Say Goodbye to Duval, Woods
Tom Lehman definitely will return to the TPC of Scottsdale next
year to defend the Phoenix Open title he won on Sunday, but
after the bad experiences Tiger Woods and David Duval had last
week, don't look for them to be back anytime soon. Duval almost
didn't wait for the tournament to end to leave town. He was so
angry after being heckled for a good part of the third round
that he reportedly considered withdrawing last Saturday night.
The trouble began the day before. During a wait on the tee at
the short, par-4 17th, Duval got into an exchange with fans who
thought, incorrectly, that he planned to lay up. Shouted one,
"Next time wear a skirt."
On Saturday things got ugly. Although Duval made the turn in 32
to get within two shots of the lead, there was a bad vibe
between him and the fans, and on the 12th hole several applauded
after he missed a three-footer for par. As Duval walked off the
green, he rubbed his right hand over his chest with his middle
finger extended. The gesture was clearly visible to spectators,
and as Duval prepared to drive on 13, they chanted, "Hit it in
the water!" Shaken, Duval fell out of contention by shooting 41
on the back nine, with hecklers baiting him on every hole.
The treatment Duval received pushed a collective hot button
among the players, who feel that organizers of the Phoenix Open
have encouraged bad behavior by marketing the tournament as a
gigantic party. For years the event has been best known for two
things: the Bird's Nest, the huge hospitality tent set up next
to the course that fills up the moment play ends and rocks until
midnight; and the action around the par-3 16th hole, where up to
15,000 fans gather.
Tournament organizers increased security this year, instituted a
two-beers-per-person limit at concession stands and booted four
fans on Saturday for being unruly, but there were more player
complaints about loud, verbally aggressive spectators than ever
After a night to cool off, Duval played on Sunday. Several fans
went out of their way to offer support, but after a 69 left him
in 30th place, he was noncommittal about returning. Others put
the chances of Duval showing up next year somewhere between slim
Woods's decision not to enter this year's tournament, an event
in which he played in 1997 and '99, is more complicated. Last
year he was heckled by a fan who was found to be carrying a
handgun; but the real reason Woods took a pass was probably a
rift between the Tiger Woods Foundation and the Thunderbirds,
the fraternal organization that runs the Phoenix Open.
The Woods Foundation held the first Williams World Challenge
over the New Year's holiday at Scottsdale's Grayhawk Club and
used the Thunderbirds to stage the tournament. According to
sources in Phoenix, the foundation decided that next year it
would replace the Thunderbirds with its own people. When
Grayhawk learned that the foundation was cutting out the
Thunderbirds, it canceled its two-year option to host the event.
This decision was made by Del Cochran, captain of the Grayhawk
club and also a Thunderbird. The Thunderbirds then announced
last Friday in a press release that the Challenge was moving
from Grayhawk because of the Woods Foundation's "long-range plan
to give the event a national and international presence." The
Thunderbirds' role in forcing the Williams Challenge to move is
just the sort of thing that Woods, who has a notoriously long
memory, won't forget.
The USGA's decision to change the 2nd hole at Pebble Beach
during the U.S. Open from a 502-yard par-5 to a 485-yard par-4
is a dumb move. The blue coats, whose egos are too large to
accept a winning score of more than 10 under par, threaten the
graceful progression of difficulty that makes Pebble so
What do these players have in common?
They're the only winners of the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am and
the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Nicklaus won the 1972 Open and
the '67, '72 and '73 Crosby. Watson, Open champ in '82, took the
'77 and '78 Crosby. Kite won the '92 Open and '83 Crosby.
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Next question: If you could play one last round, on which course
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The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am may--or may not--help in
predicting the U.S. Open. When Pebble last held the Open, in
'92, two players placed in the top 10 at the AT&T and the Open.
However, Open champ Tom Kite missed the cut in the AT&T. Here
are the '92 AT&T top 10 and their Open results.
AT&T U.S. OPEN
Mark O'Meara 1 Cut
Jeff Sluman 2 2
Paul Azinger 3 33
Steve Elkington T4 Cut
Tom Lehman T4 T6
Mark Wiebe T4 DNP
Gil Morgan T7 13
Larry Rinker T7 DNP
Chip Beck T9 Cut
Ben Crenshaw T9 DNP
Tom Watson T9 Cut
Which Senior Is Most Likely to Succeed?
As the most accomplished rookies in the Class of '00, Tom Kite,
Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson are being counted on to energize
the snoozy Senior tour. Here's an assessment of their prospects.
Superior length and touch plus cream-puff courses equal birdies.
(In only two Senior starts in '99 he averaged 6.17 a round.)
Energized by his new marriage and the chance to beat Nicklaus.
Putter will always be a question mark. (As Henry Longhurst said,
"Once you've had the yips, you've got 'em.") Staying motivated
could be a problem, but not this season. Must be careful not to
aggravate lingering rotator cuff injury.
Only Senior who still has regular Tour game. Will dominate: five
victories (one major) and player of the year.
As always, will outwork competition. Will also play more
tournaments than Wadkins and Watson. As one of the best
short-iron and wedge players ever, game is built for shortish
par-4s common on this tour.
Putting, once a problem, now a disaster (ranked abysmal 188th on
regular Tour in '99). Recent results discouraging (best finish
in two seasons a 17th at Hartford last year). Disappointing
Ryder Cup captaincy in '97 seems to have taken something out of
Greater margin for error lifts confidence on greens. Will
challenge Watson: four victories, leading money winner.
Also superb with medium and short irons. Fearless competitor
who's sure to perk up once back in the hunt. When on a roll, can
go lower than most. Could be first Senior to break 60.
Short, even by Senior standards (256.9-yard driving average
186th on regular Tour in '99). Tendency to get down on himself.
Not in top shape. Last year's greens in regulation (56.8%, 192nd
on Tour) gives pause.
As good as anyone when he's right. Won't sustain like Watson and
Kite. Two wins, including U.S. Senior Open.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK Home cookin' Lehman, who lives in Scottsdale, fed off the crowd.
THREE COLOR PHOTOS: PGA TOUR (3)