O'Meara at a Crossroads
THE TOUR OR TV?
Mark O'Meara, the 43-year-old Masters champion once removed, has
become a forgotten man. He hasn't done much since 1998, when he
won the green jacket and the claret jug and was voted player of
the year, but with the two majors and 14 other Tour victories,
he's more than satisfied with what he has accomplished in his
20-year career. He is so content that he's even considering the
ultimate competitive concession: trading the weekly Tour grind
for the TV tower.
Then again, O'Meara was in a similar position at this time two
years ago. He was pleased with what he considered an
overachieving career, and he hadn't won in 14 months, yet he
birdied the final two holes in the Masters to beat Fred Couples
and David Duval by a shot. When O'Meara tied for ninth at last
month's Players Championship, his first top 10 in exactly a
year, he said he was close to regaining his winning form.
O'Meara's play at Sawgrass--his final-round 67 was his best
score of the year--makes it less of a stretch to believe that a
player who ranks a lowly 174th in total driving might find
himself in contention again this week at Augusta. "I'm taking
small steps," he says. "I'm not where I'd like to be, but I'm
getting better. My short game has actually improved through this
slump, and my putting is definitely there."
More than ever, O'Meara, who ranks 67th on the money list, is
drafting off his practice partner, Tiger Woods. Last week at
their home base, Isleworth Golf and Country Club near Orlando,
O'Meara and Woods went through what has become their annual
ritual of preparing for the Masters together. They pounded balls
at the range under the watchful eyes of their respective
teachers, Hank Haney and Butch Harmon, practiced putting on
greens specially prepared to roll an Augusta National-like 13 on
the stimpmeter, and played a series of head-to-head matches for
$5 Nassaus with automatic one-down presses.
O'Meara didn't get into Woods's pocket, although that was a
matter of timing as much as anything. On March 29, when O'Meara
holed a four-wood shot from 235 yards for a double eagle on the
528-yard 17th hole, they weren't playing a match. On Saturday,
when Woods made his own albatross, holing a 218-yard five-iron
shot on the 531-yard 7th hole, they were. "He never stops
amazing me with these ungodly shots," says O'Meara, who in '98
beat Woods one up in the final of the Cisco World Match Play. "I
used to have a little advantage on the greens, but now that is
all gone. I can still find a way to get him, but it's getting
Far from being discouraged by the growing gap in their
abilities, O'Meara says practicing with Woods is more of a
thrill than ever. "I realize how special Tiger is," says
O'Meara. "I respect how much he has developed, and now he's a
motivator for me. He gets on me, says stuff like, 'C'mon, you're
not done.' Or he needles me for steering shots and not going
after the ball harder. I tell him that if he was playing like
me, he'd be feeling for the guardrail too, but his points are
good ones and I listen. Knowing that he feels I've still got a
lot of game has helped me believe I really do."
That belief is why O'Meara is ambivalent about the possibility
of becoming a part-time player and succeeding Ken Venturi, who
is expected to retire at the end of the year, as lead analyst
for CBS. "They haven't put a proposal on the table, but they
asked if I was interested," O'Meara says. "We'll talk and see
what happens. After 20 years of playing, would anyone blame me
for wanting to spend more time with my family? But deep down the
thing that drives any player is pride, and I still have that, so
I don't know if I'm ready to do TV."
A good showing at the Masters--and especially another green
jacket--would make that decision much easier.
COLOR PHOTO: J.D. CUBAN After more than a year of struggling, O'Meara says he's out of the woods. COLOR PHOTO: TIM JACKSON
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN OLIVER
COLOR PHOTO: EYD KAZERY
COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND
By shooting a 67 on Sunday at the Tradition, Jack Nicklaus, as
usual, found a way to take something positive to Augusta. But
think how special the Masters would have been if all Tour
winners still qualified and Jack's son Gary had won in Atlanta.
The green coats dodged a bullet and should take it as a sign to
restore the romance of "you win, you're in."
What do these players have in common?
They lost playoffs to Phil Mickelson, who is 3-0 in sudden death.
Who is more likely to win a Grand Slam, Karrie Webb or Tiger
--Based on 7,098 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Should Lee Elder, who in 1975 became the first
African-American to play in the Masters, replace the late Gene
Sarazen as one of the tournament's honorary starters? Vote at
SYNONYMS for ROUGH
Asparagus, Brillo, brush, bush, cabbage, cemetery, clag, darkest
Africa, gunch, hay, jungle, karoo, Kuehne country, muff,
outback, salad, Serengeti, spinach, stew, trash, ulu, Velcro.
Here's one of Jack Nicklaus's records that Tiger Woods won't
break for a while: Nicklaus has won more Senior majors than any
Jack Nicklaus 8
Sam Snead 6
Gary Player 6
Hale Irwin 5
Arnold Palmer 5
Miller Barber 4
Lee Trevino 4
Doug Rouse, Evergreen, Colo.
