BIG BUCKS RACE STARTS NOW
Welcome to 1998, the PGA Tour's most important transition year
since the all-exempt Tour began in 1983. Take a good last look
around, traditionalists, because the Tour will be a very
different animal a year from now.
What makes this season significant is the windfall the Tour
reaped last summer in negotiating a $100 million-per-year
television contract, which will nearly double the annual rights
fees when it takes effect next year. That money, plus the four
$4 million World Championship events set to begin in '99, is
building a wave of wealth with tsunami-like potential. The Tour
is kicking in $200,000 toward every tournament purse this year,
will throw in another $200,000 next year and add $300,000 and
$400,000 in the following years. The target? A minimum $3.5
million purse ($630,000 to the winner) at every tournament by
Tour pros have never had such an incentive to remain exempt.
Until now a few good weeks could make a player's year. Starting
next season a few good weeks could make a career. Wayne Levi won
four times in 1990 and earned $1 million. The same kind of
season could be worth $2.5 million in '99.
To make the really big money, however, players will have to
qualify for the World Championship events. Only the top 64
players on the World Ranking will be invited to the new
match-play tournament, to be played Feb. 24-28, 1999, at La
Costa. Another World Championship event, the revised World
Series of Golf, will include only members of the most recent
Ryder and President Cup teams--about 40 players. Getting into
those tournaments will mean big bucks for a chosen few and a big
edge on the Tour's traditional measuring stick, the money list.
The extra money may also cause stars who typically skip large
chunks of the Tour, most notably the West Coast swing, to play
throughout the season. Ernie Els has always skipped most of the
Western tournaments, but in '99 he says he's going to cut back
on chasing appearance fees around the world and head West early
in the year. "I'll need to play a strong schedule at the
beginning of next season," says Els. "There's a hell of a lot of
money to be made out there."
A NEW SEASON ON TOUR, BUT THE SAME OLD TRENDS
The PGA Tour season is only a week old, but already some players
have fallen into familiar patterns of success and failure. For
example, six of Phil Mickelson's 12 career wins have come in
January, and seven of them have been during the West Coast
swing. Eight of Mark O'Meara's 14 victories and 35% of his $8.7
million in career earnings have come in Western events (he tied
for second last week at the Mercedes Championships), while John
Cook (tied for fourth) has won four of his nine Tour titles out
West, two of them at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, where he was
the champion last year and in 1992.
On the other hand, Greg Norman, 27th in the 30-man Mercedes,
probably wishes the Tour would stay east of the Rockies. The
Shark has never won a Tour event in the U.S. in January or
February, and only one of his 18 titles, the '86 Las Vegas
Invitational, occurred in the West.
FORMER TOUR PRO KILLS CLUB MANAGER, THEN HIMSELF
Sadly, murder-suicides happen all too frequently in places like
Detroit or New York, but seldom, if ever, has such a crime been
committed at a golf course, by a golf pro. That's what made last
week's events in Mount Dora, Fla., a retirement community of
7,200 located 22 miles north of Orlando, so shocking.
At 7 a.m. on Jan. 7, 85-year-old Ernie Tardiff entered the pro
shop at the Mount Dora Golf Association course, shot the general
manager of the club, and then, minutes later, killed himself.
"Everybody's in a turmoil," says Roland Lackey, a club official.
Mount Dora police investigator Guy Dailey had no difficulty
finding a motive for the crime. "It's so sad but so simple,"
Dailey said. "When Ernie thought golf was going to be taken away
from him, he went into an absolute rage."
Over the last few years Tardiff, who played sporadically on the
PGA Tour from 1948 to '54 and on the Senior tour from 1980 to
'84, had become increasingly gruff toward the staff and golfers
at Mount Dora and had received several warnings to clean up his
act. The most recent admonition, delivered in a letter dated
Jan. 5, informed Tardiff that if his behavior didn't improve--he
had been reported for driving his cart onto greens and for
cutting in front of other golfers--his playing privileges could
Golf was Tardiff's life. He usually carried old newspaper
clippings featuring his career highlights: taking lessons from
Tom Vardon, whose brother Harry won six British Opens; shooting
better than his age on more than 3,000 occasions; and playing
with Bing Crosby and Johnny Weissmuller. For about the last 30
years, Tardiff played 18 holes at Mount Dora five days a week.
Tardiff also gave lessons at Mount Dora for 20 years, beginning
in the late '60s. When the club hired Doug Passen as general
manager 17 years ago, Tardiff felt threatened and saw Passen as
an adversary. Before last week, Tardiff had reportedly
threatened to kill Passen at least twice.
