What was 1995 in golf?
The mind flashes back to Ben Crenshaw and Corey Pavin on the
72nd holes at Augusta and Shinnecock Hills, respectively, each
doubled over with his head bowed from the force of the emotional
tidal waves that struck them at the Masters and the U.S. Open.
An accompanying image is of Costantino Rocca, who let the
psychological tsunami resulting from his 65-foot birdie putt at
the 72nd hole at St. Andrews pitch him face first into the
Valley of Sin. Then there's a montage that includes the numbed
expressions of America's Ryder Cup team sitting next to the 18th
green at Oak Hill, Mark McCumber putting his thumb and
forefinger on the 7th green at Firestone and Ben Wright getting
caught in a wringer.
But unless you were one of the rare citizens who could actually
get the Golf Channel, much of the rest of the season has become
a blur. A few will remember that it started with a temporarily
healthy Fred Couples winning two tournaments overseas in
January, while Peter Jacobsen took the first two PGA Tour events
in February. On the LPGA tour, long hitters Laura Davies and
Michelle McGann each scored two victories, and Betsy King
finally got her 30th career win to get into the most exclusive
Hall of Fame in sports. Before the season ended, Lee Janzen had
won his third tournament of the year, and Colin Montgomerie, who
lost the PGA Championship in sudden death to Steve Elkington,
had taken his third straight European Order of Merit. The
results rolled in with metronomic regularity, the consequence of
a worldwide schedule crammed full. By the time the Silly Season
got cranked up in November, Billy Mayfair's two wins and
$1,543,192 in earnings seemed as forgettable as the golf played
by the most prominent player of the previous two years, Nick
Upon reflection, 1995 was rich with extraordinary achievements
by players who already have become the focal points of 1996.
Those who stepped up the tallest were Greg Norman, who proved
himself golf's most unrelenting force; Pavin, John Daly, Annika
Sorenstam and Tiger Woods, all of whom carved their names deeper
into history; and Curtis Strange, who demonstrated the most
difficult, yet most basic, way to be a champion.
Norman was everywhere in 1995. He began the year as the point
man in a bungled attempt to establish a World Tour and ended it
as the unyielding accuser of McCumber, who Norman insists
illegally flattened a spike mark along his putting line at the
World Series of Golf. It was in between those two episodes that
the Shark made his most indelible mark. On the field of battle
Norman was clearly the outstanding male player of the year.
In just 16 PGA Tour events, Norman had three victories--his most
ever in 13 seasons on the U.S. Tour--and finished out of the top
20 only once. For those who say that Norman has not won enough
to be considered an important player, his 15 career victories on
the PGA Tour are more than any exempt player under the age of 50
except Tom Watson, Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins, Hubert Green,
Crenshaw and Strange, all of whom have played the Tour longer.
This season Norman earned $1,654,959 in official money, a
record, and passed Kite in alltime earnings, with $9,592,829.
His stroke average of 69.06 was more than half a stroke better
than next-best Elkington's. He proved he is more consistent in
all aspects of his game, and as his victories at Memorial,
Hartford and the World Series showed, he is able to win even
when he isn't hitting on all cylinders. It was a season that
lent credence to the notion that at 40, the man who did not take
up golf seriously until he was 17 still has his best years ahead
It was by no means a perfect year. At Augusta, where he tied for
third, and at Shinnecock, where he was second by two strokes,
Norman provided more ammunition to those who say he still lacks
the sophisticated skills and judgment needed to win majors. But
by the sheer weight of his record, and the persistence with
which he has striven to improve, Norman has finally gained the
overwhelming respect of his peers. Many of them once suspected
him of being largely a marketing creation who was suspect down
the stretch, but Norman has proved to be far more than a pretty
boy. He endured a difficult swing transition, trained
ferociously to make himself one of the fittest players in the
game and rebounded from devastating defeats with his spirit
intact. "There were a lot of questions about Greg, particularly
his ability to finish," said Strange. "But there's no way you
can't respect what he's achieved, and I think he will continue
to get better."
Yet as the year ended, there was an unsettling air about Norman.
He and Butch Harmon, the architect of the flatter, more
rotational swing that in 1993 was the key to Norman's revival
from a two-year slump, may be parting company. Having left IMG
two years ago, Norman is now regularly accompanied by his
business manager, Frank Williams, who encouraged Norman to push
for the World Tour. His fellow competitors note that Norman has
stopped being an agreeable playing partner and that off the
course he generally seems rushed and tense. Norman's strained
relationship with his peers is evident as he speaks about his
hope that they vote him PGA Tour Player of the Year for the
first time. "But I don't expect to get it," he said. "I don't
think these guys will vote for me."
