Limbaugh Plays Pebble Beach
The Tour's Mr. Right
While the U.S. remains divided in the wake of a disputed
presidential election, there is solidarity on the PGA Tour, on
which a bunch of mostly rich white guys craving tax relief are
thrilled to have a conservative Administration for which Ben
Crenshaw plays Arnie to Dubya's Ike. That explains why radio
personality Rush Limbaugh felt right at home during the AT&T
Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The Monterey Peninsula may have been a den of leftist hedonism in
the '60s, and Al Gore easily carried California in November. But
most of the fans who followed Limbaugh last week as he strode the
fairways with friend and pro partner Fuzzy Zoeller definitely
weren't candidates for libosuction--the process Limbaugh threatens
to administer to callers who he thinks exhibit liberal
Proud to call themselves dittoheads, many of the fans in
Limbaugh's gallery wore red-white-and-blue outfits and carried
books for their hero to sign. Knowing that he was among his
people, Limbaugh played the magnanimous leader. "Watch out on the
left," Limbaugh, an 18 handicapper, said with mock solemnity
before hitting his opening drive in the second round. After a
good shot (there weren't many for Limbaugh and Zoeller, who
missed the Pro-Am cut) Limbaugh would pop a cigar the size of a
redwood into his mouth and open his arms, pontifflike, to
acknowledge the multitudes, who called out things like "God bless
The Tour pros were only slightly less enraptured. "I didn't know
Rush was playing," gushed Mark O'Meara. "If I see him, I'm going
to introduce myself." Said Tom Pernice, who played the first
three rounds with Limbaugh and had him autograph a book and pose
for a photo, "Ninety-nine percent of us are true believers of
Believe it or not, there used to be a Dem or three on Tour.
Commissioner Tim Finchem was a deputy adviser for President Jimmy
Carter's economic office in the late '70s. Scott Simpson voted
for George McGovern in '72, as did Tom Watson. But they've all
changed their stripes. Finchem hints that he voted for George W.
Bush. Simpson proudly admits he voted for Bush, while Watson says
of his vote for McGovern, "I was an idiot."
Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods keeps his political leanings
private, as does Zoeller, who deflected questions about his
relationship with Limbaugh by saying, "I have yet to figure out
politics." Others prefer to play dumb. David Berganio, a Hispanic
who grew up in East Los Angeles in a family that sometimes lived
on welfare, played a practice round with Limbaugh last week and
said that politics were never discussed. "I don't really know his
positions on things," Berganio said.
To Limbaugh, whose only previous pro-am appearances came at last
year's Bob Hope Classic and the Greater Greensboro Classic, guys
who play golf for pay are role models. "This is an escape from
politics, but it's nice to be among people of like mind," he
said. "The Tour is entrepreneurism on parade. This is everyone
for himself. Nothing is guaranteed. That's what conservatives and
libertarians identify with."
Not everyone at the AT&T did the Limbaugh rock. Bill Murray,
whose former Saturday Night Live colleague Al Franken wrote the
best-seller Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, had his own take.
"I find Rush amusing and a good entertainer," Murray said. "Now,
if you listen to his politics, you would think that he had maybe
not necessarily sniffed glue as a teenager, but maybe sniffed
glue as an adult. But I don't think he takes himself too
Senior Tour on TV
CNBC a Switch For the Better
This year CNBC replaced ESPN as the television home of the Senior
tour. ESPN had covered the tour since 1990, but after only two
telecasts CNBC looks like an upgrade. New camera angles and
cleaner graphics give CNBC a sleeker look, and additional
microphones bring viewers closer to the action. Also, although
the seven announcers, anchored by Mark Rolfing, are still getting
used to one another, they're more informed and energetic than the
listless Jim Kelly-led ESPN crew.
That said, CNBC can improve. Rolfing is informative, but with his
thin voice and excitable manner, he lacks the heft to be a top
anchor. CNBC president Bill Bolster is considering bringing in
guest anchors such as NBC's Matt Lauer and Tim Russert. "Sort of
like an interesting playing partner during a round," says
Lead analyst Brian Barnes, a 55-year-old Englishman, has the
tools to become a star in the booth: a solid playing background
and a cradle-of-the-game accent. Before phlebitis and arthritis
ended his playing career last season, Barnes was well known for
his sense of mischief. So far, though, he has said little that's
playful or insightful. Also off to a tentative start is teaching
pro Jim McLean. A freewheeling McLean could be as good as Johnny
Miller, but he needs to take off the headcover and let it rip.
Another problem is CNBC's bottom-of-the-screen scoring ticker. It
ticks me off. I know the ticker is a staple of CNBC's financial
coverage, but golf scores don't have the import or urgency of
The crucial question, however, is CNBC's lack of live coverage.
Will enough of the network's affluent viewers watch tape-delayed
telecasts to rejuvenate the tour's sagging ratings? The hunch
here is they will.
COLOR PHOTO: ERIC RISBERG/AP Limbaugh was a hit at Pebble Beach, with the crowds and inside the locker room.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID GONZALES
COLOR PHOTO: W.T. HARRINGTON
COLOR PHOTO: JIM LUZZI
PHIL MICKELSON made the right play at 18 on Sunday. Going for the
oceanside green with a driver from 257 yards might seem like a
poor decision when, if he had laid up, a wedge and a one-putt
would have produced a tying birdie. However, the skill and
confidence of today's top players makes what was once foolhardy a
worthy gamble. Mickelson is a part of the new order. He simply
failed to pull off the shot.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only active players born in San Diego who've won
their hometown tournament, the Buick Invitational.
Should alcohol be banned at Tour events?
--Based on 8,411 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Whose autograph would you most cherish: Ben
Hogan's, Bobby Jones's, Jack Nicklaus's, Arnold Palmer's or
Tiger Woods's? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Synonyms for: A Bumpy Green
Almond Roca, beauty marks, brickyard, bumper pool, cemetery,
crater face, goose bumps, granola, ground zero, lava field,
Lombard Street, minefield, Pebble Beach, pegboard, pinball, Rice
Krispies, rock garden, Sea of Tranquility, waffle iron.
If Tiger Woods fails to win this week's Buick Invitational, he
will have gone seven Tour starts without a victory, matching the
third-longest dry spell of his pro career. Here are Woods's other
longest winless streaks.
FROM TO STARTS
'97 Western '98 BellSouth 16
'98 BellSouth '99 Buick Invit. 14
'99 Buick Invit. '99 Memorial 7
'97 Mercedes '97 Masters 5
'97 Nelson '97 Western 4
Hilary Homeyer, Edina, Minn.
Homeyer, a senior at Stanford, led wire to wire while winning the
South Atlantic Ladies Amateur at Oceanside Country Club in Ormond
Beach, Fla. An honorable mention All-America last spring for the
Cardinal, Homeyer shot a one-over 289 to defeat runners-up Martha
Leach and Aree Wongluekiet by six strokes.
Rick Woulfe, Fort Lauderdale
Woulfe, 51, won the Senior Division of the Dixie Amateur at Palm
Aire Country Club in Pompano Beach, Fla. Woulfe, the president of
the Florida State Golf Association, beat defending champ Rick Ten
Broeck of Chicago 4 and 3 in the final. Woulfe prevailed in the
Open Division in '92, defeating a 16-year-old Tiger Woods in the
Nannette Hill, Pelham Manor, N.Y.
Nannette, 13, took the women's club championship at Pelham
Country Club, downing Kazuko Uchida 5 and 4 in the final. Now an
eighth-grader at Pelham Middle School, Hill last summer became
the youngest ever to win the New York junior girls' championship,
which is open to golfers 18 and under.
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