ZERO HOUR AT THE OPEN
Look out, Oakland Hills. John Daly is coming armed and possibly
dangerous. In the past Daly has complained that the Open takes
his best weapon, the driver, out of his hands. While that no
doubt will happen again this year, Daly thinks he has found a
club--the Wilson Staff Midsize-RM Zero iron--that will allow him
to combine the accuracy needed to hit narrow fairways with most
of the distance that gives him such a big advantage. He used the
club for the first time last week in the Kemper Open and
finished tied for 10th, his best performance in the U.S. since
winning the BellSouth Classic in April 1994.
Daly used the driving iron on the longer par-4s at the TPC at
Avenel in Potomac, Md., laying up short of fairway bunkers and
staying out of the rough that frequently swallows his 300-yard
drives. He can get nearly 300 yards out of the Zero, which is
plenty of distance considering that he can hit a seven-iron 190
yards. "I love the Zero off the tee," Daly says. "It helps on
some of the tight par-5s that we play, especially at TPC
courses. We've got a lot of real thread-the-needle par-5s. And
at holes like the 13th at Augusta, I can just pull that out and
whip it around the corner. I can't wait to break it out at
Wilson's Zero, which has 12 degrees of loft (a normal one-iron
has 17 or 18 degrees), is not the first on the market. Tommy
Armour Golf made one about four years ago for Davis Love III.
For long hitters such as those two, a club like the Zero fills a
gap. Daly, for example, has never had adequate distance control
with a three-wood, and his one-iron wasn't long enough to serve
as a bridge between his driver and his two-iron, which he used
frequently. "It's something I've needed," Daly says. "I think
I've found an iron where I will never have to hit another
Daly experimented with a makeshift Zero (he delofted his
one-iron) at the Shell Houston Open, then called Mike Boylan,
Wilson's vice president of Tour promotion, to see if the company
could make one. Within two weeks club designer Bob Mandralla had
the Zero in Daly's bag. When Daly raved about the club before
the Kemper, the Wilson switchboard started lighting up. By last
Friday, Wilson claimed that more than 1,000 orders had been
placed for the Zero.
"It was John's idea," Boylan says. "He said, 'Put my name on it
and we'll sell thousands of them.' I usually tell him not to
give up his day job, but this time I guess he was right."
By trying to find out which way was north, Annika Sorenstam
almost took the JCPenney/LPGA Skins Game south.
Playing in her first Skins Game, along with Dottie Pepper, Laura
Davies and Beth Daniel, Sorenstam got into trouble on the very
first hole last Saturday at Stonebriar Country Club in Frisco,
Texas, by asking David Esch, her fiance-caddie, to use a compass
to help her determine which way the wind was blowing. That's a
breach of Rule 14-3 (using an artificial device), and one of the
other caddies reported the infraction after Sorenstam and
Pepper birdied to halve the hole.
Under normal circumstances such a transgression would result in
a disqualification, but the Skins Game is not normal. In fact
some say it is not even golf, a position that was strengthened
after LPGA assistant director of tournament operations Barbara
Trammell went digging into the Rules of Golf and found an out to
keep Sorenstam in. Under a loose interpretation of Rule 34-3,
Trammell determined that the rules committee is allowed to
modify the penalty in exceptional circumstances. Losing one
quarter of the field, not to mention a box-office attraction
like Sorenstam, apparently met that criterion.
"I know you can't use lasers or anything like that," Sorenstam
said, "but a compass? North will always be north. It will never
Sorenstam was given a two-stroke penalty, which meant that
Pepper won the hole and $20,000. In the end that money came out
of Davies's pocket since the 2nd hole was halved and Davies won
the 3rd but collected only $40,000 instead of $60,000. Not that
she needed the extra loot. On Sunday, Davies sank a 12-foot
birdie putt on the 14th hole worth $300,000--the largest amount
ever won on a single hole in a men's or women's Skins Game--and
finished with $340,000. "That was the most nervous I've ever
been over a putt," she said. Pepper and Sorenstam both won two
skins and $100,000, while Daniel was shut out.
The U.S. Open is our national championship and one of the four
majors, yet it seems as if more players than ever are taking a
pass. Paul Stankowski and Craig Stadler, who have won Tour
events this season, told SI they might skip sectional qualifying
at the Lakes in Columbus, Ohio, the day after the Memorial,
while Seve Ballesteros, a winner of five majors and one of the
game's biggest names, didn't even bother entering, thus ending a
string of 18 Opens dating back to 1978.
That Ballesteros and Stadler thumbed their noses at the U.S.
Golf Association is not surprising. Neither has a great Open
record, and sectional qualifying--in which 755 golfers will
compete for 83 spots--is a crapshoot. But Stankowski is another
story. Fresh out of Q school, Stankowski missed five straight
cuts before winning the Nike Louisiana Open one week and the
Tour's BellSouth Classic the next. You would think he would do
anything to make the field at Oakland Hills, but instead he
sounds like someone who has been talking to Bruce Lietzke.
Stankowski says that rather than trying to qualify, he would
prefer to spend time at home in Dallas with his wife, Regina.
"I've played so much golf, I'm kind of tired," says Stankowski.
"Thirty-six holes in Ohio in June when it's hot, I can find
better things to do with my time than that. I can go fishing."
THE SHORT GAME
Bernhard Langer's record of 68 straight tournaments without
missing a cut came to an end last Saturday where it started, at
Wentworth in the British PGA Championship. Langer's streak began
in that tournament five years ago....White House press secretary
Mike McCurry told The New York Times that whenever Bill
Clinton's huge lead over Bob Dole in the polls is mentioned, the
President responds with two words of caution: "Greg
Norman."...Sam Torrance took little consolation out of beating
Colin Montgomerie last week in Thame, England, to advance into
the finals of the Andersen Consulting World Match Play
Championship. The win was worth $200,000 and gives Torrance a
shot at $800,000 more if he wins the whole thing, but that
didn't make up for the $135,000 by which Torrance trailed leader
Montgomerie on last year's final European tour money list. "I'd
swap this result for last year's Order of Merit," says
Torrance....Tiger Woods is tired of ABC announcer Brent
Musburger speculating that Woods will turn professional after
the U.S. Amateur. "He [Musburger] knows more about my life than
I do," Woods says. "Considering the source, it's not hard to
understand. He's never asked me anything."
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MAURICE HARMON The Zero Daly uses has 12 degrees of loft, five or six fewer than a one-iron. [John Daly golfing; head of Wilson Staff Midsize-RM Zero golf club]