Heads up--this may be the year golf takes the sports world by
This is an article from the Jan. 18, 1999 issue
In the old days--say, 1998--if you had asked a golfer to name
the fourth major, he would have chosen the PGA Championship. The
tee times are a-changin'. Golf itself is poised to become the
fourth major, as in major sport, right up there with football,
baseball and basketball. Last week's Mercedes Championships, in
which David Duval lapped a field of '98 tournament champs, was
the opening act of what promises to be the biggest season in
The game's lavish new TV contract (thanks, Tiger) has left more
than just the clubheads oversized. This year the PGA Tour's
schedule swells to a record 47 tournaments with $132 million in
purses. That's more than double the prize money of just four
years ago. The biggest bucks will be handed out at the World
Golf Championships, three new monuments to excess and to the
sport's global popularity. The first WGC, a single-elimination
match-play event for the world's top 64 players, hits La Costa
Country Club in Carlsbad, Calif., next month. In August members
of the most recent Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams will face
off at Firestone Country Club in Akron, and the third WGC
tournament, starring the top-ranked 50 players in the world and
15 invitees, will close the season at Spain's Valderrama Golf
Club in November. Each WGC event boasts a record $5 million
purse, with an even million going to the winner for his week's
It's not just the PGA Tour that's booming. Last year the LPGA
found its answer to Tiger Woods in Se Ri Pak, the brightest new
star in women's golf since Nancy Lopez won five straight
tournaments 22 years ago. But Pak wasn't the game's only fresh
face. Cuddly amateurs Jenny Chuasiriporn and Matt Kuchar made
headlines, too, though they might soon get their doors blown off
by two kids with even more explosive talent, Arizona State's
Grace Park and Spain's teen dream, Sergio (El Nino) Garcia.
Meanwhile, the world's most famous golfer figures to rebound
from his sophomore jinx. Don't be shocked if Woods caps the
season by leading the U.S. to victory at the Ryder Cup this
fall. The event offers no prize money, but there's something
more personal at stake: American pride. Long dominated by the
U.S., the Cup became a gut-wrencher after the Europeans' upset
win in 1985. After Ryder defeats at Oak Hill in '95 (Choke Hill)
and Valderrama in '97 (the Pain in Spain), plus a loss in
November to an underdog International team at the Presidents Cup
in Melbourne (the Blunder Down Under), the Americans are out of
excuses for losing international grudge matches. There'll be
snarls by the Charles when the '99 Ryder Cup comes to Brookline,
Mass., in September. Brace yourself for the most hyped golf
Dimpleheads rejoice: You're finally catching up to all those guys
with bigger balls. --Alan Shipnuck
MISTAKES BY THE LAKE
Last Friday, Frank Joklik, president and CEO of the Salt Lake
Organizing Committee (SLOC), which is overseeing the 2002 Winter
Olympics, announced his resignation. David Johnson, his senior
vice president who had quit just moments earlier, took the
stairs at the SLOC office building to avoid reporters. On
Monday, Salt Lake City mayor Deedee Corradini, a onetime member
of the Salt Lake bid committee, announced that she will not seek
a third term.
The earlier news that Salt Lake organizers had awarded
scholarships to children of affluent International Olympic
Committee members (SCORECARD, Dec. 21, 1998) paled next to
reports surfacing last week that the Salt Lake bid committee had
made cash payments, perhaps totaling hundreds of thousands of
dollars, to IOC members who were in a position to help Salt Lake
City land the 2002 Winter Games, and that Salt Lake Olympic
organizers may have paid for prostitutes for IOC members.
--In addition to investigations by the IOC, the U.S. Olympic
Committee, the SLOC ethics board and the U.S. Justice
Department, SI has learned that Congress has begun a preliminary
inquiry into the scandal. A House committee is looking into
whether the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which
prohibits U.S. firms from bribing foreign officials, was
violated in the Salt Lake case.
