In Mesquite, the field of 48 (culled from 5,312 entrants in regional qualifiers) took advantage of a downward slope and tailwinds gusting up to 50 mph to obliterate the competition's records. Including the preliminary rounds last week, 17 men broke the 400-yard barrier. (Zuback's winning drive last year was 351 yards.) Even the champion in the senior (45-and-over) division, 48-year-old Mike Hooper of Culver City, Calif., hit his winning blast 371 yards, three inches.
Zuback, who quit his pharmacist's job in June to devote himself full time to long-driving, won $50,000 for his victory, the largest check in the sport's history. Zuback still makes it a policy not to spend any downtime at the slots during competitions in Nevada. However, when a well-wisher told Zuback on Saturday to have some fun with his winnings, he nodded and said, "No kidding, eh."
Lord Lead Says Norman Has Adjusted His Swing
Whenever Greg Norman struggles these days, residue from his meltdown on the final day of the 1996 Masters is said to be the cause. His swing teacher, David Leadbetter, believes otherwise. He says that Norman's swing had become too loose after the '96 Masters, which caused him to lose power. "Greg wasn't getting enough extension on the back-swing, and on the downswing his legs were sliding forward too soon before impact," says Leadbetter.
To get his swing in sync, Norman, who will be making his first start since early September at this week's Tour Championship, is standing more erect over the ball and concentrating on rotating his body. Also, in an effort to improve his strength and stamina, Norman has added 10 pounds to his frame since the PGA Championship in August. Last week, during a three-hour workout with Norman at Lake Nona, outside Orlando, Leadbetter was pleased with what he saw. "Greg looks great," says Lead-better. "He's very much in control of himself."
A Second Chance for a History-Making Indian
There are more than 450 million women in India, but 25-year-old Smriti Mehra, who regained her LPGA tour card by tying for eighth at last week's Q school in Daytona Beach, is the country's only female golf pro. The daughter of a wealthy businessman who belongs to the Royal Calcutta Golf Club, Mehra became smitten with the game when she was 14 and read Ben Hogan's The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. By the time she was 17, Mehra, whose only lessons came from her mother, a three handicapper, was breaking 80 and had decided to become a tour pro. "But when I told my parents I wanted to be a pro, they totally flipped out," says Mehra.
They had envisioned for their daughter a more traditional lifestyle in which she would attend a university, marry and raise children. However, they also recognized Smriti's passion for her sport. Grudgingly, in 1992, they made a deal: If Mehra won one of India's two national amateur titles and earned her college degree, she would be allowed to turn pro. In 1993 Mehra graduated with honors from Calcutta University, where she received degrees in English and history. The following year she won India's match- and stroke-play titles.
After spending a year on the Futures tour in the U.S. and another on the Asian tour, Mehra earned a conditional card at the Q school last October and subsequently moved to Orlando. However, despite leading the tour in driving distance (263 yards), she missed 13 cuts in 19 starts and earned only $15,352, necessitating a return to Q school. "Mom was happy with my year because she thought that meant I was finished with golf and that I'd be coming home for good at Christmas," Mehra says. "I'm still going home, but instead of looking for a job, I can party."
The Shag Bag