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No Bang For the Buck
Tim Rosaforte
August 14, 1995
Organizers of the $3.65 million World Championship of Golf learned a costly lesson about the hazards of match play
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August 14, 1995

No Bang For The Buck

Organizers of the $3.65 million World Championship of Golf learned a costly lesson about the hazards of match play

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The bean counters at Andersen Consulting are probably scratching their heads over this one. They put up a $3.65 million purse, call it the World Championship of Golf, and what do they get? Barry Lane versus Massy Kuramoto and David Frost versus Mark McCumber. Rarely has so much been paid for so little marquee.

This is precisely why the PGA Championship went to medal play in 1958. Although wonderful theater in the Ryder Cup, match play is too unpredictable, so unpredictable that it's TV's worst nightmare. One bad round, and the big name is gone. And what are you left with? In the case of the Andersen event, the world's 14th-(McCumber), 15th-(Frost), 49th-(Lane) and 111th-ranked (Kuramoto) players.

And exactly how did tournament organizers get into this pickle'? The 32-player held was divided into four geographic divisions—the U.S., Europe, Japan and the Rest of the World—and the winner of each bracket advanced to the Dec. 30-31 finals at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. Those dates, more than anything, persuaded eight of the top 10 players in the Sony Rankings to skip the tournament. A $1 million payoff for winning five matches wasn't enough to get the biggest names in golf to rework their hectic global schedules.

Greg Norman, Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal and Jumbo Ozaki all took passes. The tournament took a couple of big hits when Lane knocked off Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer in the European semifinals and finals. Last week at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., McCumber and Loren Roberts both rallied to spoil a potentially sexy final between Corey Pavin and Paul Azinger.

"I'm sure people would rather see Pavin-Azinger," admitted McCumber. "But I've got news for you. If you want a real champion, not based on what the hype is, then play it like this. Other than Freddie [Couples], the best Americans played in this event. There were no management companies involved. There wasn't any under-the-table money. It wasn't staged. Nobody ever said, 'Stop, don't hit until we get a camera in place.' "

McCumber became the U.S. champion by clinching all three of his matches on the final hole, which should be some sort of statement to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Lanny Wadkins. In his opening-round match against Tom Lehman in April at Reynolds Plantation in Lake Oconee, Ga., McCumber started birdie-double eagle and won on the 19th hole. Against Pavin, he was 4 down after six holes and 3 down with five to play. And he trailed Roberts early on before rallying on the back nine.

If McCumber wins it all, he'll have Pavin to thank most. The reigning U.S. Open champion played like anything but a U.S. Open champion down the stretch, finishing bogey-bogey-bogey-par-double bogey and losing the match to McCumber's 18th-hole bogey. The horrendous close was hard to fathom from a player of Pavin's caliber. At the 1993 World Match Play Championship, he ran through Price, Montgomerie and Faldo on his way to the title. What happened to the G.L.B.—Gritty Little Bruin—who was incredible down the stretch at Shinnecock Hills? "I just made mistakes coming in, and Mark was there to clean up on them," Pavin said. "That's a big credit to Mark for hanging in there and staying with it. He could have laid down a lot earlier in the round."

In the finals McCumber set the trap again, falling 2 down to Roberts after four holes. He was even at the turn and one up after making a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th. The 18th on Blackwolf Run's River Course is a 469-yard par-4 with water down the left side. The water was added for the championship; the left side typically plays as a waste area. Pavin had found the water with his drive, and Roberts found it with his second shot, a four-wood.

"I was just trying to get the ball close and make birdie," Roberts said. "Mark was in the middle of the fairway and had to do something stupid to make a bogey. I'm just not swinging good right now. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was wet."

Roberts, Lehman and Pavin have secured spots on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but at No. 19 in the standings and with only the PGA Championship left to accumulate points, McCumber remains a long shot to gain one of the 10 automatic spots. And Wadkins has not mentioned him as a candidate for one of his two wild-card selections. In his only Ryder Cup appearance, at The Belfry in 1989, McCumber was 2-1, winning his singles match against Gordon Brand Jr. Last year he won three times on the PGA Tour, including the season-ending Tour Championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and finished third on the money list with $1.2 million. "Lanny has to pick somebody he's comfortable with," McCumber said. "I politic for nothing. I was second in the U.S. Open there [at Oak Hill in 1989], but I haven't heard my name mentioned. I'm not going to start now and say, 'Do you know how good I am?' "

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