--The IOC's report on the Salt Lake mess, scheduled to be
presented to the organization's executive committee in Lausanne,
Switzerland, on Jan. 23, could call for the resignations of as
many as a dozen of the IOC's 114 members, IOC vice president
Anita DeFrantz of the U.S. said on Monday.
"There will be some big names," a source close to the
investigation told SI. "People are going to be surprised."
--When IOC member Marc Hodler of Switzerland said last month
that corruption had long been rife in the Olympic site-selection
process, he alluded to an unnamed IOC member who had allegedly
told bid cities that he could deliver IOC votes in exchange for
money. The source close to the IOC investigation told SI that
Hodler was referring to Jean-Claude Ganga, 64, of the Congo, a
former diplomat who heads the Association of National Olympic
Committees of Africa. Before the 1995 IOC vote in which Salt
Lake City won the 2002 Games, Ganga reportedly took $70,000 in
payments from Salt Lake organizers. Three months after the vote
he entered into a Utah land deal set up by SLOC board member
Bennie Smith, who was responsible for courting African support
during the bidding process. The deal netted Ganga a $60,000
On Saturday former SLOC president Tom Welch, who resigned his
post in '97 after allegations of spousal abuse, admitted he had
given Ganga $50,000 in cash, purportedly to help children in
war-torn Congo, and arranged medical treatment for Ganga and
Ganga's mother. "We never made any kind of effort to buy
anybody's vote," says Welch. "If somebody needed help, we tried
to give them help." Smith could not be reached for comment.
Last weekend Ganga told French radio, "I have done nothing wrong.
I will not become rich because I voted for Salt Lake City. This
is why I am so serene."
--The SLOC and the citizens of Salt Lake City must worry not
only about the dirty money that went out but also about the
clean money that isn't coming in. One sponsor, U.S. West,
announced last week that it was temporarily withholding a $5
million payment to the SLOC, a step that raised fears that other
backers of the Salt Lake Games might pull out. If the SLOC falls
short of its $1.45 billion Olympic budget, taxpayers in Salt
Lake City may have to cover the losses.
The Salt Lake scandal is one more chapter in the long, colorful
history of Olympic corruption. Direct cash payments to IOC
members to influence voting may be less popular than paid
consultancies and lavish gifts, but bribes of thousands of
dollars have long been rumored to be commonplace. Both before
and after the IOC prohibited gifts worth more than $150, in
1986, organizing committees from cities all over the globe have
reportedly plied IOC members with boatloads of booty:
first-class plane tickets (often redeemed for cash), shopping
sprees, antiques, fur coats, free heart surgery, golf with Greg
Norman, computers, fax machines, even a live Russian grizzly bear.
If any bid city had reason to run a clean operation, it was Salt
Lake, which would easily have won the 2002 Winter Games on
merit. As the allegations rained down last week, Utah governor
Mike Leavitt laid down a challenge that the alphabet soup of
Olympic organizations must rise to meet. "Olympic corruption did
not begin in Salt Lake City," Leavitt said, "but let it end here."
Boxer in a Dress
HE'S A KNOCKOUT
The surprise of Vivienne Westwood's Fall/Winter 1999/2000
fashion show in Milan last week was former WBO super
middleweight champ Chris Eubank of England (right), who vamped
down the runway in a glittering ankle-length evening gown. This
silvery number is one of the latest creations from Westwood, who
expects dresses for men to be the next fad. Eubank, 34, who lost
his title to Ireland's Steve Collins in '95, looked like more
than a match for super-lightwaif Kate Moss as he styled to wild
applause. All that was missing was a shout from Michael Buffer:
"Let's get ready to rhumba!"
MO' BETTOR BLUES
Gambling by college athletes may be more widespread than anyone
suspected. According to a University of Michigan study, eight in
10 men's Division I basketball and football players admit to
indulging in some sort of gambling. Still worse news is that
3.4% of the 758 male college football players and male and
female college basketball players who responded to the poll said
they had bet on games in which they played, given inside
information to bookies or taken money to change a game's outcome.
"Our athletes, like much of society, are desensitized to the
seriousness of this issue," says Bill Saum of the NCAA. "We've
got to get the message out before this problem becomes a crisis."
