Put On A Happy Face The pros could take a lesson from a gleesome threesome of amateurs

August 16, 1998

Politicians know it. So do supermodels. Sometimes the best
currency is a smile. There was a time when you wore one, too,
and don't try to deny it, because it's on record. It was your
first day of college, your first day of work, your first day of
driving. The proof is in your endearingly goofy yearbook photo,
corporate I.D. badge and original driver's license. Innocence,
that's what it was.

I mention this because in recent weeks three uncanny good
sports--unpaid, no less--have brought grins to golf the way a
slice vaccine might. The gleesome threesome, Jenny Chuasiriporn
(second at the U.S. Women's Open, a winner at the Curtis Cup),
Matt Kuchar (21st at the Masters, 14th at the U.S. Open) and
Justin Rose (fourth at the British) have been a power surge of
human connectivity. They've tapped a reservoir of goodwill with
fans as well as with that most cynical lot, the press. The three
have exposed not only vast portions of their dental work but
also the relative lack of exuberance among other golfers,
including those of us who supposedly play the sport for enjoyment.

Golf, someone once said after shooting 106, is a four-letter
word. If that doesn't justify the dour expressions of the game's
most egregious duffers, at least it explains them. When it comes
to the top tour pros, however, golf is a seven-figure income.
Their livelihoods are assured. Their unborn grandkids'
livelihoods are assured. So why are guys like Nick Faldo, Colin
Montgomerie and Tiger Woods in the Perennially Grumpy Association?

No doubt there are pressures in the pro game. Consider, say,
Nike tour journeyman Bill Murchison Jr. as he tries to make the
cut and feed his wife and nine kids. Fine. But when Woods,
freshly feted with an obscene sum of endorsement money, stalks
his way around a course and then proclaims, "Second sucks," as
he did at Pebble Beach last year, we're bewildered. Tiger's lot
in life sucks?

At the risk of sounding positively Barney, I think Woods ought
to smile more. For starters, people love him, but to keep
cheering they'll need a better return on their investment. That
doesn't mean a win. It means a tip of the cap, a flip of the
hand or simply a look up.

Isn't the game face better left to ultimate fighting? A smile
requires fewer muscles than a frown, so it saves energy. It
hasn't been banned by the USGA, yet, so it can help your game.
At this year's Masters sports psychologist Bob Rotella sized up
Kuchar's refreshing approach and told client Davis Love III,
"You need to go out and have as much fun as Matt." Love did, and
he got back in the tournament with a third-round 67.

Consider this gem from the smile file of Bruce Heppler, Kuchar's
coach at Georgia Tech: "People who are grateful become very,
very popular." No kidding. There's a reason Frank Urban (Fuzzy)
Zoeller endures as one of the most beloved players on Tour, and
it's not his urbane wit. It's because Fuzzy whistles while he
works. Fuzzy smiles. Still a fan favorite despite his untoward
remarks after last year's Masters, Zoeller can testify better
than anyone to the mileage of smileage.

The real pros of the positive, though, are the amateurs, who
have piles of smile-starters. Here are a few. Emulate a happy
grandpappy. "I pictured my grandfather," Kuchar (left) said at
the Masters. "How proud he'd be and the smile on his face."
Embrace the moment. "I felt like a winning player coming up the
18th," Rose said at the British. Remember that you're just
playing a game. "If you don't have fun," said Chuasiriporn at
the Women's Open, "you've already lost." Dream of something
good. "They have the most wonderful buffet you can imagine,"
Kuchar said of Augusta National. Poke fun at yourself. "So I had
to take advantage of it," continued Kuchar, who has a healthy
appetite. "Davis was a little shocked."

Love got an A in smile school when he said at the Masters, "We
all need to have as much fun as Matt." Woods has shown signs of
coming around as well. At the British, after coming in third, he
toned down his second-sucks lament and said, "Finishing third is
not something you should be upset about." He even tipped his cap
and gave a little grin to the fans at 18. Woods didn't win, but
we can forgive him that. As we saw at the British, sometimes a
winning smile is just as good.

COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND "You need to go out and have as much fun as Matt," Rotella told Love at the Masters. [Matt Kuchar]

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)