the actor who plays Francis Ouimet, winner of the 1913 U.S. Open, in the upcoming drama The Greatest Game Ever Played, has a confession to make: "I never really liked golf," says Shia LeBeouf, 19. "No cheerleaders? No excitement? Even The Legend of Bagger Vance bored me." But LeBeouf (left) wanted the part in Game (which opens on Sept. 30), so he sandbagged the producers: "I told them I was a terrific golfer, that I kept clubs in my trunk. I lied." After getting the part, he was left scrambling and joined the UCLA men's golf team on a road trip to Stanford, where he learned to swing a club--and developed an appreciation for the game. "We partied like rock stars, and that's when I got to love the sport," he says. "I thought it was a gentleman's sport, but these guys would talk s--- to each other! There was competition. I finally got it."
Rob Thomas has quite an affinity for tennis--in part because he's so popular with the players. Both Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are huge fans, and Connors has hung out in Thomas's dressing room. "He and his daughter [Aubree] came to watch one of my shows in London in July," says the singer, who was at the U.S. Open on Monday watching Andre Agassi play Xavier Malisse. "At first I thought he was just bringing his daughter, but he said he was a fan. He had even been to another show that I didn't get a chance to meet him at." Thomas says he's toying with the idea of building a court in his yard in Westchester, N.Y., but he doesn't plan on inviting Connors or McEnroe to christen it. "I would be scared to stand on the court with those guys," Thomas says. "They could serve it right through my chest."
Madonna, Robin Wright, Nicole Kidman.... You can now add pro figure skater Nicole Bobek to the list of Sean Penn's on-screen romantic interests. The 1995 U.S. champ plays a former flame of Penn's in the latest screen adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's All The King's Men, which reaches theaters on Dec. 16. The film is Bobek's big-screen debut.... Nick Lachey item of the week: On Sept. 10 he'll appear on ESPN's College Football GameDay to take a stab at the Michigan fight song with help from former Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler. The next day Lachey will join his wife, Jessica Simpson, at FedEx Field in Washington to sing America the Beautiful before the Bears-Redskins game. That performance will be broadcast live to eight NFL stadiums.... Think you've had problems with lost luggage? When Mark Zupan, one of the quad rugby stars featured in the highly regarded documentary Murderball, flew to Florida recently to appear on an episode of TLC's Miami Ink, the airline sent his wheelchair to New York City. Fortunately, Zupan was able to borrow a chair from a friend until his arrived.... Ever since he ran a kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown in 2003, Rod Smart has been loved by Carolina Panthers fans. That made his nickname--He Hate Me, which he memorably had stitched on his jersey in the XFL in 2001--untenable. So Smart last week rechristened himself. His new name is (what else?) He Love Me. "My daughter even used to introduce me as He Hate Me and herself as She Hate Me," says Smart. "Now she's pretty excited about the change."
THIS WEEK'S SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A jogger in Rhode Island was hospitalized after drinking from a beer bottle he found by the side of the road.
They Said It BILL PARCELLS
Cowboys coach (left), on rookie defensive end and Alabama native Demarcus Ware (right): "That kid grew up so far out in the country, he had to go toward town to hunt."