Stankowski could be joined on the team by another first-timer, Tommy Tolles of tiny Flat Rock, N.C. Although he's still looking for his first Tour win, Tolles has had so many high finishes—seven times he has been among the top seven this year—he ranks sixth in Ryder Cup points.
How has Scott McCarron avoided the limelight? Not only did he win his second Tour title this year, the BellSouth, but he also ranks second to Woods in driving distance. (McCarron's average drive goes 284.7 yards; Woods's 292.8) There are a couple of other things that make the 31-year-old McCarron unique: He gave up the game for a couple of years, and he's the only player to win a Tour event this year using a long putter.
The Australians on Tour have always been newsmakers, but this year their story lines have taken a different twist. Instead of wondering about Greg Norman's chances in the majors, we wonder when he'll make the cut in one. Although he took the Andersen Consulting World Championship title in January, Norman hasn't won a stroke-play event in 15 months. Indeed, long-hitting Stuart Appleby, in only his second year on Tour, and veteran Steve Elkington have had a bigger impact on the season to this point. Appleby won the Honda Classic in March and was second a week later at Bay Hill, while Elkington has had two high-profile victories, at Doral and the Players Championship, in which he routed the strongest field of the year.
Who was the man to beat at the start of the season? Who was the man who tamed Tiger while winning back-to-back in February? That's right, you need a good memory to recall that Mark O'Meara was once the top dog of '97. O'Meara has a history of fast starts and summer fades, although this year he has come up with a couple of top 10s in his 10 starts since the Tour left the West Coast.
You want anonymous? U.S. Open champion Steve Jones gets recognized as often as the kid who played Pugsley on The Addams Family. All Jones has done this year is nearly match Mike Souchak's record score (27-under-par 257 in the '55 Texas Open) when he shot 26-under 258 to nip Parnevik, the runner-up, by nine shots in the Phoenix Open.
Thankfully, some things never change. Jack Nicklaus looked all washed up early in the year when he missed two cuts in regular Tour events and was 23rd in the GTE Classic on the Senior tour. Then, behold, the Golden Bear lives! Three weeks ago Nicklaus had his first top-10 finish (eighth) on Tour in 29 months, in his own Memorial Tournament. That has him thinking about playing in next month's British Open at Royal Troon, which would make it about Jack's seventh straight last-ever appearance in the world's oldest major. Yeah? Wait till next year.
That's the view from the U.S. Open, where the '97 season doesn't look half bad now that it's half over.
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