This is the time of year when the PGA Tour's new No Sissies
policy will be put to the test. Did you catch the finish of the
recent Greater Greensboro Casual Water Open? Brad Faxon, Frank
Nobilo and the rest slogged to a conclusion through heavy rain,
in conditions so miserable that no sane person would
continue--except us real golfers, and maybe a flock of mallard.
I might as well admit it: I was rooting for the rain. I love
bad-weather golf, an attitude born on the public courses of
Wisconsin in my youth. When it rained or turned nasty back then,
the twice-a-year hacks and slow-playing stiffs who clogged most
courses stayed home. I had my favorite haunts to myself.
Perfect. Sure, I braked for lightning and funnel clouds--most of
the time--but otherwise kept playing.
I also like watching the pros deal with adverse conditions,
whether it's rain or wind or cold or, best of all, all three.
Give these guys four nice days and they're going to go 18 under
anywhere. I find it more interesting to watch Tom Watson,
wearing a ski hat and umpteen layers, scrape together an icy 69
to take the first-round lead at the 1979 Memorial or watch Lanny
Wadkins shoot 65 in a near hurricane to blow by everyone in the
final round of the 1991 Hawaiian Open. That's when you see great
shotmaking, not just great shots.
The Tour is taking a tougher stand on the weather these days.
After the wrongheaded decision last year to wipe out the AT&T
Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, commissioner Tim Finchem decreed
that the Tour will play 72 holes whenever possible, so when the
final round of last year's Tour Championship was rained out,
Finchem brought the players back on Monday to finish instead of
calling it a wrap after 54 holes, which had gotten to be SOP.
In the upcoming weeks we will likely see evidence of this new
resolve, because no matter where golf goes this time of year,
monsoon season will follow, and not just on the men's Tour.
While things went swimmingly in Greensboro, the LPGA drowned in
Stockbridge, Ga., where the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship was
called after only 36 holes. In fact, the women barely finished
the rain-delayed second round on Sunday before storms washed out
the finish. Last week's Sprint Titleholders in Daytona Beach,
Fla., was also rain delayed.
If you're like me and enjoy that kind of weather, you're in
luck. It's May in Texas, where there's a thunderstorm almost
every afternoon, so here comes the Tour, with the Houston Open,
the Byron Nelson Classic and the Colonial. Houston and the
Nelson are all-world when it comes to bad weather. Houston was
completely washed out in the spring of '91 and played in
October. Half Nelsons are not unusual in Dallas--the tournament
has been rain-shortened in three of the last seven years. Three
years ago the six second-round leaders played off for the title.
In '92, when Billy Ray Brown beat three other players in sudden
death, the playoff was held on a par-3 hole, one of the few
playable spots on the course. In 1989, another wet year, the
Nelson was won, appropriately, by Jodie Mudd.
When the Memorial, at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, was
played in mid-May, the tournament always seemed to have terrible
weather. Finally the event was moved to the first weekend in
June and now usually has...terrible weather. In '93 Barbara
Nicklaus, the wife of tournament host Jack, placed a shot glass
of gin on the grave of Leatherlips, an Indian chief, hoping to
catch a break from the weather gods. The skies cleared long
enough for the tournament to finish.
Last year's Scottish Open might have been the coolest tournament
of them all. Carnoustie can be Cruella DeVil on a calm day, but
with winds so strong that the pins were gyrating like Jim
Carrey, the course was downright sadistic. Even Tiger Woods
didn't break 80 on the first day. Woods was seen carrying his
gift from the tournament sponsor, a bottle of Scotch, after he
signed his scorecard. "This might be empty by tomorrow," Tiger
said. Another American, Jim Furyk, didn't break 80 that day
either. "The Scots must be pretty tough people if they think
this is fun," he said.
Aye, laddie. 'Tis a tough country and a tougher sport. Golf is
no game for sissies.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Golfer and caddie standing under umbrella on golf course]