SHOULD SEVE DUMP FALDO?
Nick Faldo is considered a lock to be one of European captain
Seve Ballesteros's two wild-card picks for September's Ryder
Cup, but Faldo's play is raising doubts about the wisdom of such
Faldo, 40, missed the cut at last week's PGA Championship,
marking the first time in his 21-year pro career that he has
failed to play on the weekend in two majors. (He also missed the
cut at the Masters.) In the other two majors he was 48th at the
U.S. Open and 51st at the British Open. "I'm struggling a bit
now, but I have no doubts that I can raise my game for the Ryder
Cup," Faldo said last Friday after rounds of 75-78 left him 13
over par. "I would do anything Seve asks. If he wants me to go
down [to Sotogrande, Spain, the site of the match] the week
before and practice, I'll do it."
Ballesteros wasn't at the PGA, but few believe he would dare
omit Faldo, who has won more points (he has a 21-16-4 record in
10 appearances) than any other European in Ryder Cup history. "A
European team without Faldo is a weaker team," says Colin
Montgomerie. "There are very few players who stand one up on the
1st tee [psychologically], but he is one of them." Adds Paul
Azinger, "If Seve doesn't pick Faldo, I'll eat my hat."
Even Jesper Parnevik, the man with the most to lose if Faldo is
chosen for the team, thinks the gritty Brit should be at
Valderrama. With Jose Maria Olazabal, another near certain pick,
currently in 12th place, Parnevik is running third in a two-man
race. "I'm still hopeful that Jose Maria will do enough in the
last two events to make it automatically," Parnevik says, "but
he and Faldo are the players you want on the team."
Ballesteros, who has until Sept. 1 to make his selections, is
keeping a low profile. He received a special invitation to play
in the PGA but turned it down. "Haven't heard from him for
months," Faldo says. Maybe so, but Faldo can rest assured that
Seve is watching.
SMITH MAKES THE MOST OF A RARE OPPORTUNITY
Taylor Smith, the sixth alternate, was happy to get into the
PGA, but not about the circumstances. He replaced Corey Pavin,
who withdrew on Aug. 12 after his father suffered a fatal heart
attack. "My wife and I both broke down in tears when we found
out," Smith said.
Nevertheless, Smith took advantage of the opportunity. He made
the cut with a pair of 71s, then salvaged a third-round 74 with
the help of an eagle at the par-4 15th, where he holed an
eight-iron from 146 yards. He finished at 10 over par and in
Smith, 30, previously had been best known as the guy who tied
Tiger Woods in the Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic last
October only to be disqualified for using a putter that had an
illegal grip. Smith, who said he received thousands of letters
of support and even some $100 checks from sympathetic fans,
donated the putter to Christopher Reeves's spinal-research
charity, which auctioned it off for $5,000. "Something good came
out of it," Smith says.
Last week Smith could say the same of the opportunity to play at
Winged Foot. He had missed six cuts in his seven previous starts
and was 143rd on the money list before the PGA. "I really needed
this," he said. "Just being here felt like I was winning the
WEBB CONQUERS THE WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN
Karrie Webb of Australia took an eight-stroke lead into the
final round of last week's Women's British Open at Sunningdale
Golf Club in Surrey, England, but she was sweating bullets
anyway. One of her mentors, after all, is countryman Greg
Norman, who has been known to blow a huge lead. Webb herself had
coughed up a five-stroke advantage over the last 11 holes of the
Alpine Australian Ladies Masters last March to lose to Gail
Graham. "It was nerve-racking," she said of Sunday's final round.
This time, however, Webb refused to let a little thing like a
big lead get the best of her. When Rosie Jones moved to within
five strokes by the 3rd hole, Webb, who had fired a
course-record 63 the day before, responded with a birdie at the
5th and then added three more on the back nine to coast to an
eight-shot victory. "I think I learned from the experience I had
at the Australian Masters," she said. "I knew I just had to play
my game and not get too wrapped up in how big a lead I had."
Webb, who won the Susan G. Komen International at Murrells
Inlet, S.C., earlier this season, has now earned $789,986,
second behind Annika Sorenstam's $907,562. This was her second
British Open title--she also won in 1995--and it gave her
newfound confidence in her ability to hold a lead, no matter how
big. "It definitely gets rid of that nightmare," she says.
NO CAMERAS ALLOWED
When is a rule not a rule? When it's not enforced, which has
been the case with the Tour's no-camera policy this season,
particularly when Tiger Woods has played. "We need to do
something about it," says Payne Stewart. "It's written and
posted, but nowadays we tend not to pay attention to signs.
"I'd like to see us do what they do at Augusta for the Masters.
When marshals see somebody with a camera, they hand him a claim
check and say, 'You can pick up your camera when you leave.'
You'd hate to have something happen on a crucial shot."
Stewart apparently had no gripes with the camera policy at last
week's PGA, in which officials used the same claim-check system
in place at the Masters. But he says he will bring up the matter
with the Tour's policy board, so that the rules are enforced at
all tournaments--not just at the majors.
