Golf turned into a kind of Sally Jesse Raphael show last week at the Players Championship. All the politeness and pleats and "pleased to meet you's" that the game is famous for gave way to a lot of snarls and whispers and people just itching to knock other people's hats off. All of which was fine, since an ingrate named Steve Elkington ruined the tournament for everybody else.
First came the "My Hero Said What?" show, starring Tiger Woods, who was featured in a bizarre article in the April issue of GQ telling dirty jokes. Woods released a statement saying how little he liked the story, which immediately quadrupled its readership. Then Woods marched around the Stadium Course of the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass tighter than Steve Melnyk's pants, finishing 31st, his worst showing in six starts this year. Somebody get this kid a media adviser.
Then came the "I'm Being Followed!" episode, starring Greg Norman, who has a week of ghoulish "Remember what happened last year?" questions coming up at next week's Masters, where in 1996 he blew a six-shot lead on the final day to lose. He thought a Canadian film crew was electronically eavesdropping on a conversation he was having outside a fitness trailer with his former coach Butch Harmon, whom he left last fall for David Lead-better, who happens to be the coach of the man who assisted in Norman's Masters Disaster, Nick Faldo. Pumped from a workout in a sleeveless T-shirt, Norman was about to turn the Canadians into chum until the crew convinced him that the little red light on the camera that Norman saw was only a battery light, not a "tape-running" light. That incident aside, Norman is very relaxed.
Then came the "Bad Breakups" show, featuring a half-dozen players and their significant others but starring defending Players champion Fred Couples, who walked into the interview room two days before the tournament looking slightly more glum than Eeyore. What followed was one of the odder exchanges in investigative journalism history.
Couples: I don't quite think I am ready [to play].
Press: Why not?
Couples: You know, that is a good question.
It's. not that big a deal. No one has died.
Press: Uh, you want to he more specific?
Couples: I care not to comment.