SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
For 169 pros, Q school '98 might be a final chance to make the
Welcome to the zombie jamboree. The annual PGA Tour Qualifying
Tournament--Q school--has also been called golf's bar exam, the
most grueling week in sports and many less printable names, but
its evil spirit might best be evoked by a number. Total entries
this year: 911.
Golf's gantlet, staged over two months at 21 courses across the
U.S., advances to its third and last stage this week at La
Quinta, Calif., where 169 survivors report to PGA West and La
Quinta Resort for six rounds that will decide who makes the big
show and who beats the bushes in 1999. The top 35, plus ties,
will go directly to the golden Tour, where courtesy cars wait at
every curb and the 100th-best guy makes more than $300,000.
Losers go to the Nike tour, where you might get a courtesy bagel.
"It's hard to keep your breakfast down," says Jeff Brehaut, a
12-year pro who has flunked Q school 11 times. In '93, at PGA
West's Jack Nicklaus Course, Brehaut needed a par 4 at the 108th
and final hole to win his card. He put his drive in the fairway;
then the butterflies in his stomach staged a hostile takeover of
his swing. His approach shot found a pond fronting the
green--twice--and a snowman put him out in the cold again.
When Brehaut returned to PGA West last week to practice, he
says, "I couldn't help taking a look at that hole. If I'd made a
par, what would my life be like?" At least this year's
qualifying will be done at the neighboring Tom Weiskopf Course.
"The Weiskopf course is tough," he says, "but there aren't any
holes that make your butt pucker up."
Q school isn't love and kisses even for the best players. David
Duval failed in his first try. Tom Lehman flunked out five
straight times. Mac O'Grady washed out 16 times in a row, then
led the final stage after 36 holes in 1981 only to shoot 80-80
and go home in tears.
Casey Martin fell short in stage two this year, making Robert
Gamez the biggest name at the finals. After slipping through Q
school in the fall of '89, Gamez, a dashing dude who was one of
the first to wear wraparound sunglasses on Tour, won twice in
'90 and was rookie of the year. But he hasn't won since. He was
injured in a car wreck this year and missed 15 of 24 cuts to
sink to 195th on the money list. Like 16 other 1998 Q schoolers
who have Tour titles to their credit, he lost his card. Now the
glam Gamez is just another hopeful like Brehaut, whose '92
Explorer has 130,000 miles on it and who didn't relish forking
over the $4,000 tuition for Q school.
"Seven is a lucky number," says Brehaut. "I've been to the finals
six years in a row. Maybe on my seventh try I'll get the job
done." --Cameron Morfit
ON THE BEAM
The latest cure for putting problems is laser light. More than
25 Tour pros, including Steve Elkington, Lee Janzen, Colin
Montgomerie and Payne Stewart, have seen the light this year, a
red beam emitted by Dave Pelz's LazrAimer. The $400 device can
help correct what short-game specialist Pelz sees as the most
common cause of putting woes: bad aim. Players spend years
tinkering with their putting strokes, but as Pelz says, "If you
don't aim right, you won't make many putts."
The Austin-based golf coach first encountered lasers as a
physics major at Indiana. He used them while working for NASA at
the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., from 1961 to
'75. The LazrAimer, which he invented last year, is small enough
to fit in a suitcase. It can be set up in a locker room, living
room or hotel room. The machine, which serves as a target, fires
a beam at a mirror affixed to the blade of your putter. If
you're properly aligned, the beam returns to sender.
"There's nothing Rhodes Scholar-ly about it," says Pelz. "It's
simple geometry, and it works."
Last week we asked Tom Weiskopf to confirm reports that he would
play eight to 12 Senior tour events in 1999. The '73 British
Open and '95 U.S. Senior Open champ, who hasn't entered a
tournament in a year and a half, said that while his
course-design business would always come first, he was
"entertaining the possibility of playing next year."
Weiskopf, 56, feels lucky to be swinging a club at all. In May
'97 he noticed a small black dot on his left forearm. As a
golfer with a fair complexion, he knew he was at risk for skin
cancer. "We didn't have good sunblock when I was playing," he
says. "No one talked about the dangers of the sun."
The mole on his arm turned out to be a malignant melanoma. Two
rounds of surgery removed it but also took a large chunk of
muscle from Weiskopf's forearm and severed enough nerves to
leave his hand numb. Unable to grip his clubs properly, he quit
playing. Sensation slowly returned, though, and two months ago
he began testing his swing. "It's wonderful to feel the club
again," he says. "I'll spend some quality practice time and take
it from there."
Just don't ask him to pose for a picture while swinging a club.
"I won't do that," Weiskopf says tightly. "I am a golf-course
THE SHAG BAG
Oversized Is Downsized: Responding to golf's industrywide
slowdown, the world's No. 1 equipment maker laid off 700
employees last week. In addition to axing almost a quarter of
its workforce, Callaway Golf canceled its book publishing and
driving range operations. Founder and CEO Ely Callaway says his
latest moves will help the company save $40 million a year.
Jackson Remembered: LPGA executive Suzanne Jackson, who
officiated at women's tour events as well as at the men's U.S.
Open, PGA Championship and Masters, died of breast cancer on
Nov. 11. She was 46. LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts, calling
Jackson "wise, brave, humorous and inspiring," said that golf
had lost one of its "unsung heroes."
