Many people think a lack of star power hurts the Senior tour, but
the lack of star power is actually an asset. There's a perception
that if Tiger Woods isn't in the field at a PGA Tour event, the
tournament is second-rate. No one thinks that of a Senior tour
event if Hale Irwin doesn't play.
Although Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer still draw good-sized
galleries, less glamorous players, like Bruce Fleisher, Tom Kite,
Gil Morgan and Larry Nelson, are the strength of the Senior tour,
and more of them are on the way. Rookies Bruce Lietzke and Bobby
Wadkins have won this season. Don Pooley debuted two weeks ago.
Fuzzy Zoeller turns 50 on Nov. 11, Tom Purtzer on Dec. 5. Next
year Ben Crenshaw, Gary Koch and Wayne Levi become eligible,
followed by Andy Bean, Jay Haas, Jerry Pate, Craig Stadler and
D.A. Weibring in 2003.
No one is likely to dominate in this competitive mix the way
Irwin did from 1995 to 2000, when he won a Senior-tour-record 29
times, but if one player is likely to have more success than the
others, he would be Mark McCumber, who'll make his Senior debut
at this week's Vantage Championship at Tanglewood Park in
Clemmons, N.C. McCumber was playing the best golf of his career
in the mid-'90s when he was sidelined by injuries. Now that he's
healthy, he could sneak up on the Seniors like a stealth bomber.
"I understand the sports world is fickle," says McCumber, who has
been working as a course designer as well as a golf commentator
for Fox. "The fans forget about you three weeks later. Mark
O'Meara was player of the year three years ago. Does his name
ever come up now? It's been fun to be a dad, a husband and a
course designer, but I'm looking forward to testing myself
McCumber won 10 times on Tour, including the 1994 Tour
Championship. His ailments began in '96, when he finished second
in the Honda Classic and the British Open despite being unable to
lift clubs out of his bag with his right arm because of a
dislocated rotator cuff in his shoulder. He underwent surgery
that August, two days after the PGA, passing up the Tour
Championship so he'd be fully recovered the following spring--he
thought. "Little did I know the next four years would be a
fiasco," he says.
In January 1997 McCumber ruptured a disk in his neck during
rehab. Then he learned he had a virus in his spinal cord. "For
eight months every step I took sent an electrical shock up and
down my spine," McCumber says. "Walking across a room exhausted
me. I was convinced I would never play golf again. I wasn't sure
I'd walk again."
His condition slowly improved, to the point where he could swing
a club, but he played in only 11 tournaments over the next three
years. When recurring neck pain forced him to withdraw from the
Buick Open last month, he went back to his doctor. The good news:
His spinal cord was back to normal. The bad news: He had ruptured
the same disk and needed a three-week rest.
Today, except for numbness in his left hand and sensitivity in
his legs, both hangovers from the virus, McCumber feels fine. "I
hope I can elevate my game," he says. "It's a tough league. With
all these good players, it won't be easy for a guy to reel off
six or eight victories anymore. Winning three or four times will
be a big deal. I want to be a contending player, but I'm not sure
what my abilities are."
Beginning this week, we will find out.
NCAA Versus USGA
Two Rulers, Two Rules
With great fanfare, the USGA announced on July 2 that in 2002
golfers will be able to enter professional qualifying tournaments
(Q school) without losing their amateur status. Glossed over was
the fact that should a college player take advantage of this
generous-sounding opportunity to test the pro waters, he would be
in violation of NCAA rules. "Our views on Q school haven't
changed since 1990," says NCAA spokesperson Jane Jankowski. "If a
student-athlete attempts to professionalize, he or she will lose
his or her eligibility."
Confused? Not as much as the nation's 11,000 college golfers and
their coaches. "I wasn't expecting the NCAA to remain status
quo," says Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler. "Our kids know the
rules and will have to abide by them. I'm more worried about the
kids we're trying to recruit. All this does is add to the
confusion about what we can and cannot tell high school kids."
USGA executive director David Fay says he discussed his
organization's changes with the NCAA and anticipated that the
NCAA also would revise its rules. Jankowski says Fay should not
have assumed any such thing. "Just because the USGA made a change
doesn't mean that the NCAA will too," she says. "The NCAA's
membership committee has no proposals in the pipeline that will
be specific to the USGA."
Because there are now two sets of guidelines, Fay says his
"greatest concern is that the athlete may be trapped in the
NCAA." With more golfers leaving college early, Fay says the NCAA
should be realistic and "seriously consider rewriting its amateur
In April 2002 the NCAA may vote on a revision affirming the
eligibility of a golfer who played professionally before college,
provided that golfer abides by NCAA rules while a
student-athlete. Under USGA rules, such a golfer loses his
The end result could be that a future U.S. Amateur champion might
be ineligible to play in the NCAAs, while an NCAA champ might be
ineligible for the U.S. Amateur. Says Linda Vollstedt, who
recently retired after 21 years as women's coach at Arizona
State, "This needs to be resolved before it gets out of hand."