While Norman engenders a wide spectrum of opinions, Pavin's
performance in 1995 leaves little room for ambivalence. He is
universally regarded as the best pressure player in the game.
Pavin has been gaining this reputation gradually over the years.
The mitigating factor was his inability to win in the most
pressure-packed events of all, the majors. But when Pavin pulled
off a flawless final round of 68 at Shinnecock, outmanaging a
bunch at the top that included Norman and coming up with his
epic four-wood from 228 uphill yards on the 72nd for the perfect
closer, he officially became golf's Mr. Clutch.
Pavin added to his aura at the Ryder Cup, where he was a quietly
intense leader by example. First in an alternate shot match
against Nick Faldo and Montgomerie, then in better ball against
Faldo and Bernhard Langer, he rose at the crucial moment. When
he chipped in from the fringe at the 18th hole to win the latter
match, Pavin reacted with a look of eerie calm. "I just enjoyed
watching my teammates react, but I wasn't that excited," said
Pavin. "It was one of those times when I had put all my energy
into playing the actual shot, just the shot I had to hit then
and there, and even after it went in, I was still kind of in a
Pavin's sports psychologist, Dr. Richard Coop, says that the key
to Pavin's ability to succeed under pressure has been learning
how to become "process-oriented rather than result-oriented.
It's a difficult paradox--winning by not thinking about
winning--but Pavin is intelligent enough, and self-aware enough,
to do it."
While intelligence and self-awareness are not qualities
immediately associated with Daly, the young man has won two
major championships and has yet to hit 30. He must know
something. As magical as was Crenshaw's victory at Augusta,
nothing in 1995 was more amazing than Daly's win at St. Andrews.
The supposedly undisciplined, grip-it-and-rip-it loser came to
the most hallowed ground in golf for the oldest tournament in
the world and exhibited patience and poise.
That victory was even more unbelievable than Daly's PGA win at
Crooked Stick, because the Old Course, for all its room off the
tee, requires touch and imagination and an ability to control
the ball close to the ground, skills Daly supposedly lacks. What
St. Andrews proved is that Daly has genius. It also proved that
for all his troubles, Daly is a survivor capable of
demonstrating the right stuff. If ever a player had an excuse to
feel sorry for himself and wilt, it was Daly after Rocca's putt
went in on the 72nd hole. Instead Daly became resolute, hit pure
shots in the playoff and stepped on his opponent's neck. What's
also undeniable is that Daly is a man with deep-seated problems.
His play before the British Open had been spotty. Disturbingly,
it got spottier after his win. Rather than build off his
triumph, Daly resumed his aimless ways, which kept Wadkins from
considering him as a captain's choice for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
No player in 1995 fed off winning as voraciously as Sorenstam.
The 25-year-old Swede came into the season without a victory on
either the European or LPGA tours, where she was essentially
splitting time. But once Sorenstam got a win in Austria, she
quickly followed with another in Germany. One month later she
got her first in the U.S., the Women's Open. In September,
Sorenstam won the GHP Heartland Classic by 10 strokes, then two
weeks later beat Laura Davies in a playoff in the World
Championship of Women's Golf. When she closed her season by
winning her final tournament of the year, the Australian Masters
in November, Sorenstam had won six times and led both the LPGA
and European tours in prize money, the first time that has ever
Superstar material, Sorenstam possesses a game with no glaring
weaknesses, which she executes with robotic control. And as her
capacity for winning by wide margins attests, she can be a
steamroller. Unlike most of women's golf's recent champions,
Davies included, there seems to be no soft side to her game.
Sorenstam will be the best thing to happen to Davies, who
clearly will need to work harder to keep up. And that could be
one of the best things to happen to the LPGA.
About the only player who rivals Sorenstam for precociousness is
Woods. When the 19-year-old won his second consecutive U.S.
Amateur, even the words of his father, Earl, who predicted that
his son will win 14 major championships before he is through,
didn't seem inappropriate.
What was so impressive about Woods at Newport was his ability to
execute a victory in conditions that played to his weaknesses.
