Sanders's British Disaster
When Doug Sanders flashes back to the 1970 British Open at St.
Andrews, he remembers the white tee. "I was superstitious," says
the 66-year-old Sanders. "I always tossed my cigarette away
between my legs, and I never used a white tee. A white tee to me
always meant a five." On the 72nd hole of the '70 Open, however,
with Sanders needing only a par 4 on the 350-yard hole to win
the claret jug, Willie Aitchison, who was caddying for Sanders's
playing partner, Lee Trevino, handed Sanders a white tee and
said, "Here, hit this one for Tony."
The tee was one that Tony Lema had used to win at St. Andrews in
'64, when he had been Sanders's houseguest. Two years later Lema
had died in a plane crash on Sanders's birthday, July 24.
Sanders, a close friend, had nearly boarded the doomed plane.
"That caddie had no earthly idea that I didn't use white tees,"
says Sanders. "He was only thinking of a good buddy of ours. I
couldn't say no, so I used it."
Before that Open, Sanders had essentially lost his game, years of
hard living affecting his nerves to the point that he would often
spend 30 seconds waggling and adjusting his feet before taking
the club back. His play at St. Andrews had been solid, though,
and he hit another good drive on the final hole. But Sanders
can't forget the feeling he had walking down the 18th fairway.
"Something negative had been triggered," he says. "I knew by
using that tee I had broken my own trend, and it made me uneasy."
Sanders had only 76 yards to the hole over the Valley of Sin and
chose a sand wedge. Because he was a master of the pitch and run,
this decision has been questioned, but Sanders thought that
flying the ball over the valley was the right shot. "If I had
tried to run it up and it had come back to me, imagine what
people would have said. I just hit it a little too hard."
Still, Sanders needed only to two-putt from 35 feet. After his
first putt stopped three feet short, he again thought about the
white tee, and that's when he lost his poise. "Lee was away, but
I decided to putt out," says Sanders, his voice quickening as he
relives the moment. "I never putted out, and there was no reason
to do it now because it would have been rude to Lee, but there I
was doing it. I got over the putt and saw a little speck by the
hole that I thought was sand, so I bent over. It turned out to be
a piece of burned grass, but my stopping had caused some people
to laugh kind of nervously. So I got over the putt again, and I
started thinking that maybe I should let Lee putt out and, Gee,
Doug, you've been standing over this thing a long time, and look
at all the people out in the fairway, and maybe I'll mark, and
no, I'll go ahead and hit it and.... It was fatal."
The sickening sight of Sanders letting go of the grip with his
right hand and following the ball with the head of the putter as
if to rake it back is the archetypical picture of a missed
The next day Sanders lost an 18-hole playoff to Jack Nicklaus by
a stroke when Nicklaus birdied the last hole. Sanders still has a
letter from Jack Lemmon congratulating him on how bravely he had
come back after his devastating miss the day before. Sanders also
remembers Barbara Nicklaus approaching him and his wife, Scotty,
and softly saying, "Doug, you should have won the British Open."
Jean Van de Velde's 72nd-hole debacle last year was shocking, but
it lacked the pathos of Sanders's loss.
Sanders won 20 times on the regular Tour, but today he is no
longer exempt on the Senior tour, and he has trouble getting
sponsors' exemptions. He pays the bills by doing corporate
outings, two of which are scheduled in San Diego during the
"You know, I don't know whatever happened to that tee," he says,
laughing. "That's life."
Will the USGA Fight Back?
In case you hadn't noticed, the last three USGA Opens produced
record scores. Juli Inkster began the cycle at last year's
Women's Open at Old Waverly in West Point, Miss., where her
16-under-par 272 was six strokes more under par than any other
winning performance in the championship's history. Tiger Woods's
12-under 272 at Pebble Beach was four strokes more under par than
any previous winner's. Finally, Hale Irwin's 17-under 267 at
Saucon Valley two weeks ago broke the Senior Open records for
total score and for number of strokes under par by three.
Has the USGA, which favors a winning score right around par, gone
soft? No, says Tim Moraghan, director of agronomy for USGA
championships. In the case of the Women's and Senior Opens, the
biggest reason for the low scoring was heavy rain on the eve of
the tournaments. "There was no wind at either event, and the
players were throwing darts in there," he says. "We got it just
right at Pebble Beach, because the next best score to Tiger's was
three over. Also, as amazing as Tiger was, he got some breaks
with the weather."
