A STRANGE SITUATION
If Curtis Strange had somehow forgotten that he blew the pivotal
singles match against Nick Faldo in last year's Ryder Cup by
making bogeys on the last three holes, he got a rude reminder
during the second round of the Honda Classic.
Strange and Faldo, playing together for the first time since Oak
Hill, had reached the 7th hole at Eagle Trace when a spectator
began shouting, among other things, "Bogey, bogey, bogey ...
Ryder Cup choker!" Faldo confronted the man, later identified as
26-year-old Brian Potash of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and asked
marshals to have him removed from the course. The marshals
complied, confiscating Potash's weekly badge and turning him
over to the police. Potash was not charged with a crime,
although Faldo could not think of a more horrible offense. "It
was nasty," he said. "It was the worst thing I've seen in almost
20 years of playing golf."
Strange was thankful that Faldo came to his defense. "It was
awfully good of Nick to do that," he said. "I didn't feel it was
my place to do anything. We had a chuckle about it two holes
later, but at the time it wasn't very funny. When it happens,
you want to confront the guy, but you don't want to sink to his
Potash, who returned to the tournament the next day but did not
follow Strange, maintained that he was the one who had been
wronged and accused Strange of being thin-skinned. "Strange
choked, and now he has to pay the price," Potash said. "In any
other sport athletes deal with this stuff all the time. If I had
done it during his backswing, then I could see a problem, but he
was walking to the green. With these guys anything they want
done, it happens, and when they don't like someone, they have
him removed. Everything's perfect in their world, but I've got
to pay $50 to play golf."
NOT A GOOD SIGN
When the PGA Tour's new policy on autographs--players are asked
to sit in a tent for about 10 minutes after their rounds while
fans file in after lining up outside--debuted at the Tour
Championship last October, it worked with great efficiency. Two
by two the 30 players in the field were escorted to the tent and
after signing were relieved by the next pairing. Since then the
Tour has left it up to the individual tournaments to implement
the policy. Although several conscientious players continue to
sign in the designated areas, noncompliance is widespread. "I
won't do it," says Paul Azinger. "I will not go into a tent and
get trapped there. Then when you do try to leave, you hear
nothing but complaints."
Curtis Strange stopped using the autograph area after the Nortel
Open. "It's not working," Strange says. "In Tucson I went to the
tent and then ended up still signing after I left. It's a worthy
experiment but needs to be fine-tuned. We need it because it's
safer for the kids. I've seen them get run over by adults who
Brad Faxon, a member of the Tour's policy board, thinks the
policy should be scrapped. "I think it's ridiculous," he says.
"I wasn't at the board meeting when they decided, but I would
have been against it. You look like a fool sitting in a hut and
having people line up."
Also some players have taken advantage of the situation by
telling autograph seekers to wait until after a round and then
not showing at the autograph area. Mark O'Meara, also a member
of the policy board, says that he tells people to wait. "I hate
to do it when it's kids and stuff," he says, "but I don't know
of any other sport where autographs are allowed during the
competition." He adds that he always looks for the designated
area after his round, though sometimes it's not easy to find.
Davis Love III, a proponent of the policy and another member of
the policy board, believes that effective implementation by the
Tour would solve the problem. "Instead of getting a piece of
paper that a player has scrawled his name on without even
looking at you," says Love, "the fans get to make eye contact
and have some kind of personal connection."
Most players agree that there needs to be some sort of policy,
if only for players such as Greg Norman, Fred Couples and John
Daly, who are regularly besieged. Commissioner Tim Finchem has
asked for the current experiment to last a year. It hardly seems
worth it unless the Tour takes firmer control.
MECHEM JOINS PALMER
"After the last five years at the LPGA and all the intensity of
that job," says retired LPGA commissioner Charles Mechem, "I
could take any regular job and feel like I'm loafing." Instead
of taking it easy in a single job, Mechem, 65, has taken on two
part-time assignments. (He also checks in two or three times a
week with new commissioner Jim Ritts.) He will be a consultant
to the PGA Tour on the development of the World Golf Hall of
Fame, and, it was announced last week, he will be a personal
business adviser to Arnold Palmer.
THE SHORT GAME
NBC golf producer Tommy Roy says that naming his recently born
son William Augusta was not an attempt to curry favor with the
Masters.... Bernhard Langer, who holds the current European tour
record for consecutive cuts made (68), has missed two in a row
in the U.S., where he had not missed since the 1993 PGA....
Jesper Parnevik ended two weeks of experimentation with a long
putter after needing 90 putts in the first three rounds of the
Honda.... No golf tournaments, not even the British Open, were
among the dozen sporting events designated as national treasures
by the British government. The lack of such a designation means
that for the first time in broadcast history the British Open
might not be carried on over-the-air television.... Mark
O'Meara, on the two-piece Top-Flite Z Balata ball that he is
paid to endorse: "It caused some excitement among my peers. I
had it out on Tuesday, and Greg Norman said, 'What are you
doing? You're going to ruin your career.' Then I piped one right
down the middle, and he was like, 'Hey, give me a sleeve.'"
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND Players like Daly are dogged by autograph hounds. [John Daly]