Newport was a short, fast, links-style course in which power was
barely a factor. Woods was forced to forfeit his vast advantage
in length by gearing down to keep his ball in play. At the same
time he faced several cagey veteran amateurs whose unorthodox
styles and maddeningly good short games would frustrate a less
experienced teenager. But Woods didn't break. In USGA
championships dating back to 1992, Woods has a 35-3 record,
further proof that for all his physical abilities, his greatest
asset is what he has inside. With his victory Woods became the
eighth player to win back-to-back Amateurs. He will go for three
in a row at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Cornelius, Ore. The year
was also a record fifth straight in which Woods won a USGA title.
Finally, after so much about those who came up big in 1995, we
come to a man who failed big. When Strange bogeyed the final
three holes to lose his Ryder Cup match to Faldo one up, he
became perhaps the most conspicuous loser in the history of the
Strange had been a controversial captain's pick by Wadkins
because he has not won since the 1989 U.S. Open. Wadkins said
that he chose Strange for his toughness, and when Strange
collapsed on Sunday, it was devastating.
Strange thought he would not touch a club for weeks, but when he
began to hear that many regarded him as a broken player who no
longer had the spirit to compete, he not only felt the urge to
play, but he also wanted to play with a vengeance.
"I just decided that when all is said and done, I am a player
and that I love the game," he said. "What happened to me is part
of the game. Sometimes it's wonderful, and sometimes it's cruel.
As a golfer, I have to accept all of it."
The Ryder Cup helped Strange, who has battled various degrees of
burnout since he failed to win a third straight U.S. Open in
1990, to crystallize his identity. He decided that he not only
is a golfer but also a champion, and that what didn't kill him
would make him stronger. In early November, for the first time
in years Strange visited swing coach Jimmy Ballard, the man who
turned around his game in the early '80s but with whom he had
fallen out. "I don't know why it took so long--both stubborn,"
Strange said. "The thing is, within half an hour it came back,
the old feeling. I truly expect to play well next year."
When all is said and done, nobody came up bigger than Curtis
Strange in 1995. And no one has more reason or opportunity to
step up in 1996.
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN On and off the course, Norman became a man apart. [Greg Norman]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Duval hit it big thanks to a fast start in his rookie season on Tour. [David Duval]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK McGann made double sure that 1995 was a breakthrough year. [Michelle McGann]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Former British champ Baker-Finch never made it to the weekend. [Ian Baker-Finch]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Palmer gave himself a special present on his 66th birthday. [Arnold Palmer]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB BREDIENBACH While the Harmons (from left: Butch, Dick, Craig and Bill) had a good year, it looked like the last gasp for the Dalys. [Butch Harmon, Dick Harmon, Craig Harmon, and Bill Harmon]
COLOR PHOTO: LYNNE SLADKY/AP [See caption above--John Daly and Paulette Daly holding their hands over their mouths] TWO COLOR PHOTOS: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN While Trevino (top) had to cut back, Weiskopf finally got even. [Lee Trevino; Tom Weiskopf]
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Sorenstam could be the player to light a fire under Davies. [Annika Sorenstam]
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER FAMOUS LAST WORDS "I believe in fate." Ben Crenshaw after winning the Masters. [Ben Crenshaw]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN "Welcome to the club." Greg Norman to Corey Pavin after the U.S. Open. [Greg Norman embracing Corey Pavin]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN "Before he's through, my son will win 14 major championships." Earl Woods after Tiger won his second consecutive U.S. Amateur. [Earl Woods and Tiger Woods]
COLOR PHOTO: BEN VAN HOOK "I'm just happy that I won't have to deal with it anymore." Betsy King after qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame. [Betsy King]
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN "That would have been a pity." Seve Ballesteros to a fan at the Ryder Cup who claimed that Seve's errant tee shot could have killed him. [Seve Ballesteros]
David Duval, 24: He was second at Pebble Beach and the Hope,
third at New Orleans and 11th on the money list with a rookie
record of $881,436. Plus, he has that goatee going for him.
Michael Campbell, 26: Best young talent on the European tour,
the Maori from New Zealand led the British Open after three
rounds, and finished fifth on the Order of Merit.
Michelle McGann, 25: It seems as if she has been around forever,
but that's because she turned pro at 18. McGann was one of 10
first-time winners on the LPGA this season, and she backed it up
with a second victory.
Justin Leonard, 23: Two runner-up finishes and 23rd place on the
money list made for an impressive rookie year for the former
U.S. Amateur champ. He needs to pick up some distance (125th on
Tour), but didn't they say that about another Texan, Tom Kite?
