Implicated in Sexgate, Greg Norman fights back on and off the
The Shark was dead in the water last Friday. Already 0 for 5 in
his own tournament, the Greg Norman International, he was seven
strokes off the lead through 36 holes and gnashing his teeth
over a scandal that had reached out 15,000 miles to ruin his
week. "I should be able to just go out and play," he said, "but
I don't care how strong your mind is, it's there."
It was Sexgate, the scandal that threatens to harpoon the
presidency of Shark chum Bill Clinton. Last week special
prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who is investigating Clinton's
relations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky,
ordered a Florida TV station to "produce the videotape or tapes
depicting President William Jefferson Clinton with Miss Monica
Lewinsky on a trip to Florida during which he visited with
golfer Greg Norman." There were rumors that Lewinsky was with
Clinton in Norman's Hobe Sound guesthouse last March on the
fateful night when Clinton tripped on the doorstep and blew out
his knee. Norman hotly denied the rumors, then erupted at Aussie
reporters who quizzed him about his friendship with the President.
"Let the thing go, guys," he said. "What he does in his private
life is his business. I think he should just go on and run the
country." Norman admitted that the commotion was getting to him,
leaving him in a fuzzy-minded funk, not to mention seven shots
behind leader Jose Maria Olazabal.
So what does he do next? Only fire a course-record 64 on
Saturday to get close, then reel in the Spaniard with a 67 on
Sunday to claim his own $127,000 first prize.
"I would put this win very high on my list," Norman told his
media persecutors after beating Olazabal by two strokes and
Stuart Appleby, John Cook and Steve Elkington by four. "Under
the circumstances my round yesterday was as good as I have
played in 10 to 15 years. I had to come back mentally because
I'd been mentally out of it. Today, when I hit the lead outright
for the first time on the back nine, I thought it was going to
be my show."
Back in Florida, things were also looking up for Greg's friend
Bill. The elusive videotapes showed Norman and Clinton together,
but no sign of Ms. Lewinsky. Prosecutor Starr and Olazabal had
both finished second.
WEST COAST WIPEOUT
As golfers ran for shelter from the storms of '98, surfers on
the West Coast charged some of the biggest waves ever--and
wondered why anybody would try to play golf in such weather.
"Are they crazy? This is the rainiest time of year," said Sean
Collins on the eve of the Buick Invitational. "In fact it's the
only rainy time on the West Coast."
Collins, 45, is the surf world's No. 1 weather dude. He runs
Surfline/Wavetrak, a Huntington Beach, Calif., firm that
provides forecasts for surfing events and wave carvers
worldwide. Collins even plays travel agent for daredevils like
Laird Hamilton and Brock Little, the Tiger and Shark of the wet
set. He predicts where and when storm-driven surf will reach
land; then the big-wave riders hop on planes and outrace the
waves to their destination.
Two weeks ago there were howls of "Awesome!" at Maverick's, a
cove not far from Pebble Beach, when waves the size of six-story
buildings roared ashore. Meanwhile PGA Tour officials bemoaned
their bad luck when rain washed out the Pebble Beach AT&T and
shortened the Buick.
Surfcaster Collins is surprised anyone was surprised. "I keep
looking at my monitor and seeing back-to-back swirls lined up
all the way to Siberia," he says, hunched over machinery that
can measure the height of any wave on the planet within four
centimeters. "I mean, these storms are no secret. Beach cities
have been building berms and reinforcing piers for weeks."
According to Collins, this year's Wet Coast weather is nothing
but "our usual stormy February, with El Nino throwing gas on the
fire." He estimates that a West Coast swing anytime after
mid-March might have a 5% chance of rainout; this month it's
closer to 30%. If the Tour must visit California in February, he
says, play should never be suspended when the sun is out, as it
was at Pebble while organizers decided what to do next.
Now for even more radical advice: "Those pro golfers might want
to stow their clubs and pick up surfboards for a few weeks,
because this time of year the West Coast weather is rockin'."
THE SHAG BAG
Sorry, Dad: The Buick Invitational is one of the few Tour stops
that set aside spots for amateurs each year. Last week Charley
Hoffman and Magnus Carlsson, two collegians who finished one-two
in a qualifier in December, got to tee it up with the big boys.
Hoffman shot 74-74 to tie Fred Couples but missed the cut.
