Blame It on L.A.
The PGA of America last week learned the hard way what a couple of pro football teams already knew: Los Angeles can be a tough sports town. And like the Rams and the Raiders, it's unlikely that the PGA Championship will ever return.
Despite assembling what was billed as the finest field in major-championship history in an attempt to dazzle notoriously front-running Angelenos, the PGA sold only 18,000 of 22,000 tickets. In fact, before the second round, one scalper outside Riviera Country Club was buying daily tickets, which have a face value of $50 each, for as little as $10 and reselling them for about $20. On Saturday the clubhouse veranda was virtually empty, and there were no lines in the pro shop, at the buffet or in the bar. Jim Magnusson, the tournament director, joked that he had wired the course in order to amplify any noise made by the galleries.
The PGA, which lost money on the event, failed to see any humor in the situation. Jim Awtrey, the association's chagrined CEO, seemed to be saying "never again" when he told reporters that if L.A. "doesn't respond to the greatest field in championship history, then that reflects on the community. That's something you have to take into account [before returning]."
The PGA wasn't the only organization adding up the pluses and minuses. The U.S. Golf Association has booked Riviera in 1998 for the Senior Open, an event that is usually used as a stepping-stone to a U.S. Open. But Riviera hasn't hosted an Open since Ben Hogan's victory in 1948, and if the bottom line counts for anything—which it does at the USGA—don't expect Hogan's Alley back in the Big Show anytime soon.
Give Craig Stadler a chain saw, and even in a polo shirt and Sansabelt slacks he makes a pretty convincing lumberjack.
Stadler was invited to return to Torrey Pines in San Diego before the PGA Championship to help with a little unfinished yard work—chopping down a dying Leyland cypress, the famed Stadler Tree that played the starring role in the Walrus's disqualification from the 1987 Andy Williams Open.
During the third round of that tournament, Stadler hit his tee shot on the 14th hole under the tree and couldn't take a full swing because of its branches. He played his second shot from his knees after placing a towel on the grass so he wouldn't soil his slacks. The Walrus finished the round in second place, four strokes behind eventual winner George Burns. But after NBC showed highlights of the round the next day, viewers called in to say Stadler had illegally built a stance by placing the towel on the ground. Rules officials agreed, and Stadler, who hadn't penalized himself two shots, was disqualified before he teed off for the final round. Second-place money that week was $37,000. Last week's revenge was worth every penny.
Remembering the Mick