PGA Tour card in '96 but won three Nike
tour events to earn a battlefield promotion back to the big Tour.
--Colleen Walker went five years without a victory, then won
consecutive starts, including a major, the du Maurier.
--John Daly, after a bender at the Players Championship,
admitted that he's an alcoholic, entered rehab and took a
two-month break from the Tour.
--Going for a third straight U.S. Women's Open title, Annika
Sorenstam missed her first cut in 63 starts.
--Steve Scott, who lost to Tiger Woods in 38 holes in the '96
U.S. Amateur final, failed to qualify for match play at the
Amateur this year.
--Daly, sober but suffering from the shakes, walked off the
course without a word midway through the second round of the
--For the first time in eight years, Mike Hill and Lee Trevino
each failed to win on the Senior tour.
--Miguel Angel Martin named his baby daughter Macarena, but he
missed the big dance when he was kicked off the European Ryder
Cup team because of a wrist injury.
THE YEAR OF THE TIGER
Big Shots Woods nearly aces the first playoff hole to beat Tom
Lehman in the season-opening Mercedes Championships.... Two
weeks later, in front of about 20,000 frenzied fans, Woods does
ace the 16th during the Phoenix Open.
Survey Says In a poll taken after the Masters, Woods is
recognized by 82% of those questioned, Dennis Rodman by 80% and
FBI director Louis Freeh by 8%.
Nice Try LPGA commish Jim Ritts calls Woods "the Karrie Webb of
the men's Tour."
You Go, Guy Woods's first TV appearance after the Masters is on
The Oprah Winfrey Show, where he invents a word, Cablinasian, to
describe his multiracial heritage. Oprah draws its best May
sweeps ratings in four years.
Foot in Mouth Woods takes a hit when GQ magazine quotes him
telling racial and lesbian jokes.... Fuzzy Zoeller takes a fall
when he says at the Masters, "Tell [Woods] not to serve fried
chicken next year [at the champions' dinner], or collard greens
or whatever the hell they serve."
Big Bucks Thanks to the buzz on Woods, the networks pay twice as
much for the Tour's new TV contract.
Fourth-and-Goal Woods has four wins by July but can't come up
with a fifth and flops with a 1-3-1 record at the Ryder Cup.
Role Reversal Jack Nicklaus on being compared with Woods: "It's
certainly a compliment."
THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE
Best Major All of them on the men's side were compelling--Ernie
Els's second U.S. Open in four years, Justin Leonard's spotless
65 to win the British and Davis Love III's emotional PGA--but
there was no topping what Tiger Woods did at the Masters. Only
21, he fulfilled his destiny and ignited imaginations by winning
his first major as a pro, shooting a record 18 under par and
blowing away the field by a colossal 12 strokes. Key stat: 26.5,
the average age of the winners of the men's majors. The average
age in the previous 10 years: 33.3.
Best Performer Most years Gil Morgan's six wins on the Senior
tour would have been impossible to top, but Hale Irwin trumped
him in '97, tying Peter Thomson's Senior record of nine
victories. Key stat: Irwin ($2.3 million) and Morgan ($2.1
million) both surpassed Woods in earnings--on the course, anyway.
Best Advance Billing Betsy King and Annika Sorenstam made up the
final pairing for the last round of the Betsy King Classic.
Sorenstam, who would win six times in '97, closed with a 69 to
keep King's name off her own trophy. Key stat: Thanks in part to
the 41-year-old King's victory in the Nabisco Dinah Shore, the
average age of the winners of the women's majors was 39.
Upset of the Year The U.S. was heavily favored to win the Ryder
Cup, but Europe made the most of a home-course advantage at
Valderrama while the Americans didn't get the hang of the place
until the final day, when a fierce rally fell short. Key stat:
The three major winners on the U.S. team--Love, Leonard and
Woods--had a combined record of 1-9-3.
Best Near-Fairy-Tale Finish Nancy Lopez turned 40, shed 30
pounds, won for the first time in four years and made a dramatic
run at the one title that has eluded her, the U.S. Women's Open.
She came up just short, finishing second to Alison Nicholas. Key
stat: Lopez has finished second in four Opens.
Best Steal Norman proposed a world tour three years ago, but a
horrified PGA Tour--horrified mainly because it wouldn't be in
control--shot him down. Last month the Tour announced its own
series of lucrative world championships featuring only the top
players. Key fact: The 64-man world match-play event, which will
debut in February 1999, will be the first true championship
played at match since the PGA abandoned the format in 1958.
YOU DON'T SAY
Chicago Bulls fan Jeff Sluman on the gaudy conquistador helmet
he received for winning the Tucson Chrysler Classic: "Dennis
Rodman might want it."
President Clinton during Bob Hope's 94th-birthday television
special: "If you ever go to Greg Norman's house, use the
Davis Love III after going 0-4 at the Ryder Cup: "I'd love to be
the captain, but I don't think I'd get a whole lot of votes
Norman on Tiger Woods's taking the spotlight: "I love being in
the backseat. I am not one who seeks the limelight." (Norman
later agreed to drive the pace car at next year's Indy 500.)
John Daly on the acres of sand bunkers at the remodeled Blue
Monster course at Doral: "I feel like I should take my shirt off
when I play here."
Seve Ballesteros on the legal action threatened by Miguel Angel
Martin after he was dropped from the European Ryder Cup team:
"He's like a kamikaze aiming for the ship."
Peter Thomson, on being given an Ambassador of Golf award at the
World Series of Golf: "There must be more deserving people than
me...but they might be dead."
Tour veteran Jeff Maggert, a frequent runner-up: "If I can win
as many tournaments as I've finished second in, I'm going to
have a hell of a career."
Larry Mize, who beat Norman in a playoff in the '87 Masters, on
why he waited until now to take his first trip to Australia: "I
thought it might've taken this long for everyone to forgive me."