GOING FOR THREE
One Green stood between Hale Irwin and history in deepest
He lost by an extra point. In a gridironic finish, Hale Irwin,
the former star of the Colorado secondary, came in second at the
Bruno's Memorial Classic to a guy with the physique of a kicker.
Irwin finished within a whisker of becoming the first Senior
tour player to win three straight tournaments since Lee Trevino
in 1992. A W would have boosted him from consensus No. 1 to
unanimous choice, and on the final hole he went for the
two-under conversion, narrowly missing a 55-foot putt for eagle.
Still, his closing 65 seemed to make him a lock for the win.
Hubert Green knows that tailgating Irwin is no way to get home,
yet the scrawny Alabaman, cheered on by record crowds in
Birmingham, kept slipstreaming through a tide of crimson numbers
until he reached the top of the leader board. "I wanted
revenge," he said. Two months ago Irwin sacked him from behind
for a one-stroke win at the Toshiba Classic. This time Green
nudged in a six-foot birdie putt on the final hole for his first
Senior win. "It's about time. My trophy case is bare," he said.
Green may have avenged one loss, but he and the other Seniors
will have to keep playing catch-up or Irwin will turn them all
into Senior Mother Hubbards. Golf's leading earner for 1997-98
didn't win until his fifth start this year, but he has caught up
with a vengeance in recent weeks. "The fact that I haven't
finished out of the top five in any tournament this year attests
to how well I'm playing," he said on Sunday. So does the fact
that even in defeat he surpassed $1 million in earnings though
he has played in only eight events. Brett Favre, who played in
the Bruno's pro-am, has a better per-Sunday average, but Irwin
leads Tiger Woods and David Duval in that department and has
averaged $564.60 per swing this year.
Earlier this spring, when Gil Morgan edged past him for the
tour's top spot, Irwin joked edgily that Morgan was "getting to
be a pain." Last week, after months of denying that they are
rivals, just as Alabama and Auburn aren't rivals, the defensive
back and the optometrist fessed up to the obvious. "Gil and I
play at a high level, and we feed off each other," said Irwin.
Morgan called Irwin's recent play "devastating," a word other
Seniors could apply to either of them.
"Can you beat them both in the same week? I don't think so,"
said Jack Keifer before Green became the exception that proves
the rule. So dominant is the dynamic duo that Chi Chi Rodriguez,
who finished 27th at Birmingham, said, "Give [Arnold] Palmer and
Trevino and Chi Chi a chance. No one wants to see the same guys
win over and over. I got tired of Marshal Dillon on TV. I got
tired of Columbo's raincoat. We need new guys to win."
Morgan did his bit for Chi Chi by finishing 11th at Birmingham.
Irwin, though, keeps playing like a man who thinks he can go
undefeated. It wasn't that he three-peatered out last week; he
just ran out of time: "One more day and I would have been right
there," he said. This week he takes time out to return to the
PGA Tour--"back to the regular Tour with the babies," he says.
He'll be about a touchdown underdog at the BellSouth Classic,
picking on guys with talent his own size.
TOP-DRAWER PUTTING SECRET
How glamorous is life on Tour? "Very," says Brandel Chamblee.
"Just last week in Houston I found myself in a Target store
wearing Willie Wood's underwear."
Tour veteran Chamblee, who finished 36th at last week's Houston
Open, deplaned before the tournament to find his luggage stolen.
His worst loss was a pair of designer ostrich boots his wife,
Karen, had bought for the Tour's swing through Texas. "Texans
will relate to my loss. Those were the mac daddy of all boots,"
says Chamblee, who played his college golf at Texas. "I had a
matching ostrich belt and gold belt buckle, too, but luckily I
wore them on the flight." Thus the always well-coiffed,
temporarily bedraggled pro wound up paying $166 for underwear,
socks, pants, shirts, a toothbrush and a blow-dryer at a
discount store on the eve of the tournament. "Now I'm all set,
so I guess I could return the underwear I borrowed from Willie,"
says Chamblee, "except I'm not sure I want to. I wore it during
Wednesday's pro-am and made every putt. Next week I'm going to
try to borrow Ben Crenshaw's underwear."
AUGUSTA'S GREEN JACK
If Tommy Lasorda bleeds Dodger blue, Jack Stephens surely has
Masters green in his veins. Stephens, 74, who retired last week
after seven years as chairman of Augusta National, was a
straight shooter who once told a reporter, "I can't answer that
on account of I don't know." Headlines from the Stephens era:
Five-Ring Circus--In 1992 he helps trigger an Olympic fiasco by
okaying a plan to bring Olympic golf to Augusta National as part
of the '96 Summer Games in Atlanta. The move backfires,
derailing efforts to make golf an Olympic sport.
Blasphemy--In 1994 CBS announcer Gary McCord gets the ax for
joking about bikini-waxed greens and body bags.
Tasteless--In 1997 soul-food critic Fuzzy Zoeller makes like a
You Wanted Relief--At the '98 Masters, Amen Corner becomes home
to the game's first million-dollar bathrooms.
