ALIVE AND KICKING
First, the names. If you're going to spend any time with Swedish
27-year-olds Gabriel Hjertstedt (YET-stet) and Patrik Sjoland
(SHO-land), you'd better be handy with a silent J. The starter
at February's Nissan (L.A.) Open so badly botched Hjertstedt's
name that the golfer called it the most strained effort he'd
ever heard. "It wasn't good," Hjertstedt said later. "I felt
sorry for the guy."
Hjertstedt, who qualified for the Masters with his victory at the
Tucson Open, and Sjoland, who received the last special invite,
are enjoying pronounced success this year after each was nearly
given up for dead.
Sjoland is the lesser known of the two. You may have seen him
winning his first two matches at the World Match Play in
February, over Jim Furyk and Carlos Franco, before John Huston
beat him one up. Sjoland was the skinny blond guy wearing a lot
of black. What you may not know is that Sjoland almost died in a
'92 car crash in Sweden in which he was catapulted through a
closed sunroof. Sjoland's sister and her friend were wearing
seat belts. He wasn't. He lost his spleen and was unconscious
for a week.
"I woke up and thought it was just hours after the accident,"
Sjoland says. "I phoned the place where I was working [a plastics
factory] and said, 'I'm not coming in tomorrow.'"
It would be six months before Sjoland started playing golf
again. He worked his way up through the Challenge tour and got
his European tour card in 1995. He now lives in Marbella, Spain,
with his fiancee and caddie, Ulrika, whom he credits for his
breakthrough season in '98, when he won the Italian Open and
finished second three times. "It's easier not to spend three or
four weeks apart, plus she's helped me mentally," says Sjoland.
"When I practice, I'm more focused, and when I'm off the course,
I'm [mentally] off the course."
Gabriel Steig Johan Eric Hjertstedt is also tight with his
caddie: his 20-year-old brother, Henrik, also a pro. It was
Henrik, Hjertstedt says, who subdued Gabe's nerves during the
latter's victories at the '97 B.C. Open and then at Tucson in
February. "It's nice to have him down the stretch," Gabe says,
"because I know what he does, how he behaves. He doesn't
Hjertstedt, who is older than Sjoland by one day, hit his nadir
in '95 with a bad case of temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
syndrome. The pain in his head was so incessant he once
considered suicide. "It was just a terrible time; I'm glad I'm
far away from that now," he says. "The medical field in America
probably could have told me straightaway what it was, but I was
traveling and playing so much I was seeing different doctors,
who were telling me different things. Most of them said it was
mental. I went a year before I found out what it was."
Hjertstedt, who made so few cuts on the European tour that he
was reduced to sleeping in his car, found a sponsor--a friend
from Sweden--had oral surgery and in '96 returned to competition
with a tie for ninth at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. Says
Hjertstedt, "Nobody believed I would come back."
Given what they've endured, Hjertstedt and Sjoland could be
excused if they crowed all the way down Magnolia Lane, but their
excitement is more endearing than annoying. After winning at
Tucson, which was contested the same week as the $5 million
World Match Play, Hjertstedt was asked whether it bothered him
to have played in the shadows of the richer tournament. "We
should be happy playing for this much money," he said, declaring
himself pleased with his $495,000 check.
Sjoland, who unlike Hjertstedt will be a first-timer at the
Masters, matches his fellow Swede gush for gush. He planned to
arrive in Augusta a week early, explaining, "When you get
invited, you can come and practice whenever you want. I've
received so much information about that tournament it's
unbelievable. It's going to be a dream come true."
THE LADIES' GO-TO GUY
Meg Mallon finished second at the Dinah Shore. Juli Inkster won
the Welch's/Circle K. Hollis Stacy, 45, and Jan Stephenson, 47,
both of whom seemed headed for the rocking chair, have become
competitive again. What do these players have in common? Mike
McGetrick, the hottest swing guru on the LPGA tour.
"Mike has given me back my career," says Stephenson, who began
working with McGetrick three months ago, right before she
finished fourth at the Hawaiian Open, two shots behind winner
Alison Nicholas. "Everyone would say, 'You're just not putting
well. You don't look confident. You look like Tom Watson.' When
I met Mike, he said, 'You know, you have a lot of flaws in your
McGetrick, who runs the McGetrick Golf Academy at Meridian
Country Club just outside Denver, encountered some resistance
with his first LPGA pupil, Sara Anne Timms, but though he
couldn't teach her much, he did marry her. "I was the student
that most frustrated Mike," says Sara Anne, who played on the
tour from '86 to '92 and now stays home with the couple's four
girls and two boys. It was Sara Anne who convinced her traveling
roommate, Mallon, to get help from Mike after Mallon lost her
tour card in '87. Four years later Mallon won the U.S. Open and
the LPGA Championship.
"Mike taught me how to practice," says Mallon. "Most teachers
work on your swing and say 'Go out and play.' Well, Mike says,
'You need to score.' We spend most of our time working around
the green, in pressure situations, so I won't get nervous on
those shots in competition."
In fact Mallon says McGetrick is so good at getting into her
head that she saves money on a sports psychologist. "I like [my
students'] practice to be competitive," says McGetrick, who will
turn 40 on April 6. "I like them to have a practice where
they're putting themselves in game situations."
