FLYING HIGH IN FIRST CLASS
Chris Smith, who played the PGA Tour in 1996 but won only
$41,112 and lost his card, didn't expect to be back so soon or
to do so well. Nevertheless, since receiving the first so-called
battlefield promotion, which goes to any player who wins three
Nike events in a year, Smith has teed it up in two Tour events,
the Greater Vancouver Open and last week's Greater Milwaukee
Open--and has won more than $30,000.
"This is like the silly season for me, where the big names make
all that big money in the postseason," says Smith, 28. "I tied
for 31st with eight guys in Vancouver [earning $8,325] and made
what I would've gotten if I had finished fifth on the Nike tour.
I got a courtesy car this week [in Milwaukee, where he came in
12th and earned $23,238] so yeah, life is good."
Smith, as the first Nike upgrade, has been something of a guinea
pig. What, he asked, would happen if he got passed on the Nike
money list after he left? Good question. Eventually he was told
that the Tour's policy board would refine the rule so that a
player's position at the time of promotion would be guaranteed,
meaning that Smith will stay No. 1. This is important because it
will keep him ahead of the Q school qualifiers on the Tour's
priority rankings for getting into tournaments next year. Smith
will return for the season-ending Nike Tour Championship but
otherwise will play in as many regular Tour events as possible.
Smith's father, Terry, organized a trip to Milwaukee last Friday
for a busload of hometown fans from Peru, Ind. (pop. 20,000).
Peru is a 4 1/2-hour drive away, and because Smith had a morning
tee time, the bus left at 2:30 a.m. After shooting 69, Smith
drove to Chicago, where the group had dinner at a Greek
restaurant. "We had two pigs on our table, a lot of red wine and
40 of us going nuts," Smith says. "I got up and gave a toast,
saying, 'I don't know why you guys came--there's no way I'd get
up at 1 a.m. to watch someone play golf--but thanks.'"
Playing on the Nike tour has also had its moments for Smith. In
1995 at the Dakota Dunes Open, he met Ted Waitt, chairman of
computer maker Gateway 2000, and the two became friends. The day
after this year's Dakota Dunes tournament, Waitt invited Smith
to join him in a pro-am and surprised him by filling out the
foursome with George Brett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
"He's better than you'd think he'd be," Smith says of Gates. "He
hits it real straight and consistent, and has fun."
Though probably not as much fun as Smith himself is having now.
"It's going to be nice to be able to plan my schedule next year
and feel like I belong," Smith says. "I'm having a blast."
FLOYD'S SON FOLLOWS TIGER'S TRAIL TO PROS
College player with famous name leaves school early, turns pro
after the U.S. Amateur, debuts in Milwaukee and tries to play
his way onto PGA Tour in order to avoid Q school. Sound
familiar? Last week it was Robert Floyd, son of Raymond, trying
the Tiger Woods route to the top.
"Tiger's was a unique situation," says Floyd, 21, who would have
been a senior this fall at Florida. "I grew up with Tiger and
played with him. Everyone knew that he was fundamentally better
than anyone in the world, and that he hit the ball farther than
Woods began his pro career in sensational fashion, winning twice
in his first seven starts and playing his way into the Tour
Championship. Floyd birdied his first hole at the Greater
Milwaukee Open but shot 72-75 and missed the cut. "That [first
putt] was about the only one I made all day," said Floyd, who
got into the tournament on a sponsor's exemption.
Floyd already has received exemptions to play in next week's CVS
Charity Classic in Sutton, Mass., in the Sept. 18-21 Texas Open
in San Antonio and in the Sept. 25-28 B.C. Open in Endicott,
N.Y. He is also waiting to hear from a few other tournaments. He
is allowed seven exemptions and knows it won't be easy to amass
the $160,000 or so that he'll need to crack the top 125 on the
money list. It's tough for a collegian to pull off the feat.
Besides Woods, Justin Leonard made it, in 1994, but he turned
pro after the NCAA Championships in June and had all summer to
win enough money. That wasn't an option for Floyd. "I thought
about it, but the way I got knocked out of the Amateur last
year, I needed to go back," says Floyd, who lost a heartbreaking
semifinal match to Steve Scott in '96. "I wanted to play another
Two weeks ago Floyd lost in the third round of the '97
Amateur--3 and 1 to Ryuji Imada, a freshman at Georgia--and then
decided to turn pro. "You can only get better once you're out
here," Floyd says. "You don't have tests and essays and classes
to worry about. You just get up and go to the course every day."
If nothing else, Floyd figures he has at least one advantage
over the other young players trying to make it to the Tour: He
won't be in awe of the big names. "I played with Nick Faldo in
the last round at Doral this year--a big crowd with one of the
world's greatest golfers--and I play with my dad every day,"
Floyd says, "so I think I'm prepared to be out here."
