Although it was his first trip to Montreal and the extent of his French is merci, beaucoup, Steve Jones got along fine during last week's Canadian Open because of his fluency in the international idiom of golf: body language. The fans at Royal Montreal Golf Club were so captivated by his leaning, clapping, grinning and chattering that during Sunday's final round more of them seemed to be pulling for Jones than for his more famous playing partner and closest challenger, Greg Norman. "A lot of them were yelling at me in French," Jones said, "and I'd say, 'Merci, beaucoup.' They could've been cursing me for all I know, but I sort of figured that most of the time what they were saying was good."
On the final hole, a 444-yard par-4, Jones, clinging to a one-shot lead over the grim and relentless Shark, was talking to himself after hitting his drive into the rough and topping his four-iron second shot. Then he scraped his ball onto the green, about 35 feet from the hole, and knocked the putt to within six inches to save bogey and the tournament, because Norman also missed the green and bogeyed. "That was one of the best pressure putts I've ever hit," Jones said. "I was getting tight, and I told myself to hit it quick before I burst."
As soon as Jones tapped in, the gallery exploded as if he were a Montrealer instead of a native of Artesia, N.Mex. With a five-under-par 275 on perhaps the toughest course the pros have played this year, outside the majors, Jones ended a 14-tournament slump in which he had missed seven cuts and never finished higher than 22nd.
"Sometimes you've got to loosen up and talk to people more," Jones said. "I was sort of like Lee Trevino out there—yak, yak, yak—and I talked to myself a lot. It's O.K. to talk to yourself, you know, as long as you don't find yourself saying, 'Huh?' "
Until the final-day heroics, the biggest story of the week had been—who else?—Tiger Woods. Tigermania overwhelmed Montreal, proving that even one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities can be turned into Mayberry. Woods reportedly had to change hotels at least once to avoid the crush of admirers, and on some holes his gallery was five-or six-deep along the entire length of the fairway. "With Norman playing behind us, it was zoo city out there," said David Ogrin, who played with Woods during the first two rounds.
Considering the circumstances surrounding Princess Diana's death, Woods was asked if he had problems with the paparazzi. "No," he said, "it doesn't seem to happen to sports heroes. It's hard for people to see what royalty and rock stars actually do, but they can see us. I've enjoyed the press, except when I'm asked intrusive questions about my private life."
So, asked a questioner, intrusively, what did he intend to do for fun during his stay in Montreal? "No comment," said Woods, smiling.
Whatever he did, it had to be more fun than the time he put in at the golf course. After opening with an even-par 70, Woods skied to a 76 in the second round and, for the first time in his 26-event Tour career, missed the cut, by a stroke. Time and again Woods's drives wound up in the U.S. Open-length rough, and he failed to reach the green in regulation. "It's going to happen," Woods said philosophically. "Even Jack Nicklaus, the greatest player of all, missed some cuts. I can't play my entire career without missing a cut."
Nevertheless, because the Canadian Open was Woods's last start before the Ryder Cup later this month, one couldn't blame U.S. captain Tom Kite for being a bit concerned, Woods's assurances that "I'm not that far off" notwithstanding. What's more, Woods was by no means the only member of Kite's team to play poorly at Royal Montreal. The normally steady Jim Furyk, who had eight consecutive top 10 finishes earlier this year, followed his opening 66 with a fat 80 to miss the cut, as did Mark O'Meara (72-77). The only Ryder Cuppers who played on the weekend (excluding Kite, who finished 63rd) were Justin Leonard and Davis Love III, who tied for sixth, four strokes behind Jones.
Leonard was one of many players to praise Royal Montreal's 6,810-yard Blue Course, which hadn't been the Royal Canadian Golf Association's choice for the Open since 1980. "The rough is brutal in places," said Leonard, "but even if you hit it in the fairways, you're not done, because the greens are very narrow. There's nothing manufactured. It looks like someone came in and took down a couple of trees and mowed the grass. That's the sign of a wonderful golf course."