Troubled Tour Stop
Is Texas Toast?
To be successful these days, a PGA Tour event must have three
things: a title sponsor who puts up a big purse, good dates and
Tiger Woods. The venerable Texas Open has none of the above,
which makes tournament organizers fearful that the 70th Open, won
by Justin Leonard on Sunday, could be one of the last.
The Texas Open, first played in 1922 and the third-oldest
nonmajor on Tour, counts Walter Hagen and Byron Nelson among its
champions. But in the years following World War II it was
eclipsed by three bigger events in Texas and by the late '80s was
being played late in the season. In 1999 the Tour moved the Texas
Open to the worst spot on the schedule--opposite the Ryder Cup.
Officials at Golf San Antonio, the organization that has put on
the tournament since 1938, had hoped to get better dates in 2001,
but when next year's schedule was announced in April, the Texas
Open was again opposite the biggest event in golf.
That was enough to cause the Westin Hotel Corporation, the Texas
Open's title sponsor since 1998, to greatly reduce its role in
'01. As for Woods, forgetaboutit. Tiger has teed it up in San
Antonio only once, in his rookie year, 1996, when he finished
third while making a late-season bid to play his way onto the
Tour and avoid Q school.
Golf San Antonio has contracts with the Tour that run through the
2002 season, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the
tournament will last that long. "The Tour has asked us to advise
it on our ability to pull off the tournament over the next two
years," says Reid Meyers, a member of the Golf San Antonio
Tournament director Tony Piazzi says that when the '01 schedule
was released, "we talked long, loud and frequently [to the Tour].
We certainly expressed our frustration and concern." Texas Open
officials were particularly disappointed to see a new event run
by the Tour, the SEI Pennsylvania Classic, receive unconflicted
dates while they did not.
In the end, the fate of the Texas Open will be determined by its
financial viability. "We believe in history and tradition, and
all things being equal, we would like to see this event
continue," says Henry Hughes, the Tour's senior vice president
and chief of operations. "But sound business must prevail. We're
well aware of the troubles with Westin, and we're trying to
assist the tournament in finding a new sponsor."
All of which sounds depressingly familiar to those who have seen
such death spirals before. "When the Tour is looking to go
somewhere else, you feel bad for tournaments like the Texas Open
or the CVS Charity Classic," says Tour veteran Billy Andrade, who
grew up in Rhode Island and saw the Classic, one of the region's
Tour stops, shut down in 1998 after a 33-year run because of poor
dates and the lack of a sponsor. "You read in the paper that the
Tour wants to go to St. Louis or Philadelphia and that Seattle is
in the wings, and you feel bad for the area that loses its
tournament. I know how it feels from firsthand experience."
Piazzi says the Texas Open will fight to stay alive. "We're going
to get a new title sponsor, get a good purse, get the TV time and
go to the Tour and say, 'Now, what dates can you give us?'"
The answer may say more about the Tour's notion of "sound
business" than the traditionalists at the Texas Open can bear to
hear. --Art Stricklin
COLOR PHOTO: JOE MITCHELL/AP Leonard won the 70th, and likely the last, Texas Open by five shots.
COLOR PHOTO: GREGORY M. FOTA
COLOR PHOTO: STEVE SPATAFORE
COLOR PHOTO: EVANGELOS DOUSMANIS
The R&A's decision to break ranks with the USGA and not test
clubs for their springlike effect might seem like a big deal, but
it actually amounts to nothing more than maintaining the status
quo. If the R&A and the USGA were serious about limiting tour
professionals' distance, the organizations would stop tinkering
with the rules governing clubs and instead focus their efforts on
the real culprit: the ball.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only people to win an individual Olympic gold medal
in golf, which was contested at the 1900 and '04 Games. Abbott
was the women's winner in '00. Lyon and Sands took the '00 and
'04 men's titles, respectively.
Should golf be an Olympic sport?
--Based on 7,440 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Who should be the Senior tour player of the year:
Bruce Fleisher, Hale Irwin or Larry Nelson?
Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for a PRODIGY
Babe not in the woods, early bird, freak, fresh fruit, golden
child, Little Man Tate, power pod, pup, pure, tabula rasa, Yo-Yo
Fleisher is trying to become the third man to win back-to-back
Senior tour player of the year awards, but he's getting a run
for his money from Irwin (the 1997 and '98 winner) and Nelson.
Here's how they stack up.
Fleisher Irwin Nelson
Starts 26 20 26
Wins 4 3 5
Top 5s 14 10 15
Money (millions) $2.17 $1.88 $2.27
Scoring 69.05 69.13 69.03
All-around Rank 1 4 2
Tom Stitt, Easton, Pa.
Stitt, 57, a lawyer, won the championship of Easton's
Northampton Country Club for the 13th time, including at least
one title in each of the last five decades. Stitt, who earned
his first crown in 1968 and won six in a row from '78 to '83,
beat Mike Moran, a 19-year-old from Palmerton, Pa., 4 and 3 in
this year's final.
Christine Fernandez, Henderson, Nev.
Christine, 16, became the youngest champion in the history of
the Nevada Women's Amateur, winning by 18 strokes with a
one-under 215 at Painted Desert Golf Club in Las Vegas.
Christine, whose 18-year-old sister, Mary Jan, took the same
event in 1998 and '99, is also the state Class 4A high school
Adam Fuchs, Plainview, N.Y.
Fuchs, a sophomore at Binghamton University, was victorious in
his first three college events this season, the Elmira, the
Cornell-Colgate and the Yale invitationals, and had led the
Bearcats to seven consecutive team tournament titles.
Binghamton's 1999-2000 athlete of the year, he won three
tournaments last season.
Submit Faces candidates to golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.