Rouse, 49, beat 108 players from four states at the Utah Golf
Association Winterchamps at Green Spring Golf Course in
Washington, Utah, a two-day Stableford event. Rouse, who made a
hole in one on the 207-yard 2nd hole in the first round, and
Jesse Hibler of Boise, Idaho, each finished with 82 points, but
Rouse won after a match of scorecards.
Danielle Downey, Rochester, N.Y.
Downey, a freshman at Auburn, got her second collegiate
tournament victory, at the Casa de Campo Intercollegiate in the
Dominican Republic. Downey shot a six-over 222 to beat the
nation's top-ranked amateur, Duke sophomore Beth Bauer, by two
strokes. Downey, 19, is the first freshman in school history to
win a tournament.
Jake Lambert, Jackson, Miss.
Jake, 15, shot a course-record 11-under-par 61 at Caroline Golf
Club in Jackson to win the Caroline Junior Invitational by 12
strokes. A ninth-grader at Jackson Academy, Jake made 10 birdies
and began his round with an eagle on the 365-yard, par-4 10th
hole. Last year Jake won the Mississippi private school state
title as an eighth-grader.
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.
HEIGHT 5'11" WEIGHT 160
AGE 45 WORLD RANK 194
Wife: Randolyn Children: Brendalyn (2/3/81), Lauren (8/14/83),
Michael (10/2/86), Clarissa (5/27/90), John (9/29/93), Hannah
One of the shortest (and straightest) hitters in Tour history.
Known for mild manner and sharp wit. Never gets angry, which is
why he cracked up the locker-room crowd after hitting two balls
out-of-bounds on the same hole by saying, "Man, my chili was
Longest drive this year is 284 yards (278th on Tour). Ranks
third in birdies on par-3s, 167th in birdies on par-5s.
ARE SHORT HITTERS BEING RUN OFF THE TOUR?
"No. The trend in course maintenance is soft fairways and hard
greens, which makes it tougher, but not impossible, for guys
like me. I'm playing my five-wood a little more, but a good
swing will still get the ball close to the hole."
"The secret to playing the Tour is threefold: a sound game plan,
good execution and support at home. The secret to golf is
enjoying the walk. As Bobby Jones said, 'Why should we worry so
when golf--just golf--is so much fun?'"
RADAR THE READER AVERAGES ABOUT A BOOK A WEEK ON TOUR. HIS TAKE
ON A PERFECT STORM:
"It took me three months to feel dry."
Collecting aphorisms. A favorite, by Robert Louis Stevenson: "If
a man loves his work beyond any thought of wealth or fame, then
the gods have called him."
TUESDAYS WITH HALE
For years Reid played a weekly practice round with Hale Irwin.
"He was the mold of the player I wanted to be: complete through
the bag, competitive but serene. When I saw him recently, I
said, 'I miss you.' He said, 'I don't miss you.' I took that as
ON LOSING THE '89 PGA TO PAYNE STEWART AFTER LEADING BY TWO
STROKES WITH THREE HOLES TO PLAY
"After I missed a seven-footer on 18 to tie, I did more growing
up walking the next 40 feet to the scoring tent than I had in
the previous 35 years of my life. I decided that I had to be
happy for the man who had beaten me, so I high-fived Payne and
hugged him. In the locker room Jack Nicklaus told me he had
never been so sorry to see someone lose. I was humbled. For the
greatest player to say that to me added so much humanness to the
whole thing. Right then I thought, Life goes on. And it does."
The Name Game
Think you know your LPGA tournament history? Here's a test only
commissioner Ty Votaw could ace. Listed in the column on the
left are the names of 15 events on this year's schedule. In the
column on the right are what those events were called when they
made their debut. See how many you can match up.
2000 Title Originally Known As ...
1. The Office Depot A. Phar-Mor in Youngstown
2. Cup Noodles Hawaiian B. SEGA Women's
Ladies Open Championship
3. Welch's/Circle K C. Diet Dr Pepper National
4. Standard Register Ping D. La Canadienne
5. Nabisco Championship E. Sara Lee Classic
6. Longs Drugs Challenge F. Bankers Trust Classic
7. Chick-fil-A Charity G. Atlantic City Classic
8. Electrolux USA Championship H. Sun City Classic
9. Wegmans Rochester International I. Colgate Dinah Shore
10. ShopRite LPGA Classic J. Twelve Bridges LPGA Classic
11 Michelob Light Classic K. GHP Heartland Classic
12. Giant Eagle LPGA Classic L. Portland Classic
13. Du Maurier Classic M. Pioneer Cup
14. Safeway LPGA Golf Championship N. Arizona Copper Classic
15. Nichirei Invitational O. Tsumura Ladies Open
Answers: 1-C; 2-O; 3-N; 4-H; 5-I; 6-J; 7-B; 8-E; 9-F; 10-G;
11-K; 12-A; 13-D; 14-L; 15-M