Sounds as if it already has. --Yi-Wyn Yen
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BURGESS McCumber peaked in 1994, when he won the Tour Championship at 43.
COLOR PHOTO: MORRU GASH/AP
Although some of the six newsmakers listed below had their 15
minutes of fame not much more than 15 minutes ago, plenty has
changed for all of them, which in today's world of disposable
stars is not so surprising. Here's what these former bright
lights, ranked by degree of flameout, are up to today.
Jenny Chuasiriporn (above)
She was the darling of the 1998 U.S. Women's Open, in which she
lost a 20-hole playoff to Se Ri Pak. Instead of cashing in on
her fame, Chuasiriporn returned to Duke for her senior year,
helping the Blue Devils win the 1999 NCAA title. She has turned
pro, but her ambition to play on the LPGA tour has gone
unfulfilled. This year Chuasiriporn, 24, won a total of $1,146
in 11 Futures tour events, and she has decided to take a pass on
LPGA Q school.
A farmer from Azle, Texas, who caught lightning in a bottle when
he earned a Senior tour card in the fall of 1995 and opened the
'96 season playing in sneakers and using homemade clubs. Landers
lasted two years on tour, winning $158,240--enough to pay off
the mortgage on his house. He had heart surgery in '98 and, at
57, is back on the farm with his wife, Freddie.
His victory at age 30 in the 1999 British Open--the tournament
Jean Van de Velde threw away--was a happy accident. He has been
a nonfactor since, with seven top 10 finishes on the European
tour in two years.
He lost the '98 British Open to Mark O'Meara in a playoff after
making a brilliant sand save on the 72nd hole. Watts, 35, is no
longer exempt on the PGA Tour. He finished 133rd on the money
list last year, then missed at Q school by a stroke. Last
January he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum. Watts has
played on sponsors' exemptions this year and ranks 94th in
earnings in 13 starts.
One golf writer, a fellow Scot, predicted that Sherry, the 1995
British Amateur champ, would be more successful as a pro than
Tiger Woods. Not quite. The 6'8" Sherry had an amazing, but
brief, run in '95. In the weeks following the Amateur he
finished fourth in the Scottish Open, was low amateur at the
British Open (four shots better than Woods) and led Great
Britain and Ireland to victory in the Walker Cup. These days he
plays the odd Challenge tour (Europe's version of the Buy.com
tour) event but, at 27, has no status on any pro circuit.
While a sophomore at Florida, he was 2 up on Woods with three
holes to play in the final of the '96 U.S. Amateur. Woods
rallied to win the title for a third straight year, and Scott
lost his putting touch and went into a two-year funk. Married to
Kristi Hommel, his caddie at the '96 Amateur, Scott, 24, plays
on the Canadian tour, on which in June he won for the first time
as a pro.
Europe will win the Ryder Cup. All of the elements for success
in sports--motivation (payback for Brookline), pressure on the
other guys (the U.S. is a 1 1/2-to-1 favorite), home course
advantage (Europe is 2-1 at the Belfry), a chance to overcome
adversity (Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood are nursing injuries)
and a complacent opponent (Do some of the top American players
care?)--are lined up in the Europeans' favor.
What do these players have in common?
They're the only golfers under 22 to win an LPGA event
this year. Delasin won the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic at age 20,
Gloria the Williams Championship at 21 and Grace the Office Depot
Should the PGA Tour make 18 a minimum age for membership?
--Based on 3,542 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Phil Mickelson's wife, Amy, is expecting the
couple's second child in mid-October. Phil says that if Amy
delivers early, he might not play in the Ryder Cup. Should Phil
play or stay with Amy if the baby arrives ahead of schedule?
Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
Synonyms for: Senior tour pro
Ball hawker, creaker, fisherman, geezer, gramps, grumpy old man,
O.F., Q-tip, raisin, shuffler, Willard
Four rookies have won this year, making the class of 2001 the
Tour's winningest since 1987. Here are the contenders for rookie
of the year.
STARTS TOP FINISH $ RANK
Retief Goosen 10 1 40th
Charles Howell 16 2 44th
Jose Coceres 14 1 56th
David Gossett 9 1 64th
Garrett Willis 27 1 66th
Paul Gow 24 2 73rd
Geoff Ogilvy 19 T2 83rd
M. Jimenez 15 T3 89th
P. Ulrik-Johansson 23 T6 110th