NEWSMAN HAS PREZ'S NUMBER
Bill Clinton's politics might be moderate, but when it comes to
scoring his golf game, he's more liberal than Ralph Nader. That,
at least, is the view of CBS News correspondent Mark Knoller,
who is an expert on the First Scorecard. "He told us he shot a
79 the other day," Knoller said last week from Martha's
Vineyard, where the President was vacationing, "but that was
immediately cast into doubt because we saw him take three tee
shots on the 1st hole."
Having covered every vacation Clinton has taken while in office,
Knoller has put together an extensive log of the President's
golf game. He notes, for instance, that during Clinton's 1995
vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the President spent 55 hours and
36 minutes playing 206 holes, averaging 85.1 per round. Knoller
stresses, however, that his tallies have not been independently
corroborated and that he must rely on accounts provided by the
President. "The press does not have access to most of the holes
he plays," Knoller says, "so a lot of times I have to take him
at his word. The first time he said he broke 80 was in San
Diego, when no one was there to see it."
Clinton spent the past three weeks on Martha's Vineyard, and
Knoller was back on the beat. By the newsman's accounts, the
President played 180 holes in 48 hours and 31 minutes, finishing
with an average score of 82.73. (This does not include Clinton's
18-hole score of 44 when he accompanied Chelsea to a miniature
golf course in Vineyard Haven last Friday.)
Knoller says that his exhaustive record keeping is mostly a
function of the idle time that confronts the press corps when
the President is on holiday. "But I do think it's interesting
that golf is one of the only pursuits that this guy hasn't
conquered," he says. "Rhodes scholar, law school, five-term
governor, a two-term Presidency--he's done all of that. But he's
still aggressively trying to conquer the game of golf, and I
think that both attracts and frustrates him to no end."
BAD GREENS, GOOD GOLF ON THE EUROPEAN TOUR
Despite reclaiming the top spot on the money list with his
10th-place finish in last week's European Masters, in Crans
Montana, Switzerland, Colin Montgomerie was in full pout over
the condition of the greens at Crans-sur-Sierre. "I have had
enough," said Montgomerie on Sunday. "This is not acceptable
golf under any circumstances. I will find somewhere else to play
For once, nobody was rolling their eyes after Montgomerie's
outburst. Although he shot a 62 on Sunday to win the tournament,
Costantino Rocca concurred with Montgomerie, describing the
condition of the greens as "very poor." Nick Faldo offered this
description: "They were soft underneath but crusty on top, a bit
like my omelettes."
Faldo, though, wasn't complaining about his performance. After
finishing out of the top 30 in eight of his previous 12 starts,
he finished sixth at Crans-sur-Sierre. Faldo credited a video
camera he recently gave his caddie, Fanny Sunesson, for her 30th
birthday for his resurgence. "As I watched myself on the camera,
it leapt out at me that I was lifting my head on the backswing,"
His game seemingly rehabilitated, Faldo is sure to ease doubts
about his worthiness as one of Seve Ballesteros's two captain's
picks for the European Ryder Cup team. "My game has definitely
improved," Faldo said. "This is the most solid golf I've played
since winning the Nissan at Riviera."
BLIND GOLFER'S GAME A REAL EYE-OPENER
Bill McMahon's last clear picture of the world is that of a
lush, green fairway. In February 1983 McMahon was playing golf
with three friends near Miami when he became dizzy after a tee
shot. "Suddenly everything was blurry," says McMahon. "I felt
like I'd been leveled by Mike Tyson, but I had no idea what was
happening to me."
A few days later doctors told McMahon, a diabetic, that he had
suffered a retinal hemorrhage in his left eye brought on by his
illness. He had several laser surgeries, but none helped. Six
months later he was legally blind in both eyes. "I was convinced
that I'd never hit another golf ball," says the 39-year-old
McMahon, who lives in Framingham, Mass., and played golf at Holy
Cross in 1978 and '79. "I was depressed and bitter. It was a
major project to get dressed, never mind play 18 holes."
McMahon did not pick up a club until the spring of 1985, when a
close friend, Ed Zamm, brought him to Shorehaven Golf Club, the
same course McMahon had played while growing up in East Norwalk,
Conn. Zamm handed McMahon a five-iron and asked him to give it a
shot. "I was terrified," says McMahon. "Try closing your eyes
and hitting--it's not easy. I whiffed the first few attempts,
but then I made contact. The ball flew only 100 yards, but it
was the sweetest five-iron I've ever hit."
