HERE COME DA SCOT
Never-popular Colin Montgomerie brings his bluster to the
He's ba-a-ack. Colin Montgomerie, the Goon from Troon, golf's
Gael-force windbag, returns from the European tour to give us
fits at Doral this week. When last we despised him, Monty was
leading Europe past our Ryder Cup team after ripping our boys in
the press. Tiger Woods was a Ryder Cup nobody, he suggested,
while Brad Faxon "is going through a divorce. Mentally, I don't
think he'll be with it." When Cup play proved him correct as
well as obnoxious, U.S. players trash-talked back. "He's the
biggest jerk in the world," said Tour veteran Fred Funk, "and
I'm going to tell him that to his face."
Nobody disses Montgomerie's game. He has led the Order of Merit
every year since '93, easily surpassing Nick Faldo as Europe's
best player. Monty has yet to win a PGA Tour event, but he's
familiar even to casual golf fans after his heartbreaking
second-place finish at last year's U.S. Open and playoff losses
at the '94 Open and the '95 PGA.
Yet for all his achievements, many fans see the pasty Scot as a
firth-class jerk. He's not even first in the hearts of his
countrymen--a place reserved for Sam Torrance, whose lumpen
style suits the class-conscious Scots better than that of
Montgomerie, a son of privilege whose father is club secretary
at Royal Troon.
Montgomerie has blown chances to make friends with America. In
addition to acting like a martyr when a shot goes wrong, he is
given to fits of pique. During a stirring run at last year's
U.S. Open title, he focused on a few fans who cheered when he
missed a putt. "Save it for the Ryder Cup," he said. When
another fan called out our national motto "You da man!" to Phil
Mickelson, Monty growled, "Cut that out!" There have also been
lapses in sportsmanship. In his final Ryder Cup match last year,
Montgomerie needed to halve his match against Scott Hoch to
close out the U.S. He succeeded, leaving Hoch standing over a
meaningless 12-footer--meaningless to the Cup but not to Monty,
who would add a victory to his record if Hoch missed. He was
about to make Hoch finish when European team captain Seve
Ballesteros intervened to concede the putt.
Now Montgomerie, 34, needs to win in America to seal his status
as a great player. "I have improved every year since turning
pro; now my expectations are higher than ever," he says. "I want
to win in the U.S. and win one of the majors."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was going to play our Tour last year, but
he chickened out," says a Tour insider. "He was going to play
here full time this year, but where has he been?"
Monty is coming, and his Essex-based swing coach, Dennis Pugh,
is relieved. "Colin is the hardest person I have worked with.
It's very pressurized dealing with someone who's only
comfortable with winning," says Pugh, adding that the fiery Scot
is "great company away from the course."
He's coming, and there's less not to like. "I have been dieting
and working out in the gym--lost 10 pounds," says Monty, who
though not exactly wiry is now less Mrs. Doubtfire-y. He expects
a coolly polite welcome at Doral. That's probably what he'll get
from our guys, most of whom find Faldo more irksome anyway.
"Some of the American players were upset by what was printed
about the Ryder Cup," Montgomerie says, "but I've apologized."
Faxon has agreed to a truce. Even Funk says, "I don't think he's
the biggest jerk in the world as much as I used to."
Ready or not, here comes the man who might be the best Scottish
golfer since young Tom Morris. "Am I misunderstood? No," says
Monty. "People know me. They know I never give up, and that's
why I do well. It's also why I look miserable at times. What I
am is an honest golfer, and I've no intention of changing."
What is the International Professional Golfers Association?
According to rumblings around the PGA Tour, it's a Vienna-based
group offering millions of dollars to pro golfers based on their
play in six established events, including this week's
Doral-Ryder Open, plus a season-ending "All-Star Game." Headed
by Joe Collet, Seve Ballesteros's former manager, the nascent
IPGA is the first challenge to the PGA and the European tours
since Greg Norman's brief rebellion in 1994. "Tim Finchem is
quietly passing the word that this should be ignored," says one
Tour watcher, "but who wouldn't be interested in what looks like
"There's big money behind this," says Gary McCord. "When [IPGA
officials] make their move, it'll stir things up, especially
among the international players."
Nick Faldo might be one of them. "It's a lot of money, but we
don't know where it's coming from or what it would mean to join.
Basically, I'm interested but confused," says Faldo.
THE PRO FROM MARGARITAVILLE
Last year the LPGA's MVB (Most Visible Bag) award went to a
Crayola-yellow model with multihued headcovers. Now try
something tastier: Patty Schremmer's bag features a Day-Glo
margarita and Jimmy Buffett's long-lost shaker of salt.
Tour rookie Schremmer's bag promotes the woozy crooner's
Margaritaville restaurants. She and her husband, Mike, an
emergency room doctor, are "huge Parrotheads," says Patty, using
the insider's term for hard-core Buffett fans. They met in 1995
when Patty, drained by a brutal mini-tour schedule, stumbled
into a Sarasota, Fla., hospital where Mike was on duty. He
treated her for exhaustion and dehydration, then asked her out.
