This is the time of year when the PGA Tour's new No Sissies policy will be put to the test. Did you catch the finish of the recent Greater Greensboro Casual Water Open? Brad Faxon, Frank Nobilo and the rest slogged to a conclusion through heavy rain, in conditions so miserable that no sane person would continue—except us real golfers, and maybe a flock of mallard.
I might as well admit it: I was rooting for the rain. I love bad-weather golf, an attitude born on the public courses of Wisconsin in my youth. When it rained or turned nasty back then, the twice-a-year hacks and slow-playing stiffs who clogged most courses stayed home. I had my favorite haunts to myself. Perfect. Sure, I braked for lightning and funnel clouds—most of the time—but otherwise kept playing.
I also like watching the pros deal with adverse conditions, whether it's rain or wind or cold or, best of all, all three. Give these guys four nice days and they're going to go 18 under anywhere. I find it more interesting to watch Tom Watson, wearing a ski hat and umpteen layers, scrape together an icy 69 to take the first-round lead at the 1979 Memorial or watch Lanny Wadkins shoot 65 in a near hurricane to blow by everyone in the final round of the 1991 Hawaiian Open. That's when you see great shotmaking, not just great shots.
The Tour is taking a tougher stand on the weather these days. After the wrongheaded decision last year to wipe out the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, commissioner Tim Finchem decreed that the Tour will play 72 holes whenever possible, so when the final round of last year's Tour Championship was rained out, Finchem brought the players back on Monday to finish instead of calling it a wrap after 54 holes, which had gotten to be SOP.
In the upcoming weeks we will likely see evidence of this new resolve, because no matter where golf goes this time of year, monsoon season will follow, and not just on the men's Tour. While things went swimmingly in Greensboro, the LPGA drowned in Stockbridge, Ga., where the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship was called after only 36 holes. In fact, the women barely finished the rain-delayed second round on Sunday before storms washed out the finish. Last week's Sprint Titleholders in Daytona Beach, Fla., was also rain delayed.
If you're like me and enjoy that kind of weather, you're in luck. It's May in Texas, where there's a thunderstorm almost every afternoon, so here comes the Tour, with the Houston Open, the Byron Nelson Classic and the Colonial. Houston and the Nelson are all-world when it comes to bad weather. Houston was completely washed out in the spring of '91 and played in October. Half Nelsons are not unusual in Dallas—the tournament has been rain-shortened in three of the last seven years. Three years ago the six second-round leaders played off for the title. In '92, when Billy Ray Brown beat three other players in sudden death, the playoff was held on a par-3 hole, one of the few playable spots on the course, in 1989, another wet year, the Nelson was won, appropriately, by Jodie Mudd.
When the Memorial, at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, was played in mid-May, the tournament always seemed to have terrible weather. Finally the event was moved to the first weekend in June and now usually has...terrible weather. In '93 Barbara Nicklaus, the wife of tournament host Jack, placed a shot glass of gin on the grave of Leatherlips, an Indian chief, hoping to catch a break from the weather gods. The skies cleared long enough for the tournament to finish.
Last year's Scottish Open might have been the coolest tournament of them all. Carnoustie can be Cruella DeVil on a calm day, but with winds so strong that the pins were gyrating like Jim Carrey, the course was downright sadistic. Even Tiger Woods didn't break 80 on the first day. Woods was seen carrying his gift from the tournament sponsor, a bottle of Scotch, after he signed his scorecard. "This might be empty by tomorrow," Tiger said. Another American, Jim Furyk, didn't break 80 that day either. "The Scots must be pretty tough people if they think this is fun," he said.
Aye, laddie. 'Tis a tough country and a tougher sport. Golf is no game for sissies.