Watts Barred from U.S. Team
As a naturalized U.S. citizen, Tour player Brian Watts can vote,
must pay taxes and is required to appear for jury duty in his
hometown of Edmond, Okla. He is also eligible to represent his
country in the Olympics, in soccer's World Cup and in golf's
Presidents Cup. Watts cannot, however, play in the Ryder Cup.
Because of an outdated rule that the PGA of America chooses not
to revise, Watts was recently declared ineligible for the Sept.
24-26 match at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
The regulation that bars him from the match was written in 1927
as part of the original Ryder Cup deed. It states that "only
American-born players represent the U.S. team." The 33-year-old
Watts was born in Montreal.
At least one other Tour player, Andrew Magee, was born outside
the U.S. yet has been ruled eligible for the Ryder Cup. The PGA
says Magee can play because though he was born in Paris, his
parents were simply U.S. citizens living abroad. Watts's mother
is German and his father is English. The fact that the Wattses
moved from Canada to the U.S. in 1966, when Brian was six months
old, and that they were sworn in as U.S. citizens as a family in
1982, carried no weight with the PGA.
The odds on Watts's even qualifying for the Ryder Cup team would
be long (he'd be 49th on the points list), but he thinks it's
wrong that the PGA has denied him the chance. "I don't agree
with their decision, but it fires me up to play better," he
says. "I want to force the PGA to have to change the rule." The
24th-ranked player in the world, Watts finished 11th last week
in the Colonial and tied for third the week before in the Byron
The question of Watts's eligibility came up after last July's
British Open, in which Watts finished second to Mark O'Meara.
Watts had played in Japan for the previous six years, but his
$309,260 paycheck at Royal Birkdale earned him a PGA Tour
exemption in 1999, which prompted the PGA and the Tour to
request background information to determine his eligibility for
the Ryder and Presidents Cups.
Less than a week after he was first contacted, Watts was told
that the Tour's policy board had made him eligible for the
Presidents Cup. The PGA's inquiry, though, dragged on for nine
months. "A PGA official asked me all sorts of questions about
Brian, and I thought it was insensitive and rude," says Magee.
"It was as if they wanted some dirt on him."
PGA president Will Mann says that the PGA had no choice but to
rule against Watts. "We had great deliberations about Brian,"
Mann says. "But the issue of eligibility goes to the core of the
Ryder Cup, and the decision we've made is to uphold the best
interest of the Ryder Cup."
Watts has been amazingly diplomatic throughout the ordeal. "I
know I wasn't born here," he says, "but I've been here all my
life. I'd do anything for the U.S."
If only the PGA would let him.
Record Birdie Barrage
DANIEL MAKES NINE STRAIGHT
After three-putting the 6th hole for bogey last Friday at Onion
Creek Club in Austin, Beth Daniel was one over par in the Philips
Invitational. Then Anil Mussani and his 15-year-old son, Rahim,
began following Daniel and her playing partners Dana Dormann and
A.J. Eathorne, swelling their gallery to...two.
With the Mussanis to show off for, Daniel perked up. She knocked
a five-iron to six feet and drained the putt at the par-4 7th
hole, and birdied the 8th after stiffing a pitching wedge.
Daniel birdied the next six holes, too. Finally, with 40
spectators in tow, Daniels arrived at the 408-yard par-4 15th,
the hardest hole on the course, needing a birdie to break the
LPGA record of eight in a row set by Mary Beth Zimmerman in
1984. No problem. After driving behind a tree, she hit a
five-iron to three feet and knocked in the record-setting putt.
Daniel's streak tied the pro mark established by Omar Uresti at
the 1994 Nike Shreveport Open and was one better than the record
on the men's European, PGA and Senior tours. "After the 15th I
thought I could birdie in for a 59," said Daniel. "Once you
think about it, though, it's gone."
So it was. Daniel left a 20-footer for birdie four inches short
on 16 and parred in for an eight-under 62. Afterward, Daniel
autographed the ball she had used to make all nine birdies and
gave it to Rahim, whose older sister, Salimah, a sophomore on
the team at Texas, missed the cut at the Philips. "Some people
get nervous when they make a bunch of birdies," said Daniel, who
eventually tied for third, four shots behind winner Akiko
Fukushima. "But I had the right attitude today: loose and
relaxed." --Tom Hanson
What do these players have in common?
They are the only players on Tour to have won back-to-back NCAA
championships. Crenshaw won in 1971, '72 and '73; Simpson in '76
and '77; and Mickelson in '89 and '90.
Who of the following is most likely to win a major first?
David Duval 75%
Sergio Garcia 10%
Phil Mickelson 9%
C. Montgomerie 6%
--Based on 1,253 responses to our informal survey Next question:
Should the PGA of America make Brian Watts eligible to play on
the U.S. Ryder Cup team? To vote, go to www.cnnsi.com/golf.
The minor leagues are the province of young prospects in most
sports, but not in golf in 1999. The average age of winners on
the Nike tour this year is 33.2, while on the PGA Tour it's 32.7.
That's a turnaround from the first nine years of this decade,
during which Nike winners averaged 31.0 and their counterparts on
the big Tour 33.3. Here's the breakdown of winners by age group.
AGE 1990-98 1999
20-29 40% 34%
30-39 55% 58%
40-49 5% 8%
20-29 28% 43%
30-39 57% 38%
40-49 15% 19%
Brandon Christianson, Valencia, Calif.
Brandon, 13, a 0.6 handicapper, won his Toyota Skills Challenge
regional qualifier for the second year in a row, topping 705
players aged six to 90. Brandon, who has made six holes in one,
had a record-tying score of 10 in the event, which awards scores
of one to six in eight disciplines.
Christi Cano, San Antonio
Christi, a senior at Edison High, won her second straight state
title with a Class 4A-record five-under-par 137 at Austin's Roy
Kizer Golf Course. Cano had set the all-class mark in '98, when
Edison competed in Class 5A, with a 134 at Roy Kizer. She will
enroll at Oklahoma State in the fall.
Jim Lipe, Shreveport, La.
Lipe, 52, a senior associate at Nicklaus Design, won the
Louisiana Senior Amateur by two shots over Todd Lusk, 56, a
three-time winner. Lipe has designed more than 125 courses,
including Cabo del Sol in Mexico and Montreux Golf and Country
Club, host of the PGA Tour's newest event, the Reno-Tahoe Open.