SI Vault
November 03, 1997
New Captain, Did Philosophy?
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November 03, 1997

News And Notes

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Colin Montgomerie



Ernie Els



Nick Price



Nick Faldo



Corey Pavin



Tom Lehman



Hale Irwin



Nick Price



Greg Norman



Fred Couples



New Captain, Did Philosophy?

One can be certain that