Wendy Ward, 22: In March, Ward tied for third in the Standard
Register Ping, almost becoming the first amateur to win an LPGA
event since JoAnne Carner in 1969. The 1994 U.S. Amateur
champion then helped Arizona State to a third straight NCAA
title in June, and in October she was third at the LPGA Q school.
Jim Furyk, 25: In his second year he won in Las Vegas and three
weeks later did it again at Kapalua. His funky swing gets funny
looks but only diverts attention from the fact that he is the
Tour's best putter.
Nanci Bowen, 28: She broke through at the Dinah, then made five
straight birdies in the final round of the Nichirei
International to power the U.S. to a come-from-behind victory.
Allen Doyle, 47: A lifelong amateur, he turned pro and finished
second on the Nike tour money list, which enables him to become
the oldest rookie in PGA Tour history in 1996.
Stewart Cink, 22: The Georgia Tech grad won the Jack Nicklaus
trophy for best collegian, then proved he's ready for prime time
by making five cuts in six starts on the PGA Tour.
Cristie Kerr, 18: The most coveted recruit in the nation, this
high school senior was the Junior Player of the Year based on 11
victories across the country, including wins in the Harder-Hall
and Trans-Miss against older players.
East Tennessee State men's team: The Buccaneers, 25th at the
NCAAs in June, have won four of five events and are seventh in
the nation. Senior Garrett Willis has two individual victories.
Kelli Kuehne, 18: The University of Texas freshman and U.S.
Women's Amateur champ won her first college event and is ranked
third among women collegians.
Jerry Kelly, 29: After two mediocre seasons on the Nike tour,
Kelly had two victories, 15 top-10 finishes and easily won his
PGA Tour card with $188,878, a Nike record.
Fred Couples's back injury gave him a terrific excuse to take it
easy, which he did. It marked the first year since 1989 that
Couples failed to win in the U.S.
After a second in the season-opening Mercedes Championships and
a fourth in Phoenix, Bruce Lietzke disappeared. Maybe the Little
League season went extra innings.
Brandie Burton went from superstar-in-the-making at age 21 to
just another player trying to come back from an injury at 23.
Tom Kite turns 46 later this month, but is age the reason he
fell from 22nd to 104th on the money list? Fuzzy Zoeller did
even worse, plummeting from fifth all the way to 110th.
It was hard for Mr. Positive, Chip Beck, to keep smiling after
he went from back-to-back Ryder Cup teams to out of the top 100.
All that weighty Tour business was too heavy a load for policy
board member Rick Fehr, who, after qualifying for the Tour
Championship in 1994, had only two top-10 finishes this season.
Wayne Grady, who won the 1990 PGA, was 210th on the 1995 money
list, well ahead of 1991 British Open winner Ian Baker-Finch,
who failed to make a single cut.
ROUNDS OF THE YEAR
Cristie Kerr's 64 in the third round of the Betsy Rawls Girls
National at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., set an AJGA
record and was just one off Laura Davies's course record.
Hal Sutton's closing 61 in the B.C. Open not only tied for low
round on Tour (Ernie Els had the other in the GTE Byron Nelson
Classic), but it also helped snap a nine-year winless streak.
Kenny Perry's 62 in the second round of the Nissan Open got lost
in the hoopla surrounding Corey Pavin's repeat victory, but it
stands as the Riviera course record.
Justin Leonard's 68 in the final round of the Texas Open didn't
seem like a big deal until you took into account that the rookie
needed it to qualify for the following week's Tour Championship.
Everyone has been waiting for Davis Love III to do something in
the majors, and his 66 in the final round of the Masters could
have been the biggest breakthrough of the year.
Not only did Neal Lancaster's 65 in the final round of the U.S.
Open--it was the low round of the week--come out of nowhere, but
it also qualified Lancaster for the 1996 Masters and U.S. Open.
Arnold Palmer gave himself quite a 66th birthday present at the
GTE Northwest Classic by shooting his age for the first time.
What a dream season for the Harmon brothers, Butch, Craig, Billy
and Dick, all highly successful club professionals. Butch's
stable of students includes Greg Norman and Tiger Woods. Craig's
club, Oak Hill, hosted the Ryder Cup, while Billy's, Newport,
was the site of the U.S. Amateur. Dick had the quietest season
at River Oaks in Houston.
At St. Andrews, Arnold Palmer waved goodbye to the British Open
from the bridge on Swilcan Burn.
