Keeping It Real
Jonathan Kaye was the antihero in a battle with Phil Mickelson
Last week's Canon Greater Hartford Open was less a golf
tournament than a PGA Tour morality play, featuring a duel in
the sun between the people's choice, Phil Mickelson, and the man
in the black hat, Jonathan Kaye. The good guy always wins, and
Mickelson did his part by firing a brilliant final-round 64 to
shoot down Kaye by a stroke. The whole thing played out like a
cheap Hollywood thriller, a sop to the Northeast fans who had so
desperately wanted Mickelson to win the week before at the U.S.
Open. It would have been a lot more interesting if Kaye, a
31-year-old native of Colorado, had stolen the GHO. He's a
scruffy character, flawed and earthy and real. He's one of us,
and maybe that's the problem. Golf fans want to cheer for a
better version of themselves between the ropes, especially on
Sundays, and therein lies much of Mickelson's appeal.
Kaye, as we were reminded endlessly last week, was suspended by
the Tour for the season's opening two months because of a murky
incident at last October's Michelob Championship in which he may
or may not have gotten into a beef with a rent-a-cop guarding
the players' locker room and did or did not subsequently attach
his player I.D. to his zipper in an act that was lewd or
unprofessional or rather funny, depending on your bent. This
followed a well-publicized incident at the 2001 Pebble Beach
Pro-Am, where Kaye responded to a heckler with an obscene
gesture. Sergio Garcia did the same thing at the U.S. Open and
was celebrated for his pluck. Kaye was saddled with a bad-boy
reputation that has been impossible to shake.
What seems to really inflame Kaye's critics are not his
occasional lapses in judgment but rather his lack of contrition.
In this talk-show age, failing to cry in public is an act of
subversion. After shooting a second-round 67 to grab a share of
the lead, Kaye declined overtures by a columnist for The
Hartford Courant to answer the same old questions about his past
transgressions. The result was a bitchy column in which the
writer hung his laughable indignation on the notion that the
fans "deserve to know what--or if--he has learned from his
On Sunday night Kaye told SI, "The lesson I learned is people
get treated differently out here. If Phil did what I did--or
allegedly did--nothing would've happened."
Mickelson is the anti-Kaye, a slickly packaged product who
always says and does the right thing. Lately he has taken to
espousing touchy-feely New Age sentiments, saying, "Having an
effect on a human being is more important than winning golf
Kaye, too, understands that winning isn't everything. "I wanted
to win the Players Championship so bad," he says, "just so I
could grab [Tour commissioner Tim] Finchem and chuck him into
the lake. Then I would've jumped in and pretended to be saving
him, but really I would've dunked him and held him underwater."
Aspiring to change the world is a noble idea, but who can't
relate to dreaming about drowning your boss?
Kaye's Dilbert-like workplace frustrations continued on Sunday
when he had to deal with what he called "borderline heckling" as
the fans openly rooted against him. This me-against-the-world
vibe was all too familiar. "I'm totally comfortable with who I
am and what I am," Kaye says. "I wear my heart on my sleeve, and
I say what I think. But I'm learning that I have to be more
careful, because people like you a lot more if you act like they
want you to act and tell them what they want to hear."
Golf's grumpy old men are out of line with their criticism of
Tiger Woods's would-be challengers. Comparing eras is folly, and
with their barbs Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and other
ungracious geezers display little understanding of how Woods has
reinvented the sport.
On June 19, Dottie Pepper's divorce from Ralph Scarinzi was
finalized, but in the incestuous world of the LPGA tour it will
be hard for these exes to enjoy much separation. At this week's
ShopRite Classic, in Galloway Township, N.J., Pepper is scheduled
to make her season's debut, having finally recovered from
shoulder surgery in February, while her one-time caddie,
Scarinzi, will be on the bag for Charlotta Sorenstam.
Oakhurst Golf & Country Club in Clarkston, Mich., hosted a
special guest last week, a visitor that goes by the name of
Stanley, Stanley Cup. On June 18, the day after the city of
Detroit threw a victory parade for its Red Wings, a dozen of the
hockey heroes showed up for a round at Oakhurst lugging sport's
most famous trophy. Not only was the Cup chauffeured around in a
golf cart, but, according to one club member, fans showed more
interest in having their pictures taken with the trophy than
with any of the players.
During the second round of the Great North Open, at De Vere
Slaley Hall Golf Club in Hexam, England, Euro tour journeyman
Andrew Beal made a hole in one with a six-iron on the 179-yard
14th hole to win a 15,000[pounds] Renault Megane. Unfortunately
Beal wasn't able to drive it home, because he forfeited his
driving privileges last year after losing his left eye due to a
malignant tumor. The 36-year-old Beal returned to action in
early June, and the ace may be a harbinger of better luck--this
week he undergoes a sight exam in an effort to reclaim his
More hole-in-one news: Leta Lindley aced the 143-yard 9th hole
with a six-iron during the first round of the Wegmans Rochester,
a stroke of good fortune that also turned out to be quite
profitable for her husband, caddie Matt Plagmann. Every week on
the LPGA tour, 100 or so caddies pony up $2 in a hole-in-one
pool, with the pot going to the looper whose player makes a 1.
After a seven-week dry spell the payout had grown to $2,356, but
because the pool runs for the duration of the tournament,
Plagmann had to split his bonanza with Tommy Thorpe, who was
packing for Candie Kung when she aced the 9th hole on Saturday.
VOTE AT GOLFONLINE.COM
THIS WEEK: Should the PGA Tour reverse its policy and make public
its fines for player misconduct?
LAST WEEK: Following Tiger Woods's victory in April at the
Masters, 38% of respondents to this poll said Woods would win the
Grand Slam. What do you think now?
Will win the Slam....59% Won't....41%
--Based on 5,832 responses to our informal survey.