On Jan. 7 Tardiff confronted Passen, 58, in the pro shop with a
.380-caliber semiautomatic pistol. He fired two shots into
Passen, who, bleeding profusely, fled to the practice green,
where he collapsed. Inside the shop Tardiff was on the phone,
first calling his wife to tell her to come pick up his cart, and
then 911 to alert the police. Shortly after the police arrived,
Tardiff put the gun to his head and killed himself. Passen died
the following night at the Orlando Regional Medical Center.
"Maybe we took him too lightly," says Lackey, "but this is one
of those things you read about or see on TV. You never think it
could happen to you."
ADAMS COMES UP BIG WITH SMALL TIGHT LIES WOODS
Clubmaker Barney Adams used to have one of the smallest booths
at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. The tiny cubicle was so
quiet that Adams had a lot of time to think. "For two or three
minutes every day I thought I was going to be a success," says
Adams. "The rest of the time I was sure I was going to be a
There won't be time to think at this year's Jan. 30-Feb. 2 show
because his 1,500-square-foot booth, with a staff of 37, should
be buzzing with activity. An innovative line of fairway woods,
called Tight Lies, and an infomercial used to promote them have
turned Adams Golf into one of the industry's hottest companies.
"We were always below OTHER in the show listings," Adams says.
"We're out of that category."
The 59-year-old Adams knew that his woods, which have faces
shallower than a golf ball, were the best clubs he'd ever
created. He just needed a way to market them. In the summer of
1996, he and vice president of sales Mark Gonsalves conceived
the infomercial. To cover the $500,000 that it cost to make the
30-minute pitch, Adams used every cent he had and then solicited
investors. It was, says Jack Whitaker, who appears in the
infomercial, "The last shake of the dice for Barney."
The hard sell worked. By the end of 1997, Adams Golf had $35
million in sales, nearly 12 times its previous best year of $3
million. Also, pros on the LPGA, PGA and Senior tours started
using the woods, although they were not paid to do so.
Adams's success has been an inspiration to his friends. "I sent
out a newsletter for Christmas," says his wife, Jackie. "One
friend wrote back, 'It makes you believe in the American way.'"
THE SHAG BAG
Colin Montgomerie may be the best player never to win a major,
but he has made plenty of money trying. With the $1 million
payday for his victory at the Andersen Consulting World
Championship two weeks ago, Monty led the '97 worldwide money
list with $3.37 million....
Pinehurst, site of the 1999 U.S. Open, has banned metal spikes....
Fuzzy Zoeller, who was dropped as a spokesman for Kmart after
his controversial statements about Tiger Woods at last year's
Masters, has signed a one-year endorsement deal with apparel
Nick Faldo, 156th on the Tour in putting last year, ranked last
at La Costa with 31.25 putts per round....
Minneapolis had the highest percentage of residents who played
at least one round of golf last year (29.4%), followed by Grand
Rapids, Mich., (28.4), Milwaukee (26.9) and Salt Lake City
(24.4). The highest-ranked Sun Belt city was No. 14 West Palm
Beach, Fla., with 21%.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY KEITH BENDIS [Drawing of golfers gathered under banner reading "1998 PGA Tour" leading to golf course where people stand with pot of money under banner reading "1999"]
COLOR PHOTO: ORLANDO SENTINEL Police say Tardiff was set off by this letter. [Ernie Tardiff]
B/W PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE MOUNT DORA POLICE [See caption above--paragraph of typed letter]
Last year Hale Irwin, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam shattered
the single-season earnings records on their tours, Irwin winning
$2,343,364; Woods, $2,066,833; and Sorenstam, $1,236,789.
Nevertheless, those totals looked like chump change compared
with what athletes in the four major sports were paid in 1997.
Here are NBA, NFL, NHL and major league baseball players who
made about the same as Irwin, Woods and Sorenstam, and where
their salaries ranked (in parentheses) in their respective
NBA MLB NFL NHL
Hale Irwin Rasheed Hideki Ray Wendel
Wallace, Irabu, Crockett, Clark,
Trail Yankees Broncos Maple
Blazers (142) (168) (86) Leafs (67)
Tiger Woods Michael Shawon Robert Claude
Cage, Dunston, Jones, Lemieux,
Nets (156) Cubs (188) Rams (114) Avalanche (87)
Annika Duane Kevin Chester Kjell
Sorenstam Ferrell, Seitzer, McGlockton, Samuelsson,
Warriors Indians Raiders Flyers
(230) (260) (255) (177)
What do these players have in common?
They're the only Americans to be No. 1 since the World Ranking
began in 1986
Surgeries undergone by Bill Glasson, who was named the Tour's
comeback player of the year at the Mercedes Championships but
couldn't play there because he's recovering from an elbow