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Out to Pasture
Tim Rosaforte
July 10, 1995
Until Ken Green nearly won the FedEx Classic, that's where he, Jodie Mudd and Ian Baker-Finch seemed to be headed
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July 10, 1995

Out To Pasture

Until Ken Green nearly won the FedEx Classic, that's where he, Jodie Mudd and Ian Baker-Finch seemed to be headed

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He had to withdraw from the BellSouth Classic in May because he didn't have the funds to make the trip to Atlanta. He entered but did not show up at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic the following week in Irving, Texas, for the same reason. At Westchester Country Club for the Buick Classic in May he missed the cut. He had also withdrawn from three other tournaments after having poor opening rounds. His game was in such horrible shape that, at one point, he began using a 26-inch putter that belonged to his son Hunter.

With a reputation for being abrasive and abrupt on the way up, Green hasn't met too many friends on his way down. He is one of the most fined players in PGA Tour history, so there isn't much sympathy coming from Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra, Fla. His manager and attorney, Kevin Richardson, rarely gets a phone call for Green to do a corporate outing.

"I've got a piece of land, and I've got a sparsely furnished house in Danbury, that's it," Green said before heading to Memphis. "That's all I've got left. I'm so far in the hole, it's scary."

Green needs to make $30,000 a month to cover his alimony and child-support payments plus his travel and caddie expenses. At one point this year, he had to tap into a self-employment retirement fund. But in early June, the week after a judge found him not guilty of the battery charge in Palm Beach county court, Green made his first cut in six weeks and had his best finish of the year to that point, 38th, in the Kemper Open. He picked up $6,160, which like all of his paychecks these days, had 55% garnisheed by the state of Florida for his child support and alimony debts. "It's quite a circle I've traveled," says Green.

Now 36, Green, the player Johnny Miller once said was the best fairway-wood player in the game, is facing the possibility of having to make a return trip to the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, which will be held this year in November at the club he used to represent, Bear Lakes in West Palm Beach. The problem is, Green is persona non grata at Bear Lakes, having had a falling-out with the club's management in 1994. "I don't know if they'll let me play," says Green. "I may be the only guy going back to Tour school who won't be allowed on the 1st tee."

Baker-Finch doesn't have to worry about the qualifying school. He got a 10-year exemption for his victory at the British Open. But he has other demons to battle.

When he shot 64-66 on that 1991 weekend at Royal Birkdale, outputting everybody on spongy greens, Baker-Finch figured his career was set. He was 30, good-looking, always smiling, very marketable. And then everything started to go horribly wrong.

One theory is that Baker-Finch tried to capitalize on his Open victory by chasing appearance dollars all over the globe in tournaments and outings arranged for him by International Management Group. "That's one theory everyone always mentions," Baker-Finch says. "I actually did a lot less than I could have done."

More likely, Baker-Finch's troubles began when he tried to change his swing in an effort to get more distance off the tee. By winning the British Open, the Australian suddenly found himself getting paired frequently with stars such as Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Ian Woosnam, all big hitters. Baker-Finch's great strength had always been consistency, but now he wanted to stay with the long hitters and win more majors, and he felt he couldn't do that when he was always hitting his second shot on 440-yard par-4s from the 200-yard marker.

But instead of becoming longer, Baker-Finch became erratic. He went from hitting 75.4% of his fairways in 1991 to 48% this year. "I tried to change my swing plane, make my swing better," he says. "In hindsight, I wish I had left it the way it was."

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