Another Loss: Eddie Elias, whose Elias Enterprises represented
players and analysts, including David Feherty, Gary McCord, Chi
Chi Rodriguez and Fuzzy Zoeller, died last week. Elias, who
founded the Pro Bowlers Tour in 1958, was 69.
Hale Storm: By crushing Gil Morgan 6 and 5 in Sunday's final of
the inaugural Senior Match Play Challenge in Palm Desert,
Calif., Hale Irwin won his third tournament in eight days.
Irwin's eight-day take of $687,000 from the Senior Tour
Championship, Wendy's Three-Tour Challenge and Match Play
Challenge hiked his grand total for the year to $3,567,189.
Curtissy Call: The Americans dusted a 33-team field at last
week's Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Santiago,
Chile. Jenny Chuasiriporn, Kellee Booth and Brenda Corrie
Kuehn--all members of this year's victorious Curtis Cup
squad--stormed to a record 21-shot victory. Germany and Italy
tied for second while defending champ South Korea, behind Grace
Park's schizoid 86-68-81-68, tied Australia for fourth.
Kiwi over Kelly: New Zealand's Marnie McGuire led wire to wire
at the Women's Australian Open. A five-time winner on the
Japanese tour, McGuire topped runner-up Kelly Robbins for her
first victory outside Japan.
Ben Right? Don't tell any chauvinists, but Laura Davies (above)
did nothing for gender equality at last week's Johnnie Walker
Super Tour event at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China.
Vijay Singh won by two shots, and Jesper Parnevik, Ernie Els and
Brian Watts finished 2-3-4 in the nine-player tournament. Davies
came in last, 39 shots behind Singh.
Shark to Hawk: Greg Norman sent surgeon Richard Hawkins a gift
after Hawkins operated on the Shark's left shoulder: a
life-sized painting of Norman inscribed, "Hawk.... Thanks and I
hope I never need you putting me to sleep again."
The Hole at the End of the Rainbow
The most gut-wrenching, knee-knocking putt of the year--and the
only one worth $1 million--will be struck by Al Flowers, a
father of five from Virginia Beach who says his handicap is
"around 20." Flowers, 37, won a sweepstakes at a Winn-Dixie
supermarket in March to get into a regional putting competition,
where he made eight of 10 seven-foot putts. That put him in the
national finals in Bermuda, where he again sank eight of 10
seven-footers to earn a shot at $1 million. He wins the million
if he can roll in a single 10-footer next week at the Westin
Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Fla. Flowers's 15 seconds of
fame will be telecast by ABC at about 3:25 p.m. on Nov. 29
during the Gillette Tour Challenge Championship. Flowers, who'll
get $50,000 even if he misses, devotes only a few hours a week
to practicing his putting. "My philosophy is simple," he says.
"Pray for 30 minutes, practice for five."
Twenty-five years ago at the World Cup of Golf in Marbella,
Spain, Johnny Miller and Jack Nicklaus won America's 12th Cup.
The main reason was Miller's second-round 65, a vintage Miller
sizzler that easily bettered his opening 73. "Nobody approached
the improvement registered by Miller," The New York Times
proclaimed, forgetting that Romania's Dumitru Munteanu had
turned in a relatively sparkling 89 after a first-round 103.
Even Munteanu, however, would have admitted that Miller was a
killer in '73, a year in which he shot 63 to win the U.S. Open,
nearly won the British Open and played pool with Vice President
Spiro Agnew at Frank Sinatra's house in Palm Springs. Nicklaus
earned $1,300 at the '73 World Cup, while Miller got a $2,000
check and the Czechs, Jiri Dvorak and Jaromir Fuchs--stymied by
visa problems back home--canceled.
Whom would you most like to see in the Skins Game?
Fred Couples Colin Montgomerie
John Daly Bill Murray
David Duval Greg Norman
Ernie Els Mark O'Meara
Michael Jordan Se Ri Pak
Tom Lehman Tiger Woods
To answer, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
Rating the Rankings
Which statistics add up to millions on the PGA Tour? Leading
money winner David Duval finished first in two categories and
was second in total driving and fifth in putting. Hal Sutton led
in two departments. Here are the leaders in the 10 major
categories and their finishes on the 1998 money list.
Scoring Average: David Duval (69.13) 1st
Birdie Average: David Duval (4.29) 1st
Greens in Regulation: Hal Sutton (71.3%) 5th
Total Driving: Hal Sutton (62) 5th
All-Around: John Huston (151) 10th
Eagles: Davis Love III (1/83.3) 11th
Driving Distance: John Daly (299.4) 77th
Driving Accuracy: Bruce Fleisher (81.4%) 134th
Putting: Rick Fehr (1.722) 138th
Sand Saves: Keith Fergus (71%) 194th
Distance, in yards, of Casey Martin's winning poke in the
long-driving portion of the Nov. 9 Golf Skills Challenge in Ojai,
Calif. Overall, Martin came in second to Nick Price to win
$74,500, nearly matching his Nike tour earnings for the year.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only members of the Tour's top 30 in 1997 to drop 80
or more spots on the '98 money list. Norman fell from seventh in
'97 to 235th this year, Tolles from 27th to 115th and Nobilo from
23rd to 108th.