X - The Golf Plus Decade 1994-2004 A look back at the people, places and events that in 10 years have taken a niche sport and made it mainstream

March 23, 2004

Golf was a very different place 10 years ago. A million bucks was
considered a good purse on the PGA Tour--not decent first-place
money. Tiger Woods was strictly a USGA curiosity. Annika Sorenstam
was the LPGA's rookie of the year but had yet to win her first
tournament. In general the game was still a smallish sport with
scant claim, or aspirations, to a larger audience. It was during
this epoch that GOLF PLUS was born. Because golf so rarely
warranted space in the national edition of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, GOLF
PLUS was created to provide a few pages of supplemental coverage
for the half-million or so dimpleheads among our subscribers. Since
then, Tour purses have exploded from a total of $56 million in 1994
to $240 million in 2004; Tiger's global popularity has made golf
important to a much wider audience; Annika has entered the LPGA
Hall of Fame; and the franchise that has become GOLF PLUS pumped
out more than 500 pages of coverage last year.

Before we help define the game's next decade, we thought we'd look
back at our first, and celebrate how far we've all come.



"Oakmont was about as much fun as the gout, featuring fairways so
narrow a man with wide feet might have to walk heel-toe down them
to keep from snagging his laces on the weeds; rough five inches
high and nasty; shirt-soaking, 90-something-degree heat that broke
Pittsburgh records five days in a row; seasick, brown greens,
harder than the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which divides the course in
half; and dirty, rotten pin positions. In other words the natural
and classic horribleness that is a U.S. Open, times two."
From Trouble to Triumph, June 27

Farm System
NOV. 22 Uncowed and unbowed, Robert Landers, a hardscrabble Texas
farmer wearing sneakers, lugging a garage-sale carry bag and a set
of glue-and-go clubs he'd bought from his cousin for $70, earned a
berth on the Senior tour by tying for sixth at Q school.


"Somebody take a memo. We may have found the slow leak in the PGA
Tour's West Coast swing. Too much rain. Too many all-week pro-ams
(two). Too many stops with more than one course to play (four). Do
you realize it snowed this week in Tucson? Hello, Dubai."
Going for the Green, Jan. 30

Last Laugh
FEB. 4 Bill Murray had something to prove at Pebble Beach.
Responding to criticism from former Tour commissioner Deane Beman,
Murray called him "just another screwhead who's too big for his
britches," then dazzled the fans as he teamed with Scott Simpson to
tie for eighth.


"Choosing not to play on a beautiful day simply because one of 54
holes was considered unplayable gives the impression that the
players are wimps and that the game itself is so precious, so
uptight, that it can't be conducted unless it conforms to a set of
rules that are often absurd."
Taking Sides on Pebble Beach, Feb. 19

Major Meltdown
APRIL 14 It was the blackest golfing day of Greg Norman's life as
he turned a glorious Sunday afternoon at the Masters into a 4
1/2-hour cringe by somehow spending all six shots of an overnight
lead before losing to Nick Faldo by five strokes. The last 20
minutes were unlike any seen in the previous 59 Masters as Norman,
before a silent crowd of 50,000 people, became a kind of dead man


"The son says it's not about the money, which is given to every
past Masters winner who goes to the champions' dinner. And if you
had seen the old man the day before, trying on the green jacket and
proudly showing off the HERMAN KEISER sewn inside over the wallet
pocket, you would have had to agree. But the old man remembers the
Great Depression, and at 82 he's not comfortably fixed."
Going Back, April 21

What a Trip
MAY 18 Life is strange. For two decades he was just a guy leaning
against a wall, waiting for his man to come out of the locker room
so he could do his job, nothing fancy. Then Tiger Woods wins the
Masters and avowed Deadhead Mike (Fluff) Cowan, his caddie, is the
fifth Beatle.


"They became friends two decades ago, when each man, in his own
way, ruled golf. Sandy Tatum was in his late 50s, a San Francisco
lawyer, a scratch golfer, the president of the USGA, handsome and
erudite and opinionated. Tom Watson was in his late 20s, and when
he drove the ball in the fairway, nobody could beat him, not Jack
Nicklaus, not Seve Ballesteros, certainly not Tatum, not even with
two shots a side. In 1987, when the U.S. Open was last played at
Olympic, Tatum's old club, Watson finished second, and Tatum saw
each of his friend's 278 strokes. Next week the Open returns to
Olympic, and Watson and Tatum do too. They will return as changed
men. No, that's not quite correct. As evolved men."
Drawn Together, June 15

Casey and the Cart
JAN. 23 In newsroom parlance the story of Martin v. the PGA Tour
had legs. Driving a cart, like carrying 15 clubs, is a Tour no-no,
but Casey Martin, whose right leg is withered from
Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, challenged that notion. His
mother did 14 interviews in one day at the height of the


"The 33rd Ryder Cup was the gravest athletic event ever contested
on American soil. We know this because golf commentators last week
constantly used the phrase American soil. American soil is a media
trump card, reserved for only the most solemn of stories: Terrorist
attacks occur on American soil. War heroes return to American soil.
And last week, divots were taken in American soil."
Undiplomatic Acuity, Oct. 4

Playing with Payne
OCT. 31 To honor Payne Stewart, who had died in a plane crash
earlier in the week, his Tour brethren donned plus fours for the
final round of the Tour Championship. "I was against it at first,"
said Davis Love III, "but today I told Tom Lehman, 'This just feels


"What are we going to do about Tiger? Is there a certain point at
which he starts to ruin things for us, when he gets so good it's
boring? We have to think about this. Has anybody in any sport been
this much better than everyone else? Maybe the Babe when he was
hitting more home runs than whole teams. But that's the point: He
wasn't the whole damn team. Before this year we thought Woods might
be "the next Jordan." No longer. The way we see it now, it is
Jordan who is "the previous Woods.""
Better Than Imagined, Dec. 18

It's the Pits
JULY 20 The fearsome Road Hole bunker (here forcing Tsuyoshi
Yoneyama to play out backward) at the Old Course in St. Andrews
devoured David Duval at the British Open. Duval needed four shots
to get out in the final round and fell from a tie for second to
11th place.