Before the final round of the Welch's, McGetrick asked Inkster,
"What do you think you need to shoot to win?" Inkster said she
needed a 65, which is what she shot to win by one over Dottie
Pepper. "He's always going 100 miles per hour," Inkster says.
"But if you get him focused on one thing, he's unbelievable."
Stacy, who was left out in the cold by six points when the LPGA
revised its Hall of Fame criteria in January, rehabilitated her
right knee after surgery last September partly by hitting balls
in the snow with McGetrick. It's paid off. Stacy was 47th on the
money list in '98, but she's 16th in '99 and now doesn't look
like such a long shot to play her way into the Hall. "Sometimes
we just have a five- or 10-minute lesson because I don't like to
hit balls," says Stacy, who was in contention at the Welch's
before tying for fourth with a final-round 70. "I put my faith in
him because he's quick to see the problem and he fixes it."
According to figures released recently by the Golf Course
Superintendents Association of America, 83% of experienced
golfers replace their divots. The percentage who were expected
to follow their example at a March 31 tournament at San Mateo
(Calif.) Golf Course: 0. Less than two days before the course
will begin undergoing a $12 million, 13-month renovation in
which virtually everything will be razed and redone, 120
competitors were scheduled to play an 18-hole tournament with
total disregard for etiquette. The rules:
--Carts must stay in the fairways at all times.
--Please do not replace your divots--in fact, take some home.
--The raking of bunkers is strictly prohibited.
--To get to the cocktail reception as quickly as possible,
please feel free to drive across the greens when returning to
"We might want to eliminate that last part," says San Mateo pro
Gary Monisteri. "The greens will be dug up, but they're very
narrow and elevated. I'm afraid someone's going to tip over or
fall into a bunker and get hurt."
San Mateo, which was built in 1933 under the direction of the
Works Progress Administration, has been flooded for more than 50
days in each of the last two years because the drainage system
doesn't drain. Nevertheless, some of the course's longtime
customers were irked by the plans for Wednesday's demolition
derby. "I had someone call who was really insulted," Monisteri
says. "He said it wasn't a very dignified way to close the
That concerned gentleman can rest assured: Wednesday's
divot-strewn chaos wasn't planned as a way to put the muni out
to pasture. The very last goodbyes were scheduled for Thursday
morning, when employees were to get a moment to reflect by
playing San Mateo one last time, just them, their clubs and the
course--if there's anything left of it.
SEVE TRIES SPEED GOLF
Seve Ballesteros, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of
Fame last week but hasn't made a cut on the PGA Tour since '96,
has begun working with sports psychologist Bob Rotella. In an
effort to rescue Ballesteros, a two-time Masters winner who will
turn 42 on April 9, Rotella has implemented a routine in which
Seve avoids thinking about mechanics by hitting the ball within
five seconds of addressing it. The strategy worked reasonably
well during last Thursday's first round of the Players
Championship, when the notoriously wild Spaniard was only two
over before bogeying the final two holes for a 76. On Friday,
however, the quick-hit system was a miss as Ballesteros, who
hasn't made a cut in three European tour starts in '99, shot an
81. Look for him next week at Augusta; barring a miracle, he'll
be the guy checking out all the new trees.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Standing Pat Sjoland is back on his feet after a near-fatal crash.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT G. WALDROP
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: ERIC STRACHAN (2)
COLOR PHOTO: PAUL F. GERO/SABA Swing vote For a tune-up, players like Beth Daniel prefer McGetrick.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only Masters winners who didn't lead until the final
hole. O'Meara's perfectly timed charge came in 1998, Player's in
'78 and Wall's in '59.
Did Tiger Woods make a mistake in firing his caddie, Mike (Fluff)
--Based on 1,466 responses to our informal survey.
Next question: Now that Augusta is longer and has rough, will
Tiger Woods's record (18 under par) ever be broken? To vote, go
If history is any indication, don't expect Players champ David
Duval to win next week. Jack Nicklaus ('76) and Jerry Pate ('82)
each went on to tie for third at Augusta, but nobody has won the
Players and the Masters in the same year. Here are the 10 Players
winners before Duval and their results at Augusta.
YEAR WINNER MASTERS
1998 Justin Leonard T8
1997 Steve Elkington 12
1996 Fred Couples 15
1995 Lee Janzen 12
1994 Greg Norman 18
1993 Nick Price Cut
1992 Davis Love III 25
1991 Steve Elkington 22
1990 Jodie Mudd 30
1989 Tom Kite 18
John Engler, Augusta
Engler, a sophomore at Clemson, led the Tigers to their fourth
victory of the season, at the San Juan Shootout, by tying for
first with David Christensen, a freshman at East Tennessee
State. Engler is the nation's fifth-ranked player and is tops in
fairways hit (91.3%) and greens in regulation (82.4%).
Jerry Galeana, Naples, Fla.
Carol McKenzie, Naples, Fla.
Galeana, 49, a housewife, and McKenzie, 67, a retired insurance
executive, each aced the 112-yard 15th hole on the Quail Course
at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples while playing in the same
foursome in the semifinals of the third flight of the club
championship. Galeana, a 23 handicapper who has one previous hole
in one to her credit, made her ace with a five-iron, while
McKenzie, a 25 handicapper, used a seven-wood. McKenzie, who shot
94 for the round, lost her match 4 and 2 to Carol Rosen. Galeana
shot 89 and beat Carmilla Ullrich 2 and 1, but she lost to Rosen
in the finals 4 and 3.