Hall of Fame Flap
By electing George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount to the Hall
of Fame last week, the Baseball Writers Association of America
(BBWAA) scrapped one of its worst traditions. All three players
were elected in their first year of eligibility. As some of the
crustier BBWAA members are quick to point out, that's more than
you can say for Joe DiMaggio.
The Yankee Clipper fell short in 1953 and '54 before earning
induction in 1955. Since then, many voters have been loath to
support any player in his first year on the ballot, but most of
the electorate seem to recognize the absurdity of the DiMaggio
dogma. Ryan received 491 of 497 votes for a percentage of 98.79,
second alltime to Tom Seaver's 98.84 in 1992.
One of the six holdouts who kept Ryan from notching another
perfecto was Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bill Conlin, a
Hall of Fame voter since 1975. Conlin considers the alltime
strikeout king Hall-worthy but didn't think he deserved the
highest vote percentage ever--an honor Ryan would have received
had he gotten Conlin's vote. "People say he must have denied me
an interview or something, but that's not it," says Conlin. "I
have nothing bad to say about the man--except that he was only
32 games over .500 and wasn't in the top 100 in career earned
run average. I am astounded so few people left him off their
Conlin, who often votes for first-time candidates, believes
Cooperstown will welcome its first unanimous choice early in the
next century. "I think Mark McGwire will be the first," he says.
"By then, most of the old farts who keep reminding us that Ruth
and Cobb weren't unanimous will be gone." --Gerry Callahan
Steroids in Tennis
If there's a moral to the story behind Petr Korda's positive
test for steroids at Wimbledon last year, it's that the inmates
should run the asylum when it comes to drugs in tennis.
International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Brian Tobin said
last week that the ITF will try to reverse a decision by its
player appeals committee not to suspend Korda, a Czech who's the
13th-ranked player in the world. But Tobin's statement came only
after a caucus of some of the world's top stars ripped the
federation and hinted they might boycott the Australian Open
this week if Korda is allowed to defend his title there.
"I'm telling everyone Petr should not be allowed to play," says
Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman. Failing to suspend Korda, says
Bjorkman, may be "the worst decision the ITF has ever made."
In December the ITF's player appeals committee stripped Korda of
the $94,000 and the 199 ranking points he earned for making the
semis at Wimbledon but declined to suspend him. A one-year
suspension is supposedly mandatory in such cases, but the
committee bought Korda's claim that he had no idea how the
anabolic steroid nandrolene got into his system. That annoyed
players who think the ITF is soft on drugs.
"Too many people say, 'I don't know how it got in my body,' and
get away with it," said Lindsey Davenport at last week's Hopman
Cup in Perth. "There are always exceptions."
Korda isn't the first to get his wrist slapped by the ITF's
appeals panel. Last summer 19-year-old Samantha Reeves of the
U.S., who flunked a drug test in 1997, was allowed to stay on
tour after telling the committee she had ingested nandrolene
accidentally in a diet supplement. The ITF has suspended only one
steroid user: Ignacio Truyrol of Spain, who was banned for a year
Several players hinted last week that steroid use on tour is far
more prevalent than three positive tests suggest. "We've heard
about guys being positive and [the ITF's] covering it up,"
Bjorkman said. Tobin denies any whitewash. He says the ITF will
appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne--a sort
of World Court for sports--seeking a harsher penalty for Korda.
On Saturday in Sydney, all 128 players in the men's draw of the
Australian Open--including Korda--will meet to discuss the case.
Many are ready to boycott if Korda plays. Says Jim Courier, "I'll
speak out strongly in favor of banning him."
SAY IT AGAIN?
The NFL has been hyping the playoffs with a slam-bang TV ad
featuring gridiron mayhem and a pounding rendition of Edwin
Starr's 1970 hit War. But the ad turns the song's message on its
head. Starr's anthem is scathingly antiwar, down to the refrain
that the NFL spot conveniently leaves out: War...what is it
good for? Absolutely nothin'!