"Dunne's firm had 125 employees on the 104th floor. Half of them
were missing. More than a few were serious golfers, or the sons of
serious golfers. Dunne is a serious golfer. He wasn't in the office
on that horrid Tuesday morning because he was attempting to qualify
for the U.S. Mid-Amateur, a lifelong dream."
Unplayable Lies, Sept. 24

Join the Crowd
JULY 22 David Duval headed into his 27th major, the British Open
at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, with a résumé full of quirky
achievements, like shooting a 59 and being part of the first
father-son team of tour pros to win in the same week. After the
British, he had a major championship to add.


"Mina Harigae and Sydney Burlison, who finished one-two at the
California Amateur, are only 12; ditto Michelle Wie, who last week
played in her second LPGA event this year. At least the preteens
have their priorities straight: First they'll go out and hit balls;
then they'll go out and hit puberty."
Child's Play, May 27

So Long, Kenny
JUNE 2 Ken Venturi had been announcing golf since 1968. The
players grew up listening to him. On Sunday, Venturi's final day in
the booth, many of the pros paid tribute to him. As they came off
the 18th green at the TPC at Avenel, they gave him a farewell wave
up in the CBS tower.


"In Ireland, when a caddie says, "Yer too farty," he does not mean
that you're excessively flatulent but rather that you're 240 yards
from the green. Unless you're my brother Tom, in which case he
means both. Or so my family and I learned during seven sweltering
days in Ireland, playing golf courses that sounded like draft beers
(Old Head) and drinking draft beers that sounded like golf courses
Emerald Isle Hopping, Aug. 18

Taking on the Men
MAY 23 For two days Annika Sorenstam played an ordinary PGA Tour
event and turned it into something major. She played with the men,
from their tees, for their money, and everywhere you went, people
were talking about it, including in the men's locker room at

COLOR ILLUSTRATION COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN [1994] SAY YOUR PRAYERS Of the 170 bunkers at Oakmont, none was more intimidating than the Church Pews. Craig Stadler paid it an unwanted visit during the U.S. Open. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB GOMEL [1994 NOV. 22] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN [1995] OASIS Emirates Golf Club in the United Arab Emirates looks like a Kelly green handkerchief on a vast beach. The course requires one million gallons of water a day, and every one of the 50,000 plants has its own dripper. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BURGESS [1995 FEB. 4] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JACQUELINE DUVOISIN [1996] WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE After an extra heavy dose of Crosby weather hit the always soggy Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the tournament was canceled because a single hole was deemed unplayable.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BIEVER [1996 APRIL 14] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BIEVER [1997] HAZARDOUS DUTY The Lords of Augusta play subtle tricks, like holding back Rae's Creek so that a risky recovery can follow a shot short of the 13th green, such as Fred Couples's. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY J.D. CUBAN [1997] HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL Hurry up and wait is the order of the day at pro-ams such as the Hope in Palm Springs, although fast-playing John Daly didn't seem to mind. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK [1997 MAY 18] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN BURGESS [1998] HOLE FROM HELL Tiny at 347 yards, the 18th at Olympic was a huge problem at the Open on Friday, when the hole was cut at the back of the green, turning the putting surface into a grassy slide. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY RICH FRISHMAN [1998 JAN. 23] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN [1999] WHAT A FINISH! When Justin Leonard (jumping, right) drilled a 45-foot putt to clinch the U.S.'s historic comeback win in the Ryder Cup, he set off a wild celebration on the 17th green, and a transatlantic debate over golf etiquette. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY DARREN CARROLL [1999 OCT. 31] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK [2000] TIGER'S BEST In the greatest performance in major-championship history, Woods won the U.S. Open at Pebble by 15 shots, two more than the previous record, set by Old Tom Morris at the 1862 British Open. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN [2000 JULY 20] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JAMIE SQUIRE [2001] WE WILL REMEMBER At Plandome (N.Y.) Country Club on Long Island, flags were planted next to the tee markers to honor the five members who perished in the Sept. 11 attacks. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK [2001 JULY 22] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK [2001] ALL EYES ON TIGER During the British Open the clubhouse behind the 18th green at Royal Lytham and St. Annes was the perfect perch for some Woods watchers. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY KIRK LEE AEDER/IMOCO MEDIA [2002] GOLDEN GIRL The 5'10" Wie was a big hitter, averaging 280 yards a drive, and a big hit in her native state at the LPGA Takefugi Classic at Waikoloa, in the shadow of Mauna Kea. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II [2002 JUNE 2] COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN [2003] HIDDEN GEM In the opinion of SI's John Garrity the greatest course in the world is the Carne Golf Links, tucked away near the town of Belmullet in remote northwest Ireland. COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK [2003 MAY 23]

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