"Cuddly" is not a word many would use to describe Jonathan Kaye.
Brash, yes; different, certainly; misunderstood, maybe.
Take for instance this brief exchange, from a press conference
after the third round of last week's FBR Open when Kaye and Chris
DiMarco sat one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson. "There are so many
big names on the leader board, guys who have won majors and won
here," Kaye was asked, "do you feel like there hasn't been a
whole lot of attention paid to you?"
"Yeah," Kaye groused, ignoring the question. "I didn't see any
major winners on the top of the leader board." O.K., Jonathan,
nice chatting with you, and can someone get Phil a cold compress
for that bloody nose?
Certainly, all of Kaye's scrappiness and grit were on display as
he shot a four-under 67 in the final round, outdueling DiMarco
and Mickelson to win by two shots, with an 18-under 266. Kaye may
have been prickly at times, but the FBR win, taken alongside his
breakthrough triumph at last year's Buick Classic, illustrated
the 33-year-old Phoenix resident's growth.
Kaye's reputation as a muni-bred hothead who doesn't fit the
country club stereotype got a full airing in the February issue
of Golf Magazine, which explored everything from his on-course
shouting matches to his 2002 suspension for allegedly sassing a
locker room security guard. Kaye contends that the article, as
well as his performance in the FBR, are all part of an effort to
bury the past.
"Yeah, I wanted to put that all behind me," Kaye said on Sunday
evening as he stood under a jumbo screen broadcasting the Super
Bowl to a still partying swarm at the TPC of Scottsdale. "I was
shutting the book on all that stuff."
Even Kaye's wife, Jenny, a former Futures tour player who also
caddied for Jonathan early in his career, sees a difference.
"He's figured out there are more ways to make birdie than hitting
at the hole as hard as you can every time."
Kaye's improved course management--as when he played an iron off
the tee at the drivable par-4 17th on Sunday--is a sign of his
less abrupt approach to all things, a refinement that threatens
to make him downright huggable. In fact, as Kaye walked off after
his win, Craig Vogensen, Kaye's coach from Sunnyslope High in
Phoenix, burst through the ropes, gave him a squeeze and shouted,
"I'm so proud of you!"
There's no sign, though, that Kaye is ready to assimilate. Asked
if he might now move to a nearby gated community that's popular
with other Tour players, Kaye sneered defiantly, "I'm straight
out of Phoenix, baby. West side."
With the proliferation of big, strong athletes on the PGA Tour
and elsewhere in golf, performance-enhancing drugs will become a
problem, and sooner rather than later.
UP & DOWN
17th at Sawgrass
Frat party on a subtle hole that's transformed by water.
At 74, he made $140,000 and had a seven-footer on 18 that
would've won the senior skins.
Self-taught Kaye wins the FBR Open, poking a hole in the
16th at Scottsdale
Frat party on a mediocre hole that's transformed by beer.
Skinless and whining about a sore hip, the not-so-merry Mex, 64,
acted old and cranky.
Tiger officially axes his coach, poking a hole in the