A LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
WHEN A sweaty, flush-faced Colin Montgomerie shot 78 in the U.S.
Open playoff at Oakmont in Pittsburgh two summers ago, David
Leadbetter candidly observed to the press that it might be a
good idea if Montgomerie lost some weight. It took 21 months and
six more major championships for Monty to figure out that the
comments were meant as professional advice and not as a personal
Montgomerie spent four months this off-season counting his
calories and increasing his workouts and showed up for last
week's Dubai Desert Classic 30 pounds lighter and four inches
slimmer in the waist. The results were immediate. In his first
tournament since beginning the new regimen, Montgomerie closed
with a 68 to win by one stroke over Miguel Angel Jimenez of
Spain but failed to acknowledge that Leadbetter's suggestion to
join Weight Watchers had anything to do with his performance.
"I know what Leadbetter said, but I've done this for my
self-esteem and not to improve my golf," Montgomerie said.
"After all, I played well when I was overweight. The way I
played the last nine holes of the Volvo Masters and the PGA, as
well as the Ryder Cup versus Ben Crenshaw, proves that maybe I
did sweat more in the heat, but it didn't affect my game."
Although the 32-year-old Montgomerie has won three straight
European tour money titles, he has yet to win in the U.S. or
break through in a major championship. Last fall he aggravated
an old wrist injury and was barely able to finish the season.
Leadbetter thinks those injuries will be avoided now that Monty
is more supple in the waist--a better body turn should reduce the
shock to his hands and arms when he hits the ball. "I'm not
saying you have to be a fitness fanatic, but I think you at
least have to take care of yourself to a point where it allows
you to do what you need to do," Leadbetter says. "Who cares when
you're 25 or 30? But when you start getting older, it makes a
difference for sure."
Could it make a difference at Augusta, where the hills are sure
to look less steep to Montgomerie now that he has shed more than
two stone? If so, they'll need to remeasure him for a green
You would think that the best players in the world would be the
least likely to run afoul of the Rules of Golf. But last week
Nick Faldo, Tom Purtzer, Jeff Sluman and Tom Watson all made
mental errors that cost them strokes, money and possibly even a
chance to win the Bay Hill Invitational.
Purtzer's error was the most damaging, because the two-stroke
penalty he incurred in the second round for hitting Keith
Clearwater's ball--they were using the same make, model and
number--turned out to be exactly the number of shots between him
and winner Paul Goydos.
Sluman's was the most noble. After hitting his tee shot into the
water at the par-3 17th on Friday, Sluman went to the drop area
and holed out from 60 yards for a par. He finished the day only
two strokes off the lead. That night he realized that the drop
area might have been nearer to the hole than the point where his
ball crossed into the hazard, so the next morning he took a
rules official to the spot. They concluded that, yes, Sluman
might have erred. But instead of waiting for the Tour to
complete a standard investigation, Sluman, who has not won since
the 1988 PGA, immediately disqualified himself. "It was the only
thing I could do," he said. "Maybe if this was the last
tournament of the year, and I had to win a certain amount to
keep my card, it would be disastrous, but it's not. What if I
won? It would be like a curse."
Faldo's was the most bedeviled. His hex is Jim McGovern. The
last time the two were paired, in the 1994 British Open, Faldo
mistakenly hit McGovern's Titleist instead of his own
Bridgestone. Last Thursday, McGovern asked Faldo to move his
ball marker on the 4th green. Faldo then forgot to return his
mark before putting out. That was a two-shot penalty. "The guy
must think I'm an airhead," Faldo said.
Watson's attracted the least sympathy. A rules maven who earlier
this season caused an uproar when he was quoted as saying that
cheating occurs regularly on Tour, Watson probably didn't have
many tears shed for him when he needlessly called a two-stroke
penalty on himself. In the first round Watson lost a ball off
the tee on the 4th hole. He did not know that the area into
which he had driven had been defined as casual water. He needed
only to "make a case" with a rules official that his ball had
plugged in the soggy landing area to gain a free drop. Instead,
he declared a lost ball, returned to the tee and made a
double-bogey 7 on the par-5. "I thought it was ground under
repair," Watson said. "My mistake."
WORLD OF HURT
If this were the weekly NFL injury report, it would read: Jose
Maria Olazabal (feet) and Brad Faxon (neck) are listed as
doubtful for The Players Championship and questionable for the
Masters. David Duval (shoulder) has been upgraded to probable
for the Players.
Olazabal had hoped that a tonsillectomy would cure his
rheumatoid arthritis, but instead the problem, which had been
centered in his right foot, has spread to his left foot, too. He
has pulled out of all tournaments until the condition improves.
"We really hope he'll be able to travel to the TPC next week,"
says his manager, Sergio Gomez. "He knows the TPC is a flat
course, but Augusta National has a lot of hills, and he still
isn't able to walk without pain."
Faxon woke up in Orlando on March 11 with numbness in his left
arm. He flew home to Rhode Island and had an MRI, which showed a
bulging disk in his neck. "It's scary," Faxon says. "I'd hate to
miss the Players and the Masters, but I'm not going to come back
at 50 percent."
Duval withdrew after eight holes at Doral with pain in his left
shoulder and pulled out of Bay Hill before the tournament
started to have it examined by a third doctor. Duval was hitting
balls at the TPC at Sawgrass late last week. "They're just
saying it's tendinitis," Duval reports.
THE SHORT GAME
Greg Norman was two under and in contention through 14 holes on
Friday at Bay Hill but finished bogey, double-bogey, par,
triple-bogey to miss his first cut on Tour in 42 starts, going
back to the 1993 U.S. Open....When Vijay Singh spied 66-year-old
Moe Norman watching him hit balls after his Friday round, Singh
pulled the publicity-shy Canadian, a world-renowned ball
striker, out of the gallery and had him put on an impromptu
clinic....Over the years, accident-prone Sam Torrance has broken
a toe moving furniture and bruised his sternum while
sleepwalking. Last week, at the Desert Classic, Torrance
strained ankle ligaments pushing a luggage carrier up a ramp at
the Dubai airport and was forced to withdraw. "I need to be
locked in a rubber room until it is time to get on the tee,"
Torrance said, "and then get beamed there like Captain Kirk on
the starship Enterprise."...Glen Day, who got into Bay Hill as
the sixth alternate, came within inches of making his third
first-round hole in one in four tournaments. Day had
back-to-back Thursday aces at Riviera and Doral. He was shut out
at the Honda but played a three-iron to the 7th green at Bay
Hill and thought it was in the cup. "If it didn't lip out, it
went right over the hole," Day said. "I got hosed."...Arnold
Palmer hosted a breakfast for 16 prospective members of the
Presidents Cup team he will captain in September. The only
inspiring message he had was "to just tell them that one member
of the International team [Norman] told me that they were going
to kick our butts," said Palmer....George Archer is a miracle of
modern medicine. Already the first golfer to play with a fused
disk in his back, he intends to continue playing after hip
replacement surgery in April.
COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN MUNDAY/ALLSPORT A remodeled Montgomerie may pose a more substantial threat in the majors this season. [Colin Montgomerie]