European Tour Talk
Colin Montgomerie didn't predict victory at last week's Benson &
Hedges International Open, the first tournament of an important
three-week stretch on the European tour that includes this
week's lucrative Deutsche Bank SAP Open and then the prestigious
Volvo PGA. Rather, he said he fancied the thought of winning two
of the three events, which would get him back on track to win a
seventh straight money title. "It would be nice to win all of
them," said the 35-year-old Scot, who will again be on the short
list of favorites at the U.S. Open, June 17-20 at Pinehurst,
N.C., "but two of three is O.K."
As expected, and as he has done everywhere except in the U.S.,
Monty backed up his bombast, shooting a 15-under 273 at
Oxfordshire Golf Club in Thame, England, to win by three strokes
over Angel Cabrera and Per-Ulrik Johansson. Montgomerie's first
victory of the season--he has played in only three European tour
events--boosted him from 46th to third on the money list, gave
him momentum heading into the Open and restored order to a
European tour that has gone decidedly screwy in '99.
For starters, a European did not win until Feb. 14, five weeks
into the season, and even then it was not Lee Westwood of
England, the Tiger Woods of Europe, but David Howell of England.
Westwood, who tied for sixth at both the Players Championship
and the Masters before winning the Asian tour's Macau Open on
April 18, has a sore right shoulder that has forced him to
withdraw from his last two starts.
But to the players' way of thinking, the biggest problem across
the pond is the pound--as in, What happened to it? European tour
executive director Ken Schofield proudly declared on Jan. 15
that his tour would be among the first to use Europe's new
currency, the Euro. It seemed a good idea at the time, what with
the European tour made up of players from more than 20
countries. Trouble is, the Euro is not yet widely used, and the
players, who can scarcely figure out what they're earning, long
for a return to the old days. "All we want is for the tour to
print a separate column giving the pounds sterling equivalent,"
says Paul Eales, a tournament committee member, "because of the
confusion the all-Euro policy is causing among players, caddies,
spectators and media."
Westwood's condition is a greater concern. He missed the cut in
his first start of '99, at the Malaysian Open, and three weeks
later was bounced in the first round of the World Match Play by
60th-seeded Eduardo Romero. Westwood pulled out after three
rounds of the Compaq Classic two weeks ago and last week made it
through only nine holes of the pro-am at the Benson & Hedges,
during which he played shots out of the rough one-handed, before
packing it in. He says he's seen three doctors--two in the U.S.
and one in Europe--and none have diagnosed the problem.
As for Montgomerie, he is keenly aware that eight non-Americans
have won on the PGA Tour in '99, but after eight years of trying
he is still without a W in the U.S. This year Montgomerie has
finished 23rd at the Players Championship, 11th at the Masters
and 60th at the MCI. He'll need to putt better--Monty hit every
green but took 34 putts during his 68 last Thursday at
Oxfordshire--if he's to win at Pinehurst. "You can't go into a
U.S. Open thinking iffy," he says. "If you're not quite on your
game, the course will find you out, especially that one."
Watson Looks Ahead
HE'LL MAKE A SUPER SENIOR
Since winning the '98 Colonial at age 48, Tom Watson has joined
a group that's bidding to buy his hometown Kansas City Royals;
has sent his daughter, Meg, to Duke, where she just completed
her freshman year; and has designed three golf courses that will
open next year in Japan, South Carolina and Missouri. "I have no
complaints," Watson says, "except for the way I'm playing."
Watson will be defending his title this week at Colonial Country
Club in Fort Worth, but he doesn't like his chances. After a
season in which he finished 29th on the money list, Watson has
plummeted to 126th in '99. His best finish is a 16th at the Sony
(Hawaiian) Open in January, and he's coming off a missed cut at
last week's Byron Nelson Classic. "When I was younger, even when
I played poorly, I made up a lot with distance," says Watson,
who ranks 152nd in driving distance. "With length you can
overcome wildness, but if you're short and crooked, you can't
Not everyone thinks the Hall of Famer is finished. "I believe
Watson is still plenty long," says Nelson winner Loren Roberts,
who is 180th on the driving list, "and I believe he can still
putt. I want so badly for him to believe he can, too."
Watson's ills may make it easier for him to accept moving to the
Senior tour, where the courses are 400 to 500 yards shorter. At
the Sept. 10-12 Comfort Classic in Indianapolis, he'll make his
Senior debut. "There are always passages," Watson says. "My
career has been full. I have a sense of pride about winning at
age 46 [at the '96 Memorial] and 48. That's why I think I can
THE BRITISH ARE COMING (IN FIRST)
Luke Donald, a Northwestern sophomore from Buckinghamshire,
England, has won four of his last seven tournaments, and his
70.23 scoring average is not only tops in the country but also
nearly half a stroke better than the NCAA record set by Tiger
Woods in 1996. Countryman Paul Casey, a sophomore at Arizona
State, has a win and two other top fives in his last three
starts, during which he has a 68.40 stroke average. At the
Pac-10 championship last month, Casey trailed Stanford's Joel
Kribel by eight shots going into the final round but fired an
NCAA-record 60 to win his second straight conference crown. Last
year his final-round 66 erased a nine-shot lead by Cal's Dan
Is it a coincidence that heading into this week's NCAA
regionals, at three sites across the country, the college game's
two hottest players both own British passports? "Not a chance,"
says Northwestern coach Pat Goss. "Junior golfers in the U.S.
tend to be too pampered and have just one game: Hit it as far as
you can and grab a lob wedge. European kids grow up in much
better environments in which to learn the total game. They play
in tough conditions, and the result is that they have more
resiliency, more shots. They can really play golf."
