A DANGEROUS STEP BY MARTIN
A week after Casey Martin drove to victory at the Nike tour's
season-opening Lakeland Classic, his ballyhooed motoring turned
less happy. Arnold Palmer gave a deposition on behalf of the PGA
Tour, which will oppose Martin in federal court on Feb. 2, and
Jack Nicklaus is scheduled to do the same. Last Thursday, still
flustered by the grilling he had taken on CNN's Crossfire from
the show's cohost John Sununu (bottom left), Martin shot 76 in
the first round of the Nike South Florida Classic in Pompano
Beach, all but ensuring that he would miss the cut, which he did
the next day after a second-round 71. All of which could explain
why Martin, riding a groundswell of support--one poll has 78% of
respondents in his favor--nonetheless began to think negatively
about his lawsuit against the Tour, and in so doing took what
might have been a wrong turn.
Until last week Martin had said losing his case would end his
career. "It's either ride a cart or I'm done," he had told SI.
Martin has repeatedly explained that the congenital circulatory
condition in his lower right leg, Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber
syndrome, makes walking painful and, at times, impossible. Few
doubt this claim. While Martin was playing at Stanford, Pac-10
coaches voted 10-0 to allow him to take a cart at the 1995
conference championship. But at Pompano Beach, Martin planted a
seed of doubt when he was asked again what he'll do if he loses.
"I'll be out there walking," he said. "I'll give it a go. My leg
has been feeling better the last couple of months."
To talk about losing is seldom advisable, but Martin's statement
was especially surprising. Until he raised the possibility of
walking, Martin had a sense of urgency on his side. He lost
that. Few people will realize that Martin's chances on foot are
"slim and none," as he said later, and fewer still are likely to
appreciate the medical risks associated with walking on a leg
that has already lost a fair amount of muscle and cartilage.
"In Casey's case the lower extremity is abnormal relative to
bone, soft tissue and vascular system," says Donald Jones,
Martin's orthopedic specialist in Oregon. "It is certainly safe
to say that extended periods of walking will not in any way
benefit his extremity's well-being."
In fact, Martin probably can't compete without a cart. That he
went winless in two years as a pro, then won his first Nike
event in a cart suggests as much. As he awaits his court date,
Martin would do well to stick to his earlier assertion: no cart,
RYDER CUP HAS REGISTERS RINGING IN BROOKLINE
The 1999 Ryder Cup is 20 months away, but already it looks as if
the event will be a monumental moneymaker for the host community
of Brookline, a suburb of Boston. To use town land for parking
and other tournament operations, the Country Club has been asked
to pay Brookline an estimated $3 million.
Local residents will also reap windfalls because of the enormous
corporate demand for private homes and country clubs to
entertain clients. A week's use of a home near the course will
cost up to $60,000. BankBoston, meanwhile, has agreed to pay the
Charles River Country Club $500,000 to take it over for Ryder
Cup week, Sept. 20-26.
Only a few years ago it seemed as if Arizona and Arizona State
would be the alma maters to all that matters in golf. From 1987
to '94 Arizona and ASU male golfers earned first- or second-team
All-America honors 21 times. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had
more All-Americas (22) during that period, but many of the
golfers groomed in the desert--including Robert Gamez, Larry
Silveira and Mike Springer--were successful on the Tour in their
first years out of college, while a majority of the Oklahomans
never even got through Q school.
What happened? Heading into this week's Phoenix Open, Arizona's
young comers (except ASU alumnus Phil Mickelson) have hit a
desert dry spell. Gamez (Arizona, '89) won two Tour events in
1990, including the Northern Telecom Open in his first official
Tour start, but hasn't won since and missed the cut in last
week's Hope. Springer (Arizona, '88) made it to the Tour in 1991
and won twice in '94 but since then has commuted between the
Nike and PGA tours. Springer also missed the cut last week.
Silveira (Arizona, '88) won the 1991 Deposit Guaranty Classic
but has deposited little else in his bank account.
Even Billy Mayfair (ASU, '88), who has won three Tour events and
in 1995 was second on the money list, with $1.54 million, has
gone dry. He fell to 55th in '96 and 79th last year. Don't look
for a desert revival this week in Phoenix. Gamez, Springer and
Mayfair all missed the cut at last year's tournament. "I'm not
even playing the Arizona tournaments this year," Gamez says. "I
hate Tucson National, and this week I'm going to the Super Bowl."
ABSENCE OF STARS CLOUDS THE SENIOR TOUR DEBUT
The Senior tour's 1998 kick-off, last week's MasterCard
Championship in Kona, Hawaii, served to emphasize the tour's
current dilemma: What is it golf fans want to watch, a
competition or a stage on which its aging superstars can have
one last encore?
The MasterCard is an elite field event, limited to the previous
year's winners, but this elite field didn't include Jack
Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd or Lee Trevino, Gary
Player or Johnny Miller. None of them won last year.