For the last seven years McMahon has played under the tutelage
of Kevin Sullivan, whom he met through a mutual friend. Sullivan
serves as McMahon's eyes on the course. Before each shot
Sullivan aligns McMahon's grip and feet, then goes over the
conditions surrounding the shot and tells him how hard to hit
the ball. McMahon averages 115 for 18 holes--his low score is
103--and plays in about six sanctioned U.S. Blind Golfers
Association tournaments a year. He has also participated in
three Stuart Cups, a Ryder Cup-like international match for the
"What's especially fun is when I go somewhere and get paired
with sighted guys who've never seen a blind man play," says
McMahon, who is preparing for the U.S. Blind Golfers'
Championship on Sept. 20-23 at Disney World in Orlando. "You
can't imagine the yelps I hear from folks who've just watched a
blind guy crank a 230-yard drive down the fairway. I may be
blind, but that doesn't mean I can't be a golfer. The only thing
I can't do is drive a cart."
THORPE TRIES TO PUT DIFFICULTIES BEHIND HIM
In preparation for the Senior tour, Jim Thorpe is trying to
rediscover his game after a dismal stretch of golf and a trying
time in his personal life. In October 1995 his father, Elbert,
passed away. His mother, Vivian, died six weeks later. That
December his daughter, Sheronne, then a freshman at Virginia
State, alleged that she was raped by the quarterback of the
school's football team and another athlete as three other
athletes waited their turn. Although the quarterback was charged
with sexual assault (charges were not brought against the four
others) and suspended from the football program, he was
acquitted and later reinstated to the team.
"The first thing you want to do is grab a gun and blow their
heads off," says the 48-year-old Thorpe. "It was tough. It was
six or seven months of pure hell for my wife. There were nights
when she'd wake up from a bad dream, shouting."
Thorpe put golf on hold for nearly six months to spend more time
with his daughter, who left Virginia State and moved to Florida
with her parents. She recently filed a $13 million civil suit
against the school and the men she accused of raping her. "She's
doing very well," Thorpe says of Sheronne. "I feel like being
around her made me stronger, realizing how strong she is at 20."
Six months ago Thorpe decided to rededicate himself to golf. In
Vancouver last month he came in 19th, his best finish since
1994. His main problem is getting into tournaments. His exempt
status as a past champion will get him into perhaps 10 events,
mostly smaller end-of-the-year tournaments.
He could complain about being overlooked, especially after he
was snubbed this year by the Tucson Chrysler Classic, an event
he won twice. Instead, Thorpe, who finished as high as fourth on
the money list, in 1985, has lost 20 pounds and hit a lot of
balls. "Sponsors are in a tough position," Thorpe says. "There
are 50 guys like myself looking for invites. I decided I'm going
to try to play my way back in. The way I'm playing now, I
believe I can."
THE SHAG BAG
The Senior tour's 15-year stay in Lexington, Ky., came to a
close last week when Vicente Fernandez won the Bank One Senior
Classic at Kearney Hill Links, defeating Isao Aoki by a stroke.
Several months ago the Senior tour delivered an ultimatum to the
tournament's sponsors: Get the purse up to $1 million or get
lost. After considerable deliberation the sponsors and Lexington
civic leaders decided the tour had gotten too expensive. Next
year, Lexington's spot will likely be taken by a larger city.
Dallas and Portland appear to be the front-runners.... Chris
Johnson sank an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win
the LPGA Safeway Championship in Portland by a stroke over Kim
Saiki and Lisa Hackney. During last year's Safeway, Johnson
bogeyed the final two holes to lose by two strokes to Dottie
Pepper. This year she birdied the 17th and 18th holes to erase a
two-stroke deficit. She was also helped out by Hackney, who
bogeyed two of the final four holes.... Amid the outcry over the
removal of Miguel Angel Martin from the European Ryder Cup team
last week, U.S. captain Tom Kite was supportive of his
counterpart, Seve Ballesteros. "The reality is that you're
trying to field the best team to win the Cup," said Kite.
COLOR PHOTO: RUTH FREMSON/AP Clinton played 180 holes on his '97 summer break, which was 26 fewer than in '95. [Bill Clinton on golf course]
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN [Annika Sorenstam playing golf]
Annika Sorenstam (left) recently endured her worst stretch in
three years, missing cuts at the U.S. Women's Open in July and
the du Maurier Classic in August. In four events during those
two months, she averaged 71.08 strokes and $31,925 in prize
money. But that does not necessarily portend a long slump for
the 26-year-old Swede, who has traditionally struggled in July
and August before finishing strong.
STROKE AVERAGE STROKE AVERAGE
YEAR WINS AVERAGE WINNINGS WINS AVERAGE WINNINGS
1995 1 71.27 $57,625 2 70.08 $70,476
1996 0 71.87 $17,618 2 70.22 $48,101
What do these players have in common?
They're the only golfers to have won at least one Senior tour event in each of the last four years.
Second-place finishes in PGA Tour events by Greg Norman, who was
runner-up to Steve Jones on Sunday. Norman has won 18 times in