Battle at Bighorn Revisited
A Night To Forget
Saying that ABC's Battle at Bighorn on July 30 was a disaster is
like saying General Custer had a bad hair day at the Battle of
Little Bighorn. To make matters worse, Tiger Woods has signed on
for five more of these embarrassing money grabs. What was wrong
with Woods and Annika Sorenstam's one-up win over David Duval and
Karrie Webb? Let me count the ways and offer a few suggestions.
Show some life out there. Who scripted Duval, Sorenstam and Webb?
Ben Hogan? Woods didn't say much worth listening to either,
although his zinger at 14, after Sorenstam had putted off the
green and he had to chip back on, wins best-in-show. When his
ball stopped a few feet from the hole, Woods muttered to his
caddie, "We have a chance to two-putt from there." The point is,
we didn't tune in to watch the golf. We wanted to see behind the
sunglasses. Bring back Sergio Garcia. We'd even take Helen
Alfredsson or John Daly.
Move it, people. The pace was deadly, even slower than a baseball
game. Only one thing is worse than watching four golfers trudge
up the fairway, and that's suffering through another four-minute
barrage of the same commercials. With only two balls in play,
playing 18 holes shouldn't take more than three hours, yet the
fab four needed four hours and 22 minutes. Solution: tape delay.
Boil down the whole shebang into a fast-paced two hours, or at
least give us the Reader's Digest version of the front nine.
Alternate what? Nobody in the U.S. plays alternate shot. The
format is a relic. One-on-one matches are always best, but if you
must play some sort of team game, go better-ball.
Lose the women. Earth to Ty Votaw: You think having 8.6 million
people see your two best golfers play like chopsticks was good
for the LPGA? I'll take Duval, fresh off his win in the British
Open, straight up against Woods any day. Or try these matchups:
Woods versus a Guy Who Came Close but Couldn't Get the Job Done
(Ernie Els, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Bob May, Colin
Montgomerie or Jesper Parnevik) or Woods versus a Guy Who
Relished Beating Him (Thomas Bjorn, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton,
Lee Westwood, yes. Ed Fiori, no).
Desert the desert. When Sorenstam putted off the green, ABC's Al
Michaels nailed it: "That scene had everything but the clown's
mouth." I've seen one tricked-up desert course too many. Show me
a great course, one that I'd give anything to play. Bandon Dunes,
Cypress Point, Merion, Pine Valley, Sand Hills, Seminole and
Shadow Creek jump to mind. Even Isleworth--wave to Shaq,
everybody!--would've been better than Bighorn.
Give us the golf guys. Michaels is not the voice of golf, and he
took me out of my comfort zone. Give me Peter Alliss. Throw in
Judy Rankin and Mike Tirico. For comic relief, bring in Bill
LPGA's Yankee Doodle Dandy
The dearth of U.S. winners in 2001 was the talk of the LPGA tour
long before Se Ri Pak of South Korea won the Women's British Open
on Sunday to complete a sweep of the distaff majors by
international players for the first time in the 74-year history
of major championships. There's cause for concern among the
American women--counting Dorothy Delasin's victory at the Giant
Eagle LPGA Classic two weeks ago, U.S. players have won only six
of 25 tournaments this year--but help is on the way. It's only a
matter of time before 26-year-old Laura Diaz becomes a force on
A two-time All-America at Wake Forest, at which as a business
major named Laura Philo she made the dean's list six times, Diaz
has Tom Kite's work ethic, Vijay Singh's single-mindedness and
Dottie Pepper's intensity. (She's called Dottie Jr. in some
circles.) Diaz has blossomed this season, her third on tour, but
has yet to win. She has finished second four times, closing those
tournaments with a pair of 66s and a pair of 68s, and is already
penciled in for next year's Solheim Cup team. "Among the
Americans, I definitely think she's the rising star," says Hall
of Famer Betsy King.
Diaz, who finished tied for third at the British, cemented her
reputation as an up-and-comer at last month's Sybase Big Apple
Classic at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y., when she
holed a nine-footer for birdie on the final hole to temporarily
tie Rosie Jones, who then birdied the same hole to win by a shot.
It was a big moment for Diaz, who lives in Amelia Island, Fla.,
with her husband of eight months, Kevin.
Laura's dad, Ron, who teaches at Leatherstocking Resort in
Cooperstown, N.Y., during the summer and runs his own golf
school in Amelia Island during the winter, and Kevin, who's a
golf instructor at the school, celebrated with her as she came
off the 72nd green at Wykagyl.
Something of a late bloomer in an age of teen phenoms, Laura
didn't think seriously about a pro career until 1995, when as a
sophomore at Wake she birdied five holes on the back nine of the
final round to win the women's ACC Championship. Laura won the
North-South Amateur that year at Pinehurst No. 2. Her older
brother, Ron Jr., a teaching pro at the Country Club of Vermont,
in Waterbury, caddied for Laura that week and came away
impressed. "That's when I first got the sense that she was a
great player," he says. "She was 4 up at the turn and had Kellee
Booth crying in the final. That bothered Laura. She said, 'She's
crying. What do I do now?' I said, 'See if you can make her cry
harder.' In the 48 holes of the semifinal and the final, Laura
made 17 birdies."