Carlsson, whose parents and coach flew in from Sweden to root
for him (his golf-pro dad was his caddie), was all smiles after
a first-round 76, saying, "It's a thrill to play with the
greatest golfers in the world." But Mag ballooned to 86 on
Friday and finished dead last. Oh, What a Tangled Web Site: Mac
O'Grady tells SI that his long-awaited Web page, now due this
summer, will reveal "everything people want to know about the
golf swing." The Internet's main virtue is its freedom from
advertisers, says O'Grady. "That means I can give you reality
with no slants, no biases--my uncensored, unfiltered,
unsanitized and unhomogenized viewpoints. Trust me, I'll even
blast myself." It's a Drag: Do athletes in any other sport smoke
during competition? The jarring sight of John Daly (left) or
Fuzzy Zoeller lighting up on the course sets a poor example for
kids and does nothing for golf's image. "It's a bad habit, and I
know it. I've even heard comments from the gallery--fans telling
me to quit smoking," says Tim Herron, one of the few Tour
players willing to discuss the matter. "But it doesn't make me a
criminal, does it?" No, but it could make a violator of Zoeller,
who lit up perilously close to the door of the Golfer's Grill at
Torrey Pines. Whether nicotine-addled pros know it or not,
smoking indoors in public places is illegal in California. O.K.,
but You Make the Measurement: At an Arizona course called Glen
Canyon, a local rule reads: "If your ball lands within a club
length of a rattlesnake, you are allowed to move your ball."
Does everyone there use the long putter? Flubbed Chip: Ten years
ago Chip Beck finished second on the money list. Five years ago
the genial former Georgia Bulldog was second in the Masters.
Beck has four career victories, and once shot 59 at the Las
Vegas Invitational. Yet his career is now Kevorkian fodder. With
an 82-WD at the Buick, Beck has missed 27 straight cuts and won
an average of $280.34 in his last 38 starts. That's about half
the weekly minimum wage for a Tour caddie Alltime Leader: When
Byron Nelson won $63,335 in 1945, his earnings represented 14.5%
of the Tour's total purse for the season. A player that dominant
in 1998 would bank at least $13.6 million.
Kite's New Look
YOU'RE QUITE A SIGHT, TOM
The way things are going, expect Jim Colbert to lose his rug any
day now. Already reeling from the sight of Corey Pavin sans
mustache, the golf world was rocked again last week when Tom
Kite showed up at the Buick Invitational without his trademark
eyeglasses, which he had worn since he was 12. Three weeks ago
Kite had laser surgery, zapping his 20/400 vision to a Ted
Williamsesque 20/15. Losing his oversized and--let's be
honest--dorky spectacles had benefits both practical and
aesthetic for Kite, who finished 22nd at Torrey Pines. "I had a
ball out there today playing in the rain," he said after last
Friday's round. In addition to not having to deal with
steamed-up lenses, distracting raindrops and mid-swing
slippages, Kite also found it easier to read putts.
The new look did have him wondering about some other folks'
powers of observation. "A lot of people can't figure out what's
different," he says. "They ask me, 'Did you get a new haircut?'"
HE SAID, SHE SAID
Does Casey Martin have a right to ride a cart? We asked Roger
Cossack and Greta Van Susteren, cohosts of CNN's Burden of Proof.
Van Susteren: "The golfers who are complaining about Casey
Martin need to read the law. The pro golf circuit is a business,
and because it's a business, the Americans with Disabilities Act
Cossack: "No. The PGA Tour has a right to define its own rules.
The fact that pro golf is a business doesn't mean that the ADA
applies here any more than it would to a blind man wanting to
drive in a NASCAR race. Now, having said that, I believe an
exception should be made for Martin due to his disability."
Van Susteren: "One reasonable way to resolve this case would be
to give everyone a cart. Jack Nicklaus has testified that carts
would tarnish golf's image on television, but Nicklaus should
not be so concerned about TV. Here is a young man who has
overcome a disability. He's a hero, and it would be a tragedy to
take him out of the business of pro golf."
Want to See the Latest? Take a Trip to Tokyo
No other trade show can match the techno-thrills of the Tokyo
Merchandise Show, which takes place Feb. 12-15 at the Harumi
Ariake Exhibition Site. "The Japanese market is receptive to
innovation," says Shekhar Chitnis of Liquidmetal Golf. "Most
innovations are in the upper end of the market because they
require so much research and design, and the market there is not
as price sensitive. Japanese golfers are more affluent than
Liquidmetal, lighter and stronger than titanium, made its U.S.
debut at the recent PGA Merchandise Show but hit Japan last year
when Maruman came out with a Liquidmetal putter that retailed at
100,000 yen ($815).
THE HAWAIIAN HIGHLIGHT FILM
Jack Renner craves anonymity, but he has a place in golf lore
for saying, "My goal is to play 72 holes someday without
changing expression," and for what happened to him in the
It was 15 years ago at Waialae Country Club that Renner, holding
a one-shot lead, sat waiting for the only player who had a
chance to catch him, Isao Aoki, to finish. Then Aoki holed a
128-yard wedge shot for an eagle and the victory. The sight of
Renner, the thin man in the white Ben Hogan cap, looking
stunned, is still one of the most enduring in golf.
Renner won the '84 Hawaiian Open--the last of his three Tour
wins--but was soon sidelined by illness. These days he manages
his investments, plays golf almost daily and does his best to
forget the day he got barbecued in Hawaii.
What do these players have in common?
Each has won his homeland's national open three times.
Days between the penultimate and final rounds of this year's
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which is scheduled to
conclude on Aug. 17.