The Straight Story
Steady and stolid J.P. Hayes mowed 'em down at the John Deere
The summertime belongs to the major championships and the
superstars who obsess over them, but every now and then a guy
like J.P. Hayes comes along to remind us that the golf calendar
is a little more inclusive than that. Hayes, a soft-spoken,
short-hitting 37-year-old who trudged through nine straight Q
schools from 1989 to '97, delivered a star-making performance
last week at the unglamorous John Deere Classic in
out-of-the-way Silvis, Ill.
Hayes made only one bogey on his way to a tournament-record
score of 22 under par--and that was during his second-round 61,
a course record at the TPC at Deere Run. Long revered for his
buttery putting stroke, he put on a ball-striking clinic that
would have short-circuited Iron Byron. Tied for the 54-hole lead
with Robert Gamez, Hayes blew away his would-be competition on
Sunday by hitting 13 fairways and 17 greens on his way to a
four-under 67 and a four-stroke victory over Gamez. (For the
week Hayes led the field in Guns N' Roses at 84.7% and was
seventh in driving accuracy, at 85.7%.) "It was a pretty steady
week," Hayes, an Appleton, Wis., native, said on Sunday night,
with typical Midwestern understatement.
In fact Hayes has long been one of the most unpredictable
performers on the PGA Tour. In June 1998 he arrived at
Westchester Country Club for the Buick Classic having broken 70
only twice all year. Then he went 12 under and beat Jim Furyk in
a playoff for the first victory of his career. Since that
breakthrough Hayes has puttered along, finishing 89th, 57th and
82nd on the money list the past three seasons. This year he got
a little worse in an effort to get better, spending the
off-season smoothing the rough edges of his backswing. Hayes
missed the cut in six of his first nine tournaments, fighting
his new swing and tinkering with different equipment. It wasn't
until early July that he had his old putter, old irons and old
driver back in the bag. "It felt like we were getting the band
back together," he says.
Hayes began to find his rhythm three weeks ago at the Greater
Milwaukee Open, where a front-nine 28 on Saturday helped propel
him to a tie for fifth. (That made the son of John [Jumbo]
Hayes, who was the 1953 Wisconsin Amateur champ, low Badger for
a third straight year.) His explosive nine holes was a sneak
peek of what was to come at the Deere.
"J.P. has those amazing soft hands on the greens, and when he's
swinging at it well, he's awesome to watch," says 1999 Kemper
Open champ Rich Beem, Hayes's neighbor in El Paso and a fellow
member of the El Paso Country Club. (Their standing bet is $50
Hayes's performance at the Deere should have been celebrated as
one of the most dynamic of the season, but instead it was
accompanied by hand-wringing about the quality of the field so
common to small-market tournaments. None of the World Ranking's
Top 50 Learjetted to the Quad Cities, but the big names were
hardly forgotten. At his Sunday-night press conference Hayes was
asked, "Do you dream of being Tiger?" The John Deere Classic
champ stammered, "I don't do a whole lot of that.... Maybe I
need to do more dreaming."
An avid fly-fisherman and the proud father of 10-month-old Hank,
Hayes, an "average person outside of golf," is doing pretty well
as is. It's nice to know that even in the go-go era of Tiger
Woods, there's still room for a J.P. Hayes.
The players' lack of support for their British Open is
indicative of what's wrong with the bloated cash grab that is
the Senior tour. To travel to the linksland of Northern Ireland
demands a love of the game, which explains why so many Seniors
opted for the lucre of the FleetBoston Classic.
Charles Howell has ended his Tony Navarro experiment, announcing
last week that he has hired a new full-time caddie, Brendan
McCartain, while Navarro continues on with Greg Norman. A native
of England, McCartain was on the bag for Jose Maria Olazabal's
victory at the 1999 Masters.
J.P. Hayes's secret to success at the John Deere Classic? He
drank a 16-ounce bottle of water on every hole. On Saturday he
doubled up on one hole, downing 19 bottles for the day.
What do you do for fun in the Quad Cities? A startling number of
Tour players caught the new movie Austin Powers in Goldmember.
"It was a bit overproduced," says the Tour's resident Ebert, Joe
Ogilvie. "Actually, it sucked."
From the Fish out of Water Dept.: Boo Weekley was spotted at a
Beach Boys concert on Tuesday of John Deere Week. "They're going
to have to reconcrete the floor because I tore it up," says
Weekley, who presumably does all his dancing in tennis shoes.
At last week's Big Apple Classic, Lorie Kane didn't wear a belt,
Johanna Head had her hair straightened, and a number of players
were seen with their shirts untucked. The new fashion trends can
be traced to the second of five so-called professional
development seminars that the LPGA is holding as part of its
Five Points of Celebrity program. The LPGA put on this optional
seminar to help players "create, build upon and capitalize on
their own unique, personalized style," according to the LPGA
website. More than 60 players showed up on Tuesday afternoon in
the clubhouse at Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, N.Y., to
listen to a panel of speakers that included Vera Wang, the
internationally renowned fashion designer and wedding-dress
maker to the stars; John Barrett, owner of the John Barrett
Salon atop Bergdorf Goodman in New York City; and Hal
Rubenstein, fashion features editor for INSTYLE magazine. The
day's most interesting advice? Kane asked about the best way to
deemphasize an ample bosom, and Rubinstein suggested she show
more cleavage. "I'm shocked but appreciative," Kane said
VOTE AT GOLFONLINE.COM
THIS WEEK: Lanny Wadkins made his debut as CBS's lead analyst at
the John Deere Classic. Was he an improvement over his
predecessor, Ken Venturi?
LAST WEEK: Will Tiger Woods use his loss at the British Open as
motivation to win the PGA, or will he be out of gas in the year's
Will win the PGA....65% Won't....35%
--Based on 5,288 responses to our informal survey.
COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN J. CARRERA/AP DEAD EYE Hayes's strong putting was outdone by his ball striking.
COLOR PHOTO: BRAD RICKERBY/REUTERS (LEFT) DRESS SUCCESS Wang had some sharp ideas for the LPGA.