Heron Bay is nothing like another former Honda site, the water-laden TPC at Eagle Trace, where high winds made scores in the 80s common. "Other than the water on 18, there are no impending disasters," says McCumber. "If the wind blows 40 mph all week, a smart player should play four rounds with no double bogeys."
New Pin Position for the 15th Green at Augusta
You won't notice anything different at Augusta National this year, unless you've got a sharp eye. Three greens—the 1st, 2nd and 15th—were rebuilt. The work on the first two holes was routine, done partially to stop the encroachment of Bermuda grass fringe into the bent-grass putting surfaces, but at 15 the treacherous slope on the front-left portion of the green was reduced so that a ball heading downhill might stop before rolling into Rae's Creek. The final decision will be made by Masters officials the week of the tournament, but there's a good chance that the rebuilt area will be used as a new pin position.
T.C. Chen's Last Chance In L.A. Falls Short
Before Nick Faldo's victory in the Nissan Open, the last foreigner to win the tournament was Taiwan's T.C. Chen, in 1987. Chen, though, is better remembered in the U.S. for his double chip on the 5th hole in the final round of the '85 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills near Detroit. Chen had a four-stroke lead but made a quadruple-bogey 8 at the 5th and, shaken, bogeyed the next three holes. He finished with a 77 and tied for second, a stroke behind winner Andy North.
Chen played full time on the PGA Tour between 1983 and '89, when he lost his card. Since then, Chen's home base has been the Japanese tour, where he has won six events. He has played the Nissan four times since '87, trying to win his way back onto the Tour. Last week marked the end of his quest. His 10-year exemption to the tournament expired, and after finishing 57th, he gave up hope of returning to the U.S. "I came here to try to get another 10 years, but it didn't work out," Chen said. "Not much luck, I guess."
R.W. Eaks, Last of The Nike Originals
The final step in the journey to the PGA Tour is the toughest, and nobody knows it better than R.W. Eaks. A 45-year-old pro from Scottsdale, Ariz., Eaks is the only man to have played a full schedule on the Nike (n� Hogan) tour every year since it began, in 1990.
Eaks's 173-tournament career on the tour has been book-ended by close calls. In 1990 he won the Quicksilver Open and finished 10th on the money list, but in those days only the top five earned PGA Tour cards. Three years later that number was increased to 10. Last May, Eaks was in the middle of a good season until suffering severe head and neck injuries in a near fatal car crash. Doctors told him he would be off the tour for three months, but six weeks later he played in the Gulf Coast Classic in Gautier, Miss. On the 3rd hole of the second round of that event, Eaks, three over par with his ball in a fairway bunker, made a fateful decision. "My car was packed," he says. "I was quitting if I didn't get up and down." He did, and then birdied the next five holes.
Although he lost the tournament in a sudden death playoff to Stewart Cink, Eaks, the man the other Nike players call Gramps, was back on track. He finished the year 13th on the money list—$8,500 short of earning his PGA Tour card—and looking forward to '97.
This year there have been only two Nike tournaments, and Eaks played in one, the Lakeland ( Fla.) Classic, where he finished 10th. But Eaks, who is married and has a 17-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, is counting his blessings. "I'm lucky to be out here," he says. "I'm having more fun and playing better than I ever have. Besides, I'm a professional golfer. What else am I going to do?"