Moraghan says that because "untimely rain is the one thing we
can't control," he would like to see the USGA cover the greens
with portable tents at future Opens. "But as far as how we set
up the courses, we don't have any regrets," he says. As for the
immediate future--the Women's Open next week at the Merit Club
near Chicago, the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa and
the next Senior Open, at Salem Country Club in Peabody,
Mass.--Moraghan says the USGA intends to stick to its game plan.
COLOR PHOTO: GERRY CRANHAM Sanders knew he had missed the moment he struck the fatal three-footer.
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: MICHAEL QUARTERMAN
COLOR PHOTO: JIM LUZZI
COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES
Since World War II they're the only golfers to win the British
Open twice at the same course. Ballesteros was victorious at
Royal Lytham in 1979 and '88, Faldo at Muirfield in '87 and '92,
Nicklaus at St. Andrews in '70 and '78, and Thomson at Royal
Birkdale in '54 and '65.
If you had to choose today, who would get your vote for LPGA
player of the year: Juli Inkster, Annika Sorenstam or Karrie
--Based on 2,314 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will Tiger Woods win next week's British Open and
complete his career Grand Slam? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Among the 26.4 million golfers in the U.S., males outnumber
females 4 to 1. The ratio in most national championships is
closer to 9 to 1. Here are the number of entrants in the last two
years for major events in the U.S. and Great Britain.
U.S. Open 7,889 8,445
U.S. Women's Open 844 953
Men's British Open 2,222 2,465
Women's British Open 247 273
U.S. Boys' Junior 4,508 3,692
U.S. Girls' Junior 792 759
U.S. Amateur 7,920 7,124
U.S. Women's Amateur 676 682
If the weather is calm at St. Andrews during the British Open,
the first 59 in the history of the majors is in the offing, and
Curtis Strange's course record of 10-under 62 will surely fall.
Two weeks ago the European tour scorched Ballybunion during the
three windless rounds at the Irish Open, and the Old Course has
even fewer defenses.
Ina Kim, Encino, Calif.
Hana Kim, Encino, Calif.
Ina, 16, and her sister Hana, 17, came in first and second,
respectively, at the AJGA Las Vegas Founders' Legacy on June 15.
Ina, who has since won AJGA events in Edmond, Okla., and Rancho
Mirage, Calif., shot a nine-under 207, leaving her five shots
ahead of her sister. Hana fired a final-round eight-under 64 at
Las Vegas, which tied the AJGA girls' record for strokes under
par and set the women's course record. Hana, who graduated from
Brentwood High and will play for Northwestern, took the AJGA's
Arizona Classic in April. Last November, Hana and Ina finished
1-2, respectively, at the high school sectional championship for
Southern California, the state's largest section, with more than
Marc Turnesa, Rockville Center, N.Y.
Turnesa, 22, a third-generation member of one of golf's most
celebrated families, won the Long Island Amateur, topping Jesse
Fitzgerald of Sayville 3 and 2. Two weeks later Turnesa
finished second at the Ike, the Metropolitan Golf Association's
stroke-play championship, a shot behind Ken Macdonald of Glen
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces
Don't look for Earl Woods at St. Andrews. "Scotland is for white
people," Tiger's father was quoted as saying in 1999. Earl, 68,
has offered many such politically incorrect opinions over the
years. Here are some of Earl's most controversial statements, and
our view of them then and now.
"Let the legend grow." 1994
THEN: Give me a break.
NOW: The legend is still growing.
"My son will win 14 major championships." 1995
THEN: The U.S. Amateur doesn't count. He hasn't won anything yet.
NOW: You can get even money on 14.
"That's chump change. You'll make it back in one year." 1996, to
Nike chairman Phil Knight after Tiger signed a $40 million
THEN: Delusions of grandeur.
NOW: Tiger will renew the contract for more than twice that.
"I'm turning Tiger's childhood home in Cypress into a national
historical monument, a Tiger Woods Museum similar to Nixon
THEN: The height of hubris.
NOW: It'll be bigger than the World Golf Village.
"These guys have not seen his A game yet. I have, and it's
THEN: That's worse than Tiger saying he won with his C game.
NOW: He wins the Masters by 12 strokes and the U.S. Open by 15.
"Tiger is a better person than he is a golfer." 1997
THEN: What any doting dad would say.
NOW: How would we know?
"Tiger will do more than any man in history to change the course
of humanity. The world is just getting a taste of his power."
THEN: The mother of all grand pronouncements. Earl will be
ridiculed forever for this one.
NOW: We don't know about changing humanity, but Tiger is the most
popular sports figure in the world--maybe the most popular figure,
"You should see him run. Tiger's a perfect 400-meter runner. He'd
kick Michael Johnson's ass." 1996
THEN: Get serious.
NOW: Get serious.