JORDAN'S BULLISH ON HIS GOLF BUSINESS
Michael Jordan last week signed a one-year, $33 million contract
to play for the Chicago Bulls next season, but basketball is not
the only sport in which he's making money. His Airness--an avid
golfer--is also raking it in with a burgeoning off-course golf
business. In 1993 Jordan and a group of investors formed the
Michael Jordan Golf Company and built a practice facility as
well as a retail shop in the Chicago area. Four years later
they've added two more retail outlets near Chicago and have a
second practice range under construction in Charlotte, with six
more on the drawing board.
The flagship of the operation, the 30-acre driving range in
Aurora, Ill. (45 minutes from Jordan's estate in Highland Park),
has heated and covered tees, an 11,000-square-foot putting green
and an 18-hole miniature course made of natural grass. Jordan, a
frequent visitor there, beats balls in hourlong sessions and
conducts clinics for city kids as part of his Michael Jordan
Golf Youth Program. "Mike is a driving force in bringing people
out and making golf cool," says company vice president Steve
Skinner. "What people have been talking about since Tiger Woods
emerged are the same things we've been talking about for a few
years--getting different kinds of people involved."
SENIOR BLAMES HIS AGENT FOR NO-SHOW AT THE PGA
IMG normally goes to great lengths to please its clients, but
the giant management company came up short in the eyes of Peter
Senior by failing to notify him that he was entered in last
month's PGA Championship at Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Word that Senior had a spot in the field was E-mailed from IMG
headquarters in Cleveland to a branch office in Australia, where
the message was lost. Senior, an Australian, subsequently flew
to Japan to play in the Acom International and did not learn
that he was eligible for the PGA until two days before the
tournament began, when Wayne Grady's wife, Lyn, phoned Senior's
wife, June, to ask why Peter was not at Winged Foot.
Senior thought about boarding the next plane to New York but
decided it was too late. Instead he played in the Acom event,
and earned $3,050 for finishing 56th. "I would've arrived [at
Winged Foot] on Wednesday night," Senior says. "I wouldn't have
had time for a practice round and didn't think it was a good
David Yates, a vice president of IMG's golf division, said the
mistake was caused by a lack of communication. "It fell through
the cracks," Yates said. "Measures have been taken to ensure it
doesn't happen again."
That's little consolation to Senior. "I find it hard to believe
that I wasn't informed," he says. "It's embarrassing. I was
annoyed because you don't want to miss a major championship."
THE SHAG BAG
Hugh Baiocchi, in his second playoff in two weeks and third of
the season, parred the sixth extra hole to edge Bob Duval and
win the Pittsburgh Senior Classic. Duval, father of Tour player
David Duval, made the field as an alternate because Orville
Moody withdrew after he slipped and broke his left wrist during
an exhibition tournament earlier in the week....Kathryn Marshall
tied the LPGA record for best 18-hole score (62) and most
birdies (11) during the second round of the State Farm Rail
Classic in Springfield, Ill. Marshall eventually tied for
eighth, three shots behind winner Cindy Figg-Currier....Se Ri
Pak, a 19-year-old phenom from Seoul, won a sectional stage of
the LPGA Q school in Venice, Fla., finishing three shots ahead
of runner-up Marnie McGuire and nine ahead of Kelli Kuehne. Pak
was 21st at this year's U.S. Women's Open.
JOE PICCIOLO Although he has moved up to the big Tour, Smith will remain the No. 1 Nike player. [Chris Smith playing golf]
On paper, this year's Ryder Cup at Valderrama in Sotogrande,
Spain, is a mismatch. The U.S. team features 10 of the top 20
players in the World Ranking, including No. 1 Tiger Woods. The
European team--the 10 qualifiers and the two likely captain's
picks--has only three top 20 players. The Europeans have always
been the underdogs, yet they have won the Cup in three of the
last five meetings. Here are this year's team averages and
individual rankings, in order of qualification, and the team
averages since 1987.
U.S. 14.2 Europe 40.6
Tiger Woods 1 Colin Montgomerie 5
Justin Leonard 11 Darren Clarke 30
Tom Lehman 6 Bernhard Langer 19
Davis Love III 10 Ian Woosnam 22
Jim Furyk 20 Per-Ulrik Johansson 40
Phil Mickelson 7 Lee Westwood 31
Jeff Maggert 26 Ignacio Garrido 78
Mark O'Meara 9 Thomas Bjorn 64
Scott Hoch 12 Costantino Rocca 52
Brad Faxon 16 Miguel Martin 75
Fred Couples 13 Jose Maria Olazabal 56
Lee Janzen 39 Nick Faldo 15
U.S 23.5 Europe 38.3*
U.S. 21.7* Europe 28.6
U.S. 17.8* Europe 35.9
U.S. 13.9 Europe 33.4*
U.S. 17.3 Europe 39.8*
* Won the Ryder Cup
What do these players have in common?
They won Tour events by eagling the 72nd hole: Aoki (Hawaii
1983); Gamez (Bay Hill '90); Hoch (Milwaukee '97).
The average score reportedly shot by President Clinton in the
first six rounds he played during his vacation on Martha's