The start of a new year, the end of a millennium--can you think
of a better time for golf to go through some big changes? Admit
it, the only thing we can count on anymore is President Clinton
taking a mulligan. Here are some of the new things we can look
forward to this season, and their consequences.
Got a Match? The Feb. 24-28 Andersen Consulting Match Play
Championship at La Costa Resort and Spa, in Carlsbad, Calif.,
will give us our first true champ in this format since the PGA
went to stroke play in 1958. If golf adds a fifth major in our
lifetimes (after the Players Championship replaces the PGA as
number 4), this could be it.
Who Gets Burned? With the world's top 64 players at the Match
Play, the concurrent Touchstone Energy Tucson Open, one of the
better West Coast stops, will get the leftovers and be reduced to
satellite status. Also, expect complaints like this from some of
the 32 first-round losers at La Costa: Man, I shot four under and
lost my match, but two other guys shot three over and won. That's
not fair! Please, no crying on the courtesy cars.
Reign, Man: In case you haven't noticed, we're already well into
the David Duval Era. Having established himself as the best
player on the Tour over the last two years (eight wins in 27
starts), Duval needs only a victory in a major to make his No. 1
status official. If Tiger Woods steps it up this year, we may see
the rivalry of the ages come to flower.
January 18, 1999
The Catch: Duval is reluctant to let us get behind those dark
Tigerspoofing: Masters officials lengthened two holes at Augusta
National (the 2nd and 17th) and effectively stretched the par-5
15th by removing mounding from the landing area of the fairway.
Big whoop. Average drivers might not reach numbers 2 and 15 in
two as often, but the net effect is that long hitters such as
Woods will have an even greater advantage. Last year Woods
played poorly yet tied for eighth. Mark this down: He wins
another green jacket in April (unless Duval beats him).
Are You Ready for...Tigermania II?
Sites for Sore Eyes: Nasty Carnoustie hosts the British Open for
the first time in 24 years, while storied Pinehurst No. 2 gets
the U.S. Open. If the USGA narrows Pinehurst's
fairways--if?--and if the wind blows, Black Sunday (see Pebble
Beach, '92) may be remembered as a breeze.
X Factors: Summer in Scotland ain't heated. Summer in North
Carolina ain't air-conditioned.
Leader of the Pak: On the LPGA tour big things are expected of a
22-year-old from South Korea. This player won 15 amateur events
in Asia and has taken nine titles since turning pro in 1996. She
is Mi-Hyun Kim, one of 19 non-Americans in the 26-player rookie
class of '99.
Foreign Legions: Since 1988 only two U.S. golfers, Brandie Burton
in '91 and Pat Hurst in '95, have been named the LPGA's rookie of
Welcome to the Supertour: Let's see, we have three World
championships worth $5 million a pop, four majors and two
obscenely lucrative special events--the Players and the Tour
Championship. How many more tournaments does a superstar need to
play in to make his nut? More pressing questions: Won't these
World events skew the money list, making it even more
meaningless, and will regular Tour events be Tucsonized--dwarfed
and less attractive to sponsors?
Welcome to the Se√±or Tour: The official season will end
overseas--out of sight and out of mind--with the World stroke
play, in Spain.
Best Senior Scenario: Hale Irwin and Gil Morgan continue to
Worst Senior Scenario: Hale Irwin and Gil Morgan continue to
Boston Tee Party: After December's embarrassing blowout in the
Presidents Cup, which followed two straight losses in the Ryder
Cup, the U.S. should be seeing red (and white and blue) during
September's matches in Brookline, Mass. We wager that many of
the Americans will also be seeing the Country Club for the first
We're No. 3! Look for Europe to win again. After all, the more