More important, Maddux knew the Braves let their pitchers play unlimited golf. On his first day of spring training with Atlanta, he teed it up with Avery, Glavine and Smoltz. During the season Maddux typically plays once or twice a week—"Augusta, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Oakmont," he rattles off—with one or more of his rotation mates. He admits to nothing lower than a seven handicap.
"I'd say that's a beefed-up handicap," Smoltz says. "He's not going to get himself involved in anything he can't win. He knows his limitations. It's just like his pitching. He makes you feel like he doesn't have a game, just to set you up."
"Golf," Maddux says, "is not something I work hard at. Golf is fun. That's the only reason I play. When I make decisions on the mound, I have a lot more information than I do on the golf course."
Late in February the Vegas heat was beginning to rise, and it felt strange to Maddux. He hadn't been there for the dawning of spring since he was in high school. On the nights when he should have been making the baseball obediently dance and dip the way no one else alive can, he usually could be found in front of the television with Kathy, watching a rented movie.
"That's one of the things I liked about him from the beginning," she said. "We'd both rather rent a movie than go out. We call ourselves Siskel and Ebert."
Other times, when he ventured to the Strip, he would stroll the marble-and-cobblestone floor of The Forum Shops at Caesars and marvel at the expense of it all: the Roman statues, the simulated Italian piazza, the hand-painted ceiling made to look like a blue sky in which the clouds actually move. Nate Luck, the most genuine article in there, blended anonymously with the herds of tourists and gaped at how even the ashtrays looked positively opulent. It all was, of course, like golf.
Said Maddux, "It's the Augusta of shopping malls."