Only 20 players earned invitations to Hawaii because Hale Irwin
and Gil Morgan between them won 15 of the tour's 38 events in
1997. Those two were joined at Kona by a couple of familiar
faces, David Graham and Dave Stockton, and a smorgasbord of
players who might not be recognized in a police lineup. Thus
television viewers--and last year there were 15% fewer of them
tuned in to Senior events--had to watch while Morgan calmly
dispatched runners-up Irwin and Gibby Gilbert.
The TV boys have made it clear where they stand. Two of the four
players in this week's Senior Skins will be Nicklaus and Palmer.
TROUBLED TIMES FOR TOM AND LINDA WATSON
On Dec. 15 in Johnson County, Kans., Linda Watson filed for
divorce from her husband of 24 years, Tom, citing irreconcilable
differences. The news stunned longtime golf watchers, who had
grown accustomed to Linda's ardent and vocal support for her
husband at Tour stops and who viewed the Watsons as one of
golf's first families.
Watson was a senior at Stanford in 1971 when he proposed to
Linda Rubin, his childhood sweetheart. She turned him down.
Watson asked again, and Linda, a student at nearby Mills
College, declined again. "I didn't want to be a professional
golfer's wife," she explained a few years ago. "I was going to
come home and raise kids in a house with a picket fence."
When Linda finally married Tom, in 1973, it was with the
understanding that he would play the Tour for only five years.
Her first week with him on the road, they slept in a cheap motel
near the St. Louis airport. Linda's mother recoiled at the sight
of the $14-a-night room, clutching her husband's arm and crying,
"Irving, my daughter!"
The Watsons later dropped the five-year deadline, deciding that
Tom would stop playing when they started a family. But the
births of Meg, now 18, and Michael, 15, came while their dad was
winning eight majors, five money titles and six player of the
year awards. "I didn't want my husband to be a stranger to my
children," Linda said.
To that end, Watson played less and spent more time at his
Mission Hills, Kans., home. His wife, who is Jewish, and
children, who've been raised in that faith, also factored
heavily in his decision, in 1990, to resign from the Kansas City
Country Club when the club blackballed prospective member Henry
Bloch, who is Jewish. "The most important thing in your life is
your family," Watson said.
Watson starts his 28th year on Tour without that foundation.
THE SHAG BAG
A recent golf magazine poll in Great Britain asked fans to name
the greatest player of all time. Not surprisingly, Jack Nicklaus
was the runaway winner, with 72.3% of the vote. Following
Nicklaus were Ben Hogan (6.3%), Bobby Jones (5.2%) and Arnold
Palmer (3.2%). In fifth, tied with Seve Ballesteros, was Tiger
Woods, who beat out such players as Nick Faldo, Walter Hagen,
Greg Norman, Gary Player and Sam Snead....
Since he joined the Senior tour 16 months ago, Gil Morgan has
won eight times. He won seven events in 24 years on the regular
Eric Johnson, who found out last week that his father, Steve,
has inoperable lung cancer, won the Nike South Florida Classic.
Like Casey Martin, winner of 1998's first Nike event, Johnson
plays out of the Eugene (Ore.) Country Club....
Asked whom he would choose for his fantasy foursome, Sylvester
Stallone said, "Benjamin Franklin, Jesus and Michelangelo. I
swear to you, that would be it."
PAVIN GETS THE BRUSH-OFF
The Corey Pavin we saw at last week's Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
was very different from the Corey Pavin we had grown accustomed
to seeing the last few years. First, Pavin made the cut and
finished tied for 43rd, worth noting if only because he was
coming off his worst season as a pro. In 22 starts last year he
made only 11 cuts, had just one top 10 and was 169th on the
Pavin, who spent much of the off-season working with coach Gary
Smith, sounds more optimistic than he has in a long time. "We
eliminated some bad habits I developed the last couple years,"
Pavin says. "I'm finally swinging like I used to."
He definitely doesn't look like he used to. In October, Pavin
tried to kiss his four-year-old son, Austin, but got the cold
shoulder. Austin said the whiskers from his dad's bushy
mustache, which he'd worn for about 15 years, hurt too much.
Says Pavin, "I immediately ran to the bathroom, shaved it off
and gave Austin a big kiss."
Many pros don't hit their stride until March, when the PGA Tour
gets to Florida, yet by then they've already made a ton of
birdies. Two of the tournaments in which par annually takes the
biggest beating are the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic--the field of
128 made 2,516 birdies last week--and the Phoenix Open, where in
1997 Steve Jones's 258 was a stroke shy of Mike Souchak's
alltime 72-hole record. Here are the easiest and hardest events
in the '90s, based on the winners' average number of strokes
under par per round.
Las Vegas -5.25
Deposit Guaranty -4.84
Buick Challenge -4.27
San Diego -4.23
U.S. Open -1.09
Tour Championship -2.06
World Series -2.13
Pebble Beach -2.81
British Open -2.81
What do these players have in common?
They are the only Tour players who are winless in three or more
Inches by which new USGA president F. Morgan (Buzz) Taylor, 66,
missed earning a spot on the '52 U.S. Olympic team in the long