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The Presidents Coup
Tim Rosaforte
July 29, 1996
Graham steps down as captain in the wake of a player mutiny, Tiger's major accomplishment, New fan plan
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July 29, 1996

The Presidents Coup

Graham steps down as captain in the wake of a player mutiny, Tiger's major accomplishment, New fan plan

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Sam's the Man

The 66 shot by 56-year-old Jack Nicklaus (below) last Friday in the British Open was a round for the ages, but not the closest a player has come to shooting his age in a major. Those who have come closest in the modern era:

Player

Age

Score

Event

Sam Snead

62

68

1974 PGA

Gene Sarazen

71

79

1973 British

Sam Snead

60

69

1972 PGA

Sam Snead

68

77

1981 Masters

Jack Nicklaus

56

66

1996 British

Sam Snead

61

71

1973 PGA

What began a few weeks ago as seemingly mild criticism of David Graham, the captain of the International team for the upcoming Presidents Cup, erupted into a full-blown coup at the British Open when prospective team members forced Graham to resign by threatening to boycott the Sept. 13-15 event. Another Australian, Peter Thomson, is the first choice to replace Graham, who along with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was caught off-guard by the players' decisive—some say disruptive—action.

"I think it's a major insult to me and to Finchem," said Graham, who had captained the International team to an eight-point loss in the inaugural Presidents Cup two years ago. "They've attacked my credibility, my honor and my commitment to the Presidents Cup. They have cast a shadow over this event that may never go away." Graham called the players' unanimous vote to have him removed, which came during a team meeting on the eve of the British Open, "an absolute fiasco" and an "irrational and selfish decision."

Finchem, along with Brent Chalmers and Brian Allan, executive directors of the South African and Australasian tours, respectively, attended the meeting and tried to head off the players. "Tim told me he was devastated," Graham said. "He told me he talked to the players until he was blue in the face. They made demands and even wanted to decide who the [two] captain's choices would be. Can you imagine that happening in the Ryder Cup? I think the commissioner should have a full investigation, find the culprits and issue a fine or a suspension."

Finding the culprits would be no problem. Robert Allenby, Michael Campbell, Steve Elkington, Ernie Els, David Frost, Mark McNulty, Frank Nobilo, Greg Norman, Craig Parry, Nick Price and Vijay Singh all voted to remove Graham. But the man Graham singled out as the ringleader was Norman, who first voiced the players' displeasure (SI, July 8). Graham instructed International team members to report to Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Manassas, Va., on Monday, Sept. 9, but Norman said he could not arrive until Wednesday. That was unacceptable to Graham. "You can't have players arrive on Monday and Greg show up at his convenience," Graham said. "I had a team meeting scheduled Tuesday. Now all of a sudden the other players decide, If Greg's not coming until Wednesday, I won't either."

Norman refused to be cast as the heavy. "I am not the point man on this, and David is wrong in saying that," he said after Friday's second round. "He shouldn't speculate because that's very unfair to me."

Price backed up Norman. "I don't think singling out Greg on this issue is fair," he said. "We did this as a team."

XS Cash
Norman was all over the news at Royal Lytham, although seldom for his play (he finished tied for seventh at seven under). On the same day that Norman helped escort Graham to the gallows, Maxfli announced that the Shark had signed the largest golf ball endorsement contract in history. The deal is estimated to be worth up to $18 million and runs into the next century, by which time Maxfli hopes that Norman will have forgotten the screwup at the Greater Hartford Open, where he was disqualified for using one of the company's experimental balls. By agreeing to use Maxfli's new two-piece XS ball beginning in 1997, Norman ended speculation that he would align himself with Titleist/Cobra.

Out of the Woods

Stanford junior Tiger Woods said he came to Royal Lytham looking to win. He came up short but went home with two scoring records and more than satisfied with his best performance in six starts in majors. When Woods, who finished 22nd, shot 66 last Friday he tied Frank Stranahan's 46-year-old record for low round by an amateur in the British Open, and his three-under 281 total tied the amateur mark established by Iain Pyman in 1993.

"I'd have to say the week was a whole lot of fun," said Woods, 20, who will now focus on winning a record third straight U.S. Amateur next month at Pumpkin Ridge in Cornelius, Ore. "It's been important to see my game improve in big tournaments such as this. I'm pleased with how much better I'm hitting the ball and with my decision-making. Finally it's starting to show up in my scores."

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