Puffy--Also this year, Stephens defines club policy on smoking
by holding up his own cigs. "It won't be nonsmoking," he says.
Jack's Plaque--A day later the club contributes to plaque
buildup by affixing the Golden Bear's mug to a water fountain.
No Blowfish--In the end Stephens hands the reins of proud,
sedate Augusta National to William W. (Hootie) Johnson.
THE SHAG BAG
One Round, 17 Aces: Kevin Lacey of Cincinnati won the
Professional Putters Association's first major of the year, the
Southern Open, at the Putt-Putt in Augusta (below). Lacey opened
the championship round with a near-perfect 19 and went on to
shoot a 76-under 212 over eight rounds to edge Georgians Lewis
Burton and Greg Ward. "I wasn't thinking about a perfect game, I
just wanted the win. It's my first major," said Lacey, who took
home $2,000 of the Open's $10,000 purse.
Flying Wedge: After a poor pitch to the 4th green at last week's
Houston Open, Mike Standly tried to slam his wedge into his bag
but let go too soon and watched the club whirl into a water
hazard. "Throw a provisional wedge," an onlooker said.
Ad Out: Three-time U.S. Open tennis champ Ivan Lendl, now a
mainstay on the celebrity golf circuit, has entered his local
U.S. Open qualifier at the Farms Country Club in Wallingford,
Feel Lucci, Punk? Andreas Huber, the 18-year-old son of soap
opera star Susan Lucci, advanced to the finals of the Richardson
Memorial, a topflight New York amateur match-play event. He lost
6 and 5 to Greg Rohlf while Mom signed autographs in the gallery.
Don't Go Spikeless: Tour pro Spike McRoy's Web page
(www.spikeweb.com) is for every fan who dreams of becoming "a
Spiketator like so many others." How many others? At last count
the Spike site had racked up 1,389 hits.
Ghost of the Machine: Gene Littler at last week's Bruno's
Memorial Classic: "I used to say, 'As long as I'm competitive,
I'll play golf.' But I'm not competitive. Still, what else am I
going to do? Go home and play golf?"
Squad Carts: An estimated 400,000 golf carts, some featuring CD
players and sheepskin seat covers, have replaced autos in such
upscale communities as Palm Desert, Calif., Peachtree City, Ga.,
and Sun City, Ariz. Residents love their eco-friendly electric
carts, but the going isn't always E-Z. Police in those cities
have their own souped-up buggies ready for hot pursuit.
Home Hole: Last week Everett Henriquez, 27, was arrested for
inhabiting a foxhole he had dug near the 2nd fairway at Van
Cortland Golf Course in the Bronx. His three-by-eight-foot home
was six feet deep and featured earthen stairs, a mattress, three
bags of marijuana, a bow and arrow, several pairs of women's
shoes and a sock full of rocks. Henriquez, who says his other
residence is his grandmother's house, blew his cover by firing a
shotgun at some noisy neighbors, a flock of geese.
All Together Now: "Fore Right!"
Banana ball. Big bender. Boomerang. Euphemisms for the dreaded
slice include a bunch of killer B's, perhaps because so many
players have been stung by the game's most pestilent problem.
May is National Cure Your Slice Month, a time to study what may
seem to be your inalienable left-to-rights in hopes of amending
them. By the end of the month, more than 3,000 club pros
nationwide will have given countless free 10-minute minilessons,
all designed to straighten out America's slices. "You're not
going to get people out on the PGA Tour in a 10-minute lesson,"
one pro says, "but you might get across a few basic ideas that
will help them out later." What if your ball still makes right
turns in the sky when your 10 minutes are up? Don't despair.
Mark McCumber has spent 20 years on Tour and has won more than
$5.2 million doing the same thing.
At the 1996 NCAA Championships at the Honors Course in Ooltewah,
Tenn., UNLV finished second by three strokes. No matter,
Reb-heads reasoned. The Rebels would reload in '97 and
sharpshoot their way to their first national title. Sure enough,
the Rebels were the college game's unanimous No. 1 last year.
Then came another May meltdown at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake
Forest, Ill., where UNLV became the first top-ranked team to
miss the 36-hole cut. Heading into this year's NCAAs, the Rebels
are again the top-ranked team in the country. Last week, though,
they were upset by TCU's Horned Frogs in the WAC championships.
Can 11th-year coach Dwaine Knight right his troops at the West
Regional on May 13-15 in Tempe, Ariz., and bring UNLV a national
title on May 27-30 at New Mexico Championship Golf Course in
Albuquerque, or will the Vegas boys' luck run out again?
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN IMPACT PLAYER Spurred by Morgan's challenge, Irwin keeps going deep into the red zone. [Hale Irwin playing golf]
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND [Man putting at Putt-Putt golf course]
What do these players have in common?
They are the top bridesmaids on Tour. Beck has 18 seconds to go
with four wins; Maggert, the runner-up at Houston, has 12
seconds and one win; Sluman has 10 seconds and two wins.