Hot Drivers at St. Andrews
The July 20-23 British Open should be a classic. The tournament
will be at St. Andrews, on the Old Course. This Open, the 129th,
will be Jack Nicklaus's last, and his final walk up the 18th
fairway is sure to be emotional. To celebrate the new
millennium, all 27 of the living past winners have been invited
to a nostalgic four-hole exhibition the day before the first
round. Despite all that, this year's British Open might wind up
as the one with the asterisk because the winner used a driver
subsequently found to be in violation of the Rules of Golf.
The USGA has tested 11 thin-faced, titanium-headed drivers and
ruled that they exceed the limit on the so-called springlike
effect and are therefore illegal in the U.S. and Mexico. But the
Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which administers
the game in the rest of the world, said last week that it won't
have its own testing procedure for springlike effect in place
until October. So while the R&A sides with the USGA
philosophically on hot drivers, the R&A will not be able to ban
them until well after the British Open.
The news is sure to produce a rush in Europe and Japan to use
the outlaw clubs. The maker of one of them, Callaway, claims
that 19 players used its ERC driver at last week's Benson &
Hedges. The number of players with hot clubs is expected to be
higher at the British Open. Vijay Singh was working with one on
the range at the Nelson with an eye toward St. Andrews. All of
which leads to the question: If the R&A does eventually concur
with the USGA on the drivers, and the winner of the British Open
used a club that was later declared nonconforming, will that
player's victory be tainted?
"I think it will be," answers five-time British Open winner Tom
Watson. "The USGA is doing the right thing. So, yes, to me there
would always be a question mark if the winner won using one of
But Watson was in the minority among the players we asked. "If
it is legal at the time, there won't be a problem," says Colin
Montgomerie, who is paid to play Callaway clubs and has been
practicing with that company's hot driver but has not used it in
competition. Says Davis Love III, "It makes sense to play the
club if it is within the rules." Adds Loren Roberts, "If
everyone has the same opportunity to use the club, what does it
It appears likely that the 156-man field at the British Open
will be split into two camps: those who play hot drivers and
those who don't. The public will be curious to see if those
playing hot clubs have an advantage. "If a guy is hitting it
noticeably farther than normal, people may wonder if there
should be some kind of Roger Maris asterisk attached to the
victory," says David Fay, executive director of the USGA. "The
rules are supposed to eliminate those kind of philosophical
questions, and that's why the ruling bodies are frustrated." The
Royal Canadian Golf Association has already broken ranks with
its governing body, the R&A, and sided with the USGA in
outlawing hot drivers. Last week Callaway sued the RCGA over
"What it comes down to," says Fay, "is two words: legal issues."
Fay explains that while the two governing bodies have achieved
uniformity on almost all the rules, those relating to balls and
clubs are problematic because any evidence showing that the
associations have colluded on a decision that negatively affects
an equipment manufacturer could be grounds for an antitrust
suit. "The American legal system makes it important that we do
our investigations independently," says David Rickman, rules
secretary of the R&A. Adds Fay, "It may look like there is a
split with the R&A, but it's more that we have to take divergent
and time-consuming routes to get to the same place."
High on Lead Hand Low
Slowly but surely the cross-handed putting grip--a.k.a. lead
hand low or left hand low--is becoming the technique of choice
instead of the grip of last resort among pro golfers. Top
players like Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Scott Hoch, Lee Janzen,
Vijay Singh, Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb putt cross-handed,
and lately practitioners have been storming the leader board.
Singh won the Masters, and three weeks ago both golfers in the
playoff in Houston, Robert Allenby and Craig Stadler, went left
hand low. At New Orleans, Blaine McCallister added his own
twist, putting left-handed with his right hand low. The trend
has also reached the college and junior levels. Officials
estimate that about 10% of the top amateurs putt lead hand low.
"Five years ago you barely saw any young players going
cross-handed," says Oklahoma State men's coach Mike Holder, who
has guided the Cowboys to seven NCAA titles in a 27-year career.
Why the switch? Dave Pelz, who teaches the cross-handed as well
as the traditional method at his short-game schools, believes
lead hand low is sounder biomechanically. "It's more
instinctive," says Pelz, who in the '70s taught a college class
for beginners in which half his students putted conventionally
and the other half lead hand low. The lead hand low group had
better results every semester. "The power hand--the right hand
for a right-hander--is passive because the left hand stays in
control leading the putter down the line," says Pelz.
The smoother and faster greens get, the more popular lead hand
low putting will become, predicts Pelz. "The question is not if
the majority of touring pros will be doing it," he says, "but
rather when will they."
COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN Watson says the use of outlaw drivers will taint the British Open.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: DENNY LANDWEHR
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BARD
COLOR PHOTO: PATRICK MURPHY-RACEY
If Tiger Woods had been in the playoff at the Nelson, CBS never
would've pulled the plug on most of the country in the middle of
sudden death. The Tour, despite serious Nielsen numbers, still
gets no respect from the networks, who wouldn't dream of cutting
away from an NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball game that ran
over its alloted time.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only golfers to win next week's Tour event, the
Memorial, and a major in the same year. Azinger's major was the
1993 PGA; Floyd's the '82 PGA; Strange's the '88 U.S. Open; and
Woods's the '99 PGA.
Should the Players Championship be moved to give the spring
schedule a shot in the arm?
--Based on 2,140 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will the British Open winner's victory be tainted
if he uses one of the drivers banned by the USGA? Vote at
SYNONYMS for PERFORM WELL UNDER PRESSURE
Big-time, bone up, cojones, cold-blooded, dig deep, huevos, ice,
large, 'nads, nails, stone cold, stout.
The 2000 Masters gave $3 million to charity. Here are the Tour
events that gave the most in '99 (in millions).
Event '99 Contribution
1. Nelson $6.0
2. Houston $3.3
3. Phoenix $3.3
4. Masters $2.9
5. AT&T $2.8
6. Western $2.5
Brad Mitchell, Fairfield, Ohio
Luke Mitchell, Fairfield, Ohio
Brothers Brad, 17, and Luke, 15, made their first holes in one
on the same hole on the same day during casual rounds. Using a
six-iron, Brad, a junior at Fairfield High, holed out at the
165-yard par-3 8th at Hueston Woods Golf Course in Oxford. His
shot hit the lip of a greenside bunker, kicked left onto the
green and rolled 15 feet into the hole. Luke, a freshman at
Fairfield who was playing in the group behind his brother, also
hit a six-iron at number 8. His ball landed on the green and
rolled 10 feet into the cup. Brad and Luke are the No. 2 players
on Fairfield's varsity and jayvee teams, respectively. Brad had
an 80 scoring average last season for the Indians, while Luke
had the low score in six of the jayvee's 17 dual matches.
Doug LaCrosse, Tampa
LaCrosse, 48, won the George L. Coleman Invitational at Seminole
Golf Club in Juno Beach. An owner of a commercial cleaning
business, LaCrosse shot a three-under 213 to win by five shots.
In the 1990s LaCrosse took Florida's four top amateur
titles--the State Amateur ('92), the Four-Ball ('92 and '99),
the Mid-Amateur ('95) and the Match Play ('96).
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.
HEIGHT 6' 1" WEIGHT 200
Older brother, Mike, was a Division II honorable mention
All-America golfer at Abilene Christian in '90 and '91.
Alltime money ($350,028.14) and victory (10) leader on the
DESCRIBE THE HOOTERS TOUR
"There are 23 tournaments, and first place pays $20,000. It's
for players like me who haven't finished high enough at Q school
to make the PGA or Buy.com tours. We can't use carts, so we
usually carry our own bags. The courses aren't real hard.
There's no rough, and the greens are soft and slow. Because a
lot of the places we play are in the Southeast, we drive
everywhere. I've got 45,000 miles on my 1998 Chevy Tahoe. I
guess it's a little like the PGA Tour in the '60s."
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE HOOTERS WAITRESSES?
"They're around for the pro-ams on Tuesday and Wednesday, and to
pose with the winner on Sunday. None of them have given me a
victory kiss, which is disappointing. Otherwise, I don't see
them. We get 25 percent off at Hooters restaurants, but I don't
hang out there because the food isn't that good."
WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU LEARNED IN COLLEGE?
"I got a degree in hotel and restaurant management at UNLV, and
I found that you can always get a better rate for a hotel room
than what is being asked if you keep working on the people at
the front desk. I try to keep my expenses on the Hooters tour to
less than $1,000 a week, so I never spend more than $55 a night
for a room."
ON BEING THE GREATEST HOOTERS TOUR PLAYER OF ALL TIME
"I guess it's a good thing. My goal is to get to the PGA Tour
and stay there. After four years on the Hooters, I'm ready to
move on. Winning--actually closing out a tournament--is hard.
I've been in contention a lot, and I've learned that I do better
when I concentrate on winning instead of thinking about a high
finish. I think that attitude will help me at Q school this fall."