PARNEVIK RECALLS A LOST FRIEND
Jesper Parnevik's return to Winged Foot was bittersweet. The
last time he played the course was three years ago with Vitas
Gerulaitis. Not long after that round, the tennis star died from
accidental carbon monoxide poisoning in a house in Southampton,
N.Y. "He actually beat me on the back nine, so that was a very
good day for him," Parnevik said. "Golf was his passion just
before he died. It was very sad to see what happened to him."
During the PGA, Parnevik was paired with another friend, Fred
Couples, in the first and second rounds, and saw Couples sink a
nine-iron shot from 140 yards for an eagle on the par-4 11th
hole on Friday. Couples did the same thing in the British Open,
holing a fairway shot for eagle on the 11th hole while paired
"He said, 'You do it to me every time,'" Couples said. "But I
played with him in China when he made a hole in one, so we were
laughing about it."
CBS IS ALL WET AFTER WINGED FOOT SHOWERS
Last Saturday evening CBS learned that even when the weatherman
gives million-to-one odds, go with the one. At 5:22 p.m., a
severe thunderstorm hit Winged Foot, and officials suspended
play of the PGA. Because it was still pouring at six, CBS
decided to end its coverage and not stay on the air for most
affiliate stations outside the Eastern time zone, which the
network usually does during majors.
The rain stopped a little after six, however, and at 6:40 the
PGA sent the 11 players who hadn't finished back to the course.
That sent CBS officials into a tizzy. At 6:45 Rob Correa, the
CBS vice president of programming, prepared to go back on the
air, but there was a problem. Gary McCord and Peter Kostis had
returned to their hotel, and Ken Venturi was in the shower at
the house where he was staying. After a flurry of phone
calls--and a police escort for Venturi--Kostis, McCord and
Venturi were coiffed, miked and back in their towers at Winged
Foot by the time play resumed at 7:17.
"Our weather service said it was a million-to-one chance that
the weather would clear up, but the PGA officials never said
play wouldn't resume," Correa says. "We were dumb enough to
listen to the weatherman. I won't make that mistake again."
THE SHAG BAG
Gil Morgan's fourth Senior tour victory of the season, a
one-stroke win over Bob Duval, the father of Tour player David
Duval, in the First of America Classic in Ada, Mich., pushed his
season's earnings to $1,126,162.... How difficult was Winged
Foot last week? Paul Azinger, who finished 44th with an
eight-over 288, called it "the hardest course I've ever
played."... Jack Nicklaus came to the PGA with a chance to make
the cut in all four majors for the first time since 1991, but
the 57-year-old shot 74-76 and missed by four strokes.... Cindy
Schreyer, who was in 37th place after three rounds of the
Women's British Open, was disqualified on Sunday for signing an
incorrect scorecard on Thursday. Schreyer had moved some metal
fencing--an immovable obstruction--to play a shot and failed to
take a two-stroke penalty.... Elaine Scott, the LPGA's director
of communications, and Beth McCombs, the tour's manager of
public relations, resigned last week but said that the timing
was a coincidence. Carol Kelleher has been appointed the LPGA's
vice president of marketing.
COLOR PHOTO: ELISE AMENDOLA/AP For the first time, Faldo missed the cut in two majors in the same year. [Nick Faldo on green]
How important are the captain's picks in the Ryder Cup? In the
last two matches the performance of the at-large players has
been critical. In 1995, in fact, many attributed the U.S. loss
at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., to the play of Curtis Strange,
who went 0-3 after being named to the team by Lanny Wadkins.
Here's how the picks have fared since 1989, when captain's
choices were first made part of the U.S. team's selection process.
U.S. 13.5 Europe 14.5
Fred Couples 2-1-1 Nick Faldo 2-3-0
Curtis Strange 0-3-0 Ian Woosnam 1-1-1
TOTALS 2-4-1 3-4-1
U.S. 15 Europe 13
Lanny Wadkins 2-1-1 Joakim Haeggman 1-1-0
Ray Floyd 3-1-0 Seve Ballesteros 2-2-0
J.M. Olazabal 2-3-0
TOTALS 5-2-1 5-6-0
U.S. 14.5 Europe 13.5
Chip Beck 1-2-0 J.M. Olazabal 3-1-1
Ray Floyd 2-2-0 Nick Faldo 1-3-0
Mark James 2-3-0
TOTALS 3-4-0 6-7-1
U.S. 14 Europe 14*
Tom Watson 1-1-1 Bernhard Langer 0-3-0
Lanny Wadkins 2-2-0 Howard Clark 2-2-0
Christy O'Connor Jr. 1-1-0
TOTALS 3-3-1 3-6-0
*Retained the Cup.
What do these players have in common?
They won the U.S. Amateur: Stadler in '73, O'Meara in '79 and
Mickelson in '90.
The consecutive years in which Greg Norman had at least one top
10 finish in a major, a streak that ended when he came in 13th
in the PGA.