Corey Pavin toasted his U.S. Open victory on the clubhouse roof
Curtis Strange saw his wife crying, then broke down in tears
during the closing ceremony at the Ryder Cup.
Ben Crenshaw slumped, hands on knees, in front of caddie Carl
Jackson after sinking his final putt at the Masters.
John Daly couldn't believe his eyes when Costantino Rocca holed
out from 65 feet to force a playoff in the British Open.
The heavily favored U.S. Ryder Cup team held a 9-7 lead on
Saturday night, then went 4-7-1 in Sunday's singles to lose the
Cup by a point.
Scott Hoch had a seven-shot lead with 13 holes to play in the
Shell Houston Open but was trailing by the time he reached the
18th tee. After losing to Payne Stewart in a playoff, a
despondent Hoch said, "You can print it now: That's why Hoch
rhymes with choke."
Mark McCumber could still salvage a winless season by taking the
$1 million first prize in the Andersen Consulting World
Championship finals, but that won't repair the damage done to
his reputation after Greg Norman accused him of cheating in the
NEC World Series of Golf.
Lee Trevino took awhile to get over neck surgery but finished
with two wins and $943,993. Unable to take a full swing, he
started the year by bunting three-irons under the wind at the
Tournament of Champions.
Loren Roberts injured his back at the U.S. Open and missed a
bunch of the summer, but he opened some eyes during the Ryder
Cup, then finished second at the Buick Challenge and third in
the Texas Open to qualify for the Tour Championship.
Tom Lehman had to take four weeks off after having cancerous
polyps removed from his colon, then came back to win the
Colonial National Invitation.
Peter Jacobsen, Bob Tway, Payne Stewart, Mark Calcavecchia and
Hal Sutton all jump-started their careers by ending long
victory droughts, but no one waited longer than the LPGA's Dale
Eggeling, who went from the 1980 Boston Five Classic to the 1995
Oldsmobile Classic without winning.
Nick Price went 0 for 1995 on Tour after six victories,
including the British Open and the PGA, the year before.
Nick Faldo won at Doral but had his worst year in the majors
Not only did Laura Davies fail to win a major, but she also
failed to win any kind of tournament in the U.S. after April.
Greg Norman won three times, had the lowest stroke average on
Tour and claimed the money title, yet wasn't even low Aussie in
After years of physical problems, sweet-swinging Steve Elkington
had the best record in the majors by winning the PGA and
finishing fifth in the Masters, sixth in the British Open and
36th in the U.S. Open. Elkington climbed to ninth from 43rd in
the Sony Ranking.
It might not make up for the 1972 Masters, but Tom Weiskopf
always gets a kick out of taking the measure of Jack Nicklaus,
which he did at the U.S. Senior Open by stringing together four
rounds in the 60s.
Two-time winner Billy Mayfair went from 113th on the money list
in 1994 to second this year, improving on his take by $1.3
Jim Colbert's numbers said it all: Four victories, $1.4 million,
and, finally, No. 1 on the Senior tour.
Greg Norman was the first player to pass $9 million in career
earnings, while Lee Trevino became the first senior to go over
$6 million, and Betsy King the first woman to earn more than $5
Lee Janzen birdied the 18th at the TPC at Avenel five times
during the Kemper Open and beat Corey Pavin in a playoff.
How can the U.S. dominate the World Cup but lose the Ryder,
Dunhill and Walker cups?
What would pro golf look like if the Federal Trade Commission
had gone after the PGA Tour?
Will the Golf Channel go out of business before our cable
operator makes it available?
Can new LPGA commissioner Jim Ritts carry Charlie Mechem's shoes?
Whatever happened to the World Tour?
OH, MULLIGAN MAN
Ian Baker-Finch's visor slipped over his eyes, and he hit his
drive at the 1st hole of the British Open so far left that it
carried across the adjacent 18th fairway at St. Andrews and out
Betsy King topped her opening drive in the final round of the
ShopRite LPGA Classic about 40 yards. Still, King parred the
hole, won the tournament and entered the LPGA Hall of Fame.
With a chance to catch Ben Crenshaw, Greg Norman pulled his
sand wedge approach to the 71st hole at the Masters,
three-putted for bogey, finished third, then blamed his bad luck
on a hanging lie in the fairway.
Curtis Strange hit his six-iron approach to the 16th on Sunday
during the Ryder Cup way right and bogeyed. If he had hit the
green and two-putted, he would have had Nick Faldo dormie and
the U.S. would have retained the Cup.