Good god, y'all! Let's hope the NFL doesn't get its hands on
Give Peace a Chance.
--That the NBA will now put a cap on ticket prices.
--That the next NYPD officer Roy Jones Jr. takes on is one who
can give him a fight--say, Sipowicz.
--That Yogi Berra's meeting with George Steinbrenner proves that
in feuding, when it's over, it's over.
Pounds by which lightweight boxing contender Golden Johnson is
outweighed by his 140-pound girlfriend, pro fighter Teddy Benitez.
Price in dollars of a heated trunk the Dolphins used to keep Dan
Marino's helmet warm between offensive series during last
Saturday's playoff game in Denver.
Percent jump in the price of Boston Celtics stock, from $10.50 to
$14.63, in the five hours after the NBA lockout was resolved.
Yardage of the par-5 18th hole at Kapalua's Plantation Golf
Course on Maui, which Tiger Woods reached in two with a drive
and a five-iron.
Winning streak of Evansville's (Ind.) Mater Dei High junior
varsity wrestling team.
Tennessee commemorative Tostitos bags distributed after the
Vols' Fiesta Bowl win.
Florida State Tostitos bags destroyed after the Seminoles' Fiesta
Sale price in dollars of the Washington Redskins.
Gross domestic product of Monaco, in dollars.
Racers peeled out across Mauritania toward Dakar, Senegal,
during the 5,843-mile Granada-to-Dakar rally. On Monday, leaders
were France's Jean-Louis Schlesser in the auto division,
Russia's Viktor Moskovskikh among truckers and France's Richard
Sainct bombing over the Sahara on his BMW motorcycle.
The NBA's new labor deal (page 48) places a cap on how much a
player can earn in the first year of a contract--a cap that
varies with service time. The deal means no more Jordanesque $30
million hauls or even Kevin Garnettish $20 million salaries, and
it should worry athletes in other sports, since labor strife is
never much more than an option year away. Here are the salaries
(in millions) in baseball and hockey that would not be allowed
in the new NBA. (The NFL has no such salaries.)
10+ Years Experience Seasons Salary
Kevin Brown, Dodgers 12 $15.0
NBA Cap $14.0
7-9 Years Experience Seasons Salary
Sergei Fedorov, Red Wings 8 $14.0
Mo Vaughn, Angels 8 $13.3
Mike Piazza, Mets 7 $13.0
Pedro Martinez, Red Sox 7 $12.5
Bernie Williams, Yankees 8 $12.5
NBA Cap $11.0
Logo a Go Go
Less than 24 hours after Tennessee won the Fiesta Bowl, Adidas
lit up TV screens around the country with a commercial
congratulating the Volunteers on their national title. It was a
thoughtful gesture by the official outfitter of Tennessee's
sports teams. It was also a violation of NCAA rules.
Those rules prohibit student-athletes from appearing in ads that
feature the ad-makers' merchandise. Adidas's spot clearly shows
its logo on the wristbands, shoes and jerseys of Vols players.
"There's nothing wrong with Adidas or any other company
producing a congratulatory ad that includes the company's logo,
so long as its product isn't identifiable," NCAA spokesman Wally
Renfro said last week. "To continue using the spot, Adidas will
have to remove those clips or sanitize the ad so that the logos
on the products don't appear." Adidas didn't respond to SI's
Last Friday a Tennessee spokesman told SI that the school had
instructed Adidas to fix the ad immediately or take it off the
air. Since players had not given Adidas permission to use their
likenesses, and the school--which was not paid for the ad--took
measures to correct Adidas's error, the NCAA had no plans to
punish Tennessee. Asked what penalties Adidas might face, an
NCAA spokeswoman said, "We can't really do anything."
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
After his Gators defeated Syracuse 31-10 in the Orange Bowl,
Florida coach Steve Spurrier awarded himself a game ball.
Representative for 10 NBA players, on how he and his colleagues
will react to the league's new collective bargaining agreement:
"Agents are like rats. We can adjust to anything."