"I was surprised, since I had barf in my hair when we met," she
They shared a love for Buffett, and at a '96 gig he stopped the
music to announce, "Patty, Mike has something to ask you." Thus
they were engaged, and this year the singer came through with an
endorsement deal. "I'm making Patty captain of the Parrothead
golf team," says Buffett. He wasn't always so supportive. When
he first invited them backstage, Buffett said, "I wanted to make
sure you guys have normal lives and aren't total weirdos."
Normal? You can take that with a shaker of salt.
HAVE YOU SEEN ME?
Name: HALE IRWIN
Male Caucasian, 52 years old, 6'0", 180 pounds
Last seen: Accepting 1997 Senior player of year award after
nine-win, $2,343,364 season. Expected in winner's circle early
in '98. Instead, el poofo
May be wearing: King Cobra visor, cotton/poly-blend shirt, spikes
Answers to: Hale-O, Hale the Conquering Hero, the Gilchaser
Reported sighting: Key Biscayne 7-Eleven, buying Rolaids
If you see this man, do not approach him. He is hungry and may
be dangerous. Fax Hale Irwin Spotters Society at 212-522-4543.
THE SHAG BAG
Loopy Swing: How do you explain this year's West Coast swing?
First Tiger Woods fires a Sunday 64 to lose the Mercedes. His
college roommate, a kid with a disease so rare there may be only
1,000 cases worldwide, rides a cart to a Nike tour victory and
Tiger-topping celebrity. Fred Couples hits a ball OB to lose the
Hope--correction, clangs one off NBC announcer Roger Maltbie's
cart and wins the Hope. A madcap Swede with pumice breath gets
his first Tour win, at Phoenix. Pebble Beach gets tsunami'd out.
Greg Norman's guesthouse is said to be a love nest for Bill
Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. There's a drought in Hawaii, where
John Huston, winless since '94 but now wearing hidden magnets,
breaks the Tour's scoring record. David Duval triple-bogeys his
way to victory at rainy Tucson, and Billy Mayfair outduels Tiger
at the Nissan. Coincidence--or clever conspiracy to make U.S.
golf look ridiculous? Seve, we're on to you.
Seve's Empty Feeling: Ballesteros, playing well at last week's
Dubai Desert Classic, barely blinked after someone stole shirts,
pants and six sets of underwear from his luggage. "Think on the
positive side," said Seve of his nearly empty bags. "If whoever
opened my suitcase left something for me, he must be a nice
L.A. Daly News: "I feel better than I have in a long while,"
says John Daly (above), who tied for fourth at the Nissan and
credits an "awesome father-son relationship with Ely Callaway"
for much of his recent improvement. Daly's dream foursome:
himself, Fuzzy Zoeller, Fred Couples and Craig Stadler.
Who's the Dude with Fluff? A security guard at the Nissan Open
stopped Woods and demanded I.D. After Tiger grinned and
complied, the guard said, "Gosh, am I embarrassed."
Tooling Around: On March 10 Payne Stewart plays himself on TV's
Home Improvement. "It was fun but nerve-racking," says Stewart.
"When I first heard, 'Roll 'em,' I could not form a sentence. I
hope they don't show my outtakes."
News from Jupiter: Pollsters at the National Golf Foundation in
Jupiter, Fla., say that golf is less popular and more populist
than people think. The game's not booming, says the NGF: Rounds
played in the U.S. have held steady since 1991. And while golf
here is often thought to be a country club pursuit, 65% of it is
played on public courses.
Forget Fore, Say Timber: Players at England's Maesteg Golf Club
were shocked one morning to see that dozens of trees had been
chopped down overnight. Then it got worse. "We have now lost
more than 350 mature trees. Someone has a grudge against us,"
says club secretary Keith Lewis. As for suspects, he's stumped.
The Hills Is Alive with The Sound of Music
The European tour has Qatar, but the Nike tour has guitars. This
week's Greater Austin Open boasts a new attraction: After each
of the first three rounds an Austin band will play a short set
in a tent on the grounds of the Hills Country Club. Fans can use
their tournament ticket stubs to segue directly from the country
club to the country, classic rock and Texas swing music of Jerry
Jeff Walker (Thursday night), Duck Soup (Friday) and Grammy
Award winners Asleep at the Wheel (Saturday). "Austin is known
for its live music. We figured we'd bring some to the Hills,"
says tournament chairman Scott Gidley. Duck Soup, the unofficial
band of the PGA Tour, is a regular at the Phoenix Open. "We're
also the Flounders of Jake Trout and the Flounders," says lead
singer Sam Irwin. Call it drive-time music for Nike tour hero
Baena's Back, Giving Opponents Headaches
Arizona junior Marisa Baena, sidelined for five months in late
'97 by a mysterious pain in her left shoulder, had her best
finish of the season last week. She tied for third in the Lady
Gator Invitational at Gainesville, Fla., behind winner Julia
Boros (Julius's granddaughter) of Georgia. "I'm sore," Baena
said after Sunday's round. "I still have to take Advil to play."
Of her six competitive rounds in '98, four have been under par.
Later this month the two-time college player of the year will
return to the LPGA's Nabisco Dinah Shore, in which she topped
the field with a 274-yard driving average in '97. "I've lost a
few yards because I lost weight, but I'm gaining it back," says
Baena. Her weight and distance are bound to return now that her
long wait is over.
What do these players have in common?
They lead the PGA, LPGA and Senior tours, respectively, in