RIPPING OFF THE SHARK
Greg Norman threw a fit last week when he learned that PGA Tour
commissioner Tim Finchem was planning a series of international
tournaments involving the game's top players. Norman, whose
World tour was shot down by Finchem almost two years ago,
cornered the commissioner last Friday evening in the lobby of
the Westfields Conference Center in Chantilly, Va., where the
players on both teams were staying during the Presidents Cup,
and let him have it. "I told him I was irritated with him," a
still livid Norman said the next day. "I've had it up to here
with Tim Finchem. It's the end of the rope for me. He hung me
out to dry."
When Norman introduced his World tour proposal in November
1994--eight limited-field events with $3 million purses
underwritten by what Norman said was a $112 million television
contract with Fox--Finchem reacted by threatening to suspend any
player who participated. Because most of the players were afraid
to support the new tour, Norman eventually gave up on the
project, but only after receiving assurances from Finchem that
he would be consulted on any developments. When Finchem last
week revealed the formation of the PGA Tours International
Federation, an umbrella organization that is composed of the
U.S., European, Australasian, Japanese and Southern African
tours and will put on three new events in 1999, Norman saw red.
"I had two meetings with him [in 1995], one at Doral and one in
my office after Doral," Norman said. "He told me, 'Greg, I'll
keep you in the loop.' That's the last communication I had with
him." Norman learned of Finchem's plans only last Friday, which
led to the confrontation that evening. "I asked him, 'How long
have you known about this?'" said Norman. "He said, 'About a
month.' I said, 'F--- you.' Believe me, I'm hot about this one.
I told him, 'You've lost me.'"
According to Norman, Finchem not only co-opted his idea for a
World tour but also cashed in on the Fox network's interest in
golf. The Tour's TV contracts expire after the 1998 season. Fox,
which recently purchased one third of the Golf Channel for $50
million, is said to be interested in buying the rights to
existing and new tournaments. Finchem, Norman suspects, is
creating new golf programming for Fox.
The new International Federation events will be a medal-play
championship, a match-play championship and a team championship.
Finchem said that the Andersen Consulting World Championship
could become the match event, and the team tournament could
replace the struggling World Cup of Golf. To identify the best
players, the federation intends to modify the Sony Ranking, then
use a composite of the new ranking, an international money list
and the money lists from each of the member tours to determine
Finchem denied that the new events constitute a World tour,
although it was hard to draw a distinction when he said, "We're
not talking about a group of top players playing each other.
However, this clearly will create a situation where players who
reach a certain level will play against each other."
As for his dustup with the Shark, Finchem was willing to wear
the hair shirt. "I just didn't make the right call," he said.
"It was bad judgment. Hopefully, Greg and I can work through
At the 1994 Solheim Cup, Dottie Pepper was demonized by the
British press, which came down hard on her for a perceived lack
of sportsmanship during a 13-7 U.S. victory at The Greenbrier in
White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. It was difficult to determine what
irritated European journalists more--Pepper's wrapping herself
in an American flag after whipping Catrin Nilsmark 6 and 5 in
the singles, or Pepper's yelling, "Yes!" when Laura Davies
missed a crucial putt.
On the eve of this week's Solheim rematch at the St. Pierre
Hotel and Country Club in Chepstow, Wales, Pepper was prepared
to meet her critics head-on as she leads a heavily favored U.S.
team against the Europeans. "If you can't get excited,
something's wrong," says Pepper, a four-time winner on the LPGA
tour this season. "If the British press was unbiased and looked
at videotape of its own players, it would see the same reaction.
But it happened to get ahold of a player who played very well
and was easy pickings."
Pepper doesn't intend to change much this week. She will again
be paired with Brandie Burton in the four balls and foursomes.
They were 2-0 at The Greenbrier, which is one reason Pepper
lobbied Judy Rankin to make Burton one of her captain's picks.
"You won't see us cracking a lot of smiles," says Burton. "We're
both pretty intense." That steely attitude will probably be
needed in Wales. The last time the Solheim Cup was played
overseas, at Dalmahoy near Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1992, the
U.S. was ambushed 11 1/2-6 1/2. Pepper, who has a 5-3-1 record
in Solheim Cup matches, hasn't forgotten that she went 0-2-1
"We know what we're heading into this time," Pepper says. "At
Dalmahoy we played poorly, and they played great, and the whole
thing was magnified. We learned from that. We're going to go
quietly and get the job done."
Maybe Ken Green should have stayed out on Tour last week. He
certainly had the magic touch. On Monday, Sept. 9, Green rolled
a perfect game at the Greenacres Bowl near his home in West Palm
Beach, Fla. Then on Friday he broke his own course record by
shooting 61 at the Links course at Bear Lakes Country Club in
West Palm Beach.
"If the PGA Tour and the PBA tour ever hold coinciding
tournaments, maybe I could do both," says Green, who compares
his rolling a 300 game to "a 10-handicapper shooting a 59."
Green, who used a new ball and wore new shoes, hadn't bowled in
nine months. He followed the 300 game with scores of 176 and
166, which are closer to his average. But for 12 balls, he was
perfect. "You try not to think about it too much, but once I got
to seven [strikes], I was very aware of what I was hoping to
do," Green says. "I was thinking, How often will I get a chance
to do something like this? I was real nervous, more nervous than
I've ever been on the golf course. It was something I know I'll
never do again."
THE SHORT GAME
Led by Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros, 50 members of the
European tour met last week before the Trophee Lancome at St.
Nom la Breteche, outside Paris, to discuss the poor playing
conditions on the circuit. "We don't want heads to roll, we want
greens to roll," said Faldo....Fred Couples doesn't look like a
rocker, but he had the album cover of R.E.M.'s recently released
New Adventures in Hi-Fi pasted on the bottom of his bag at the
Presidents Cup....By winning the Bank One Classic in Lexington,
Ky., 57-year-old Mike Hill marked the seventh straight year he
has won a tournament, the longest streak on the Senior tour....
Tommy Tolles has joined Sam Torrance and John Daly as a
skinheaded Tour pro. Tolles had been sporting about as much hair
as Andre Agassi but showed up at last week's Quad City Classic
with a chromed dome. "I went stir-crazy," Tolles says. "It got
so bad, I said, 'I need something for entertainment,' so I
started cutting my hair."...Although Laura Davies won the
English Open at Oxfordshire in Thame, England, she was replaced
at the top of the LPGA money list by rookie Karrie Webb, who won
the Safeco Classic in Kent, Wash., for her third victory of the
COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN An angry Norman says Finchem is angling for the Fox network's millions. [Greg Norman]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN The combative Pepper (right) and Burton were too hot to handle in the last Solheim Cup. [Brandie Burton and Dottie Pepper]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN What's my line? That was Green's question after his big week on the lanes and the links. [Ken Green]