In addition to her four seconds Diaz has six other top 10
finishes this year and has earned more than $646,000, which puts
her sixth on the money list. "I haven't won, but I feel as if
I've broken through," she says. "My dad deserves the credit. He
created my swing and my attitude, and he's involved with my
day-to-day life. I always called him My Everything until I
married Kevin. Now I have Everything One and Everything Two."
Next week's PGA Championship is the final event in which a Tour
player can earn points for this year's Ryder Cup team. Numbers 1
through 6 in the standings--Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David
Duval, Davis Love III, Mark Calcavecchia and Hal Sutton,
respectively--have clinched berths. Numbers 7 and 8, Scott Hoch
and Stewart Cink, are in good shape too. If Tom Lehman (9) slips
out of the top 10, he's sure to be one of Curtis Strange's two
captain's picks. Only Joe Durant (10) is truly on the bubble.
Here, in order of my preference, are the players I'd like to see
either catch Durant or be a wild-card selection. (Places in the
standings are in parentheses.)
JIM FURYK (11th) Despite a dismal summer, he's only three points
behind Durant. Furyk has been bothered by a sore right wrist and
hasn't played well since April, when he tied for sixth in Augusta
and tied for ninth in Greensboro, but when he's on his game, he's
one of the toughest outs (see Nick Faldo, 1997 Ryder Cup singles;
Sergio Garcia, '99 singles).
PAUL AZINGER (19th) The heart and soul of the 1991 and '93 teams,
Zinger has the kind of experience and take-no-prisoners attitude
that any squad needs.
BRAD FAXON (12th) A good putter is a match for anyone, and Faxon
is one of the best. He's an especially good fit on a U.S. team
that figures to be long on streaky greensmiths (Calcavecchia,
Durant, Hoch, Lehman and Sutton). If Furyk or Azinger bumps
Durant to 11th, Faxon is a logical captain's pick.
SCOTT VERPLANK (17th) Gritty in the Corey Pavin mold, Verplank
(left) has overcome Ian Baker-Finch-type adversity. He's short
but straight, hits a lot of greens and scrambles like Denny's.
ROCCO MEDIATE (14th) Don't laugh, this happy-go-lucky chatterbox
has raised his game, finishing 15th at the Masters and fourth at
the U.S. Open. A machinelike ballstriker, he's dangerous when he
gets it going with his long putter, and he has Ryder Cup
experience--as a photo assistant, in 1991. I look for Mediate to
make his move this week at the Buick, at which he's the
DAVID TOMS (13th) He's capable of birdie binges--he shot 127 on
the weekend during his come-from-behind win in New Orleans--which
makes him a great better-ball partner. He's had lower back
ailments, though, so a 36-hole day could be a problem.
KIRK TRIPLETT (20th) A nice guy who has had a nice season--a sixth
at the Masters and a tie for seventh at the U.S. Open--Triplett
was spectacular in last year's Presidents Cup, in which he formed
a dynamic duo with Cink.
JUSTIN LEONARD (23rd) You'd like to see the hero of Brookline get
an at bat at the Belfry, but aside from the Texas swing, Leonard
hasn't been in the top 15 since January and has missed the cut in
all three majors.
If the Europeans lose the Sept. 28-30 Ryder Cup at the Belfry,
they will point to the selection process for their team as an
excuse, and rightly so. Because so many of the leading Europeans
now play full time in the U.S., using the Euro money list as the
basis for qualifying ensures an inferior side. If Europe is
serious about fielding its best team, it should pick its top 10
off the World Ranking instead.
What do these players have in common?
They're the last three players to win their Senior tour debuts.
Fleisher took the 1999 Royal Caribbean Classic, Lanny the '00
ACE Group Classic and Bobby last week's Lightpath Long Island
Which would you prefer to see, a mixed-team match such as Annika
Sorenstam and Tiger Woods against Karrie Webb and David Duval,
or Sorenstam and Webb versus Duval and Woods?
Mixed team 45%
Men vs. women 55%
--Based on 2,360 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who should be named captain of the 2003 U.S.
Ryder Cup team? Paul Azinger, Mark O'Meara, Corey Pavin or Hal
Sutton? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Here are the U.S. Ryder Cup standings and how the players ranked
after the Masters.
Current Rank April 8
1. Tiger Woods 1
2. Phil Mickelson 2
3. David Duval 3
4. Davis Love III 5
5. Mark Calcavecchia 4
6. Hal Sutton 8
7. Scott Hoch 36
8. Stewart Cink 18
9. Tom Lehman 7
10. Joe Durant 9
11. Jim Furyk 6
12. Brad Faxon 10