Casey and Donald, both 21, became friends while competing
against each other on Great Britain's junior circuit. The quiet
and short-hitting Donald won lots of trophies with his precision
iron game--he can whistle a 200-yard two-iron that never flies
above eye level--while Casey, with his Popeye-like forearms and
lightning-quick hip turn, didn't win too much but attracted
attention with his length.
The happy-go-lucky Casey, a sociology major, fit right in at
Arizona State, but his transition to Stateside golf was more
difficult. "We don't have much cacti or Bermuda [grass] back
home," he says. After playing terribly in the first two thirds
of his freshman year, Casey got a win in March 1998 at the
Cleveland Golf Southwestern and a month later took the first of
his two Pac-10 titles. Casey then won the medal at the NCAA West
Regional. What caused the turnaround? "Paul is so powerful,"
says ASU coach Randy Lein, "but he had to learn to control
Control has never been a problem for Donald, who was an instant
hit in Evanston, Ill., on and off the course. During his
freshman year Donald, an art major, had some paintings shown on
campus and notched five top 10s and a school-record 72.19
average. Last June, he and Goss made a list of goals for this
season. They included winning the national scoring crown, the
national individual title--the NCAAs will be held next week at
Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn.--and the player of the year
"Playing in the U.S. gives us Brits the best of both worlds,"
says Donald. "We learned to rough it back home, to be
imaginative and hit all sorts of shots, and because of that it
seems easier to play here, in the perfect conditions we always
see. It's really an ideal situation." --Rick Lipsey
Cyber Swing Aid
Peter Jacobsen was oohing and aahing over his laptop computer
recently, watching footage of Ben Hogan, in 1966, hitting balls
into the ocean at Seminole Golf Club. The Hogan sequence is a
feature of the Never Ending Athletic Training (NEAT) System, a
$399 hardware-software package. "When you use computers, you can
pick up minor changes that you couldn't detect otherwise," says
David Phillips, a part owner of NEAT Visions.
Using NEAT, the 190 players who were issued IBM ThinkPads by the
Tour can store digital videotapes of their swings on their hard
drives or on disks, then play them back alongside previous tapes
of their swings (or the swings of Hogan and other players). NEAT
superimposes grids and alignment markers over the swings and
includes slow motion and stop action.
Teaching pro Robert Baker uses NEAT with Ernie Els, Tim Herron
and Greg Kraft, and interest in the system is spreading by word
of mouth. As Jacobsen sat in the players' dining room marveling
at the visuals on his laptop, Ben Crenshaw stopped to take a
look. Phil Mickelson, giving an interview nearby, also got up to
Mickelson eyed Hogan's swing, then said, deadpan, "He's a little
laid off at the top."
"Yeah," said Jacobsen, chortling. "He was no good."
Mickelson returned to his table, but Phillips followed, laptop
in hand. He sat down, turned the computer on, and there was
Hogan hitting balls into the same ocean--lefthanded. "I flipped
it," Phillips said as Mickelson broke into a grin. "Now it looks
NEAT scores another sale.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only Senior tour rookies to win the money title.
Barber did it in 1981, Crampton in '86 and Trevino in '90.
(Rookie Bruce Fleisher is leading this year's money list.)
Who will win the $1.5 million match between David Duval and Tiger
Woods on Aug. 2?
--Based on 1,597 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who of the following is most likely to win a
major first: David Duval, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson or Colin
Montgomerie? To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
By winning the recent Nationwide Championship, Hale Irwin
extended to five his run of consecutive years on the Senior tour
with at least one victory. That's shy of the Senior record of
nine years, set by Barber from 1981 through '89, and way short
of the alltime record for the three U.S. tours.
YEARS WITH A WIN WHEN
17 Arnold Palmer 1955-71
Jack Nicklaus 1962-78
Kathy Whitworth 1962-78
16 Billy Casper 1956-71
15 Betsy Rawls 1951-65
14 Mickey Wright 1956-69
Sandra Haynie 1962-75
Lee Trevino 1968-81
13 Louise Suggs 1950-62
12 JoAnne Carner 1974-85
Amy Alcott 1975-86
Larry McDonald, Falmouth, Mass.
McDonald, 57, a financial adviser, took only nine strokes to
play three par-5s in a five-hole stretch during a one-over 72 at
Woods Hole Golf Club. He two-putted for birdie at the 505-yard
8th, made a 15-footer for eagle at the 525-yard 11th and holed a
205-yard four-iron for double eagle at the 479-yard 12th.
Terrell Italiano, Tampa
Italiano, 38, the owner of an embroidery and silk-screening
business, won the 70th Florida Amateur, at Black Diamond Ranch in
Lecanto, with a 2-and-1 victory over Robin Weiss, 45, the 1989
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. Italiano, a 0.2 handicapper, shot the
second-best score in qualifying, a 75, and won five matches.
Wayne Raath, Johannesburg, South Africa
Raath, a junior at Florida Southern, led the Moccasins to
victory in the NCAA Division II South Regional by tying for the
medal with Dave Kelly, a junior at Clayton State. The Moccasins
will shoot for their second straight national title, and 10th
overall, this week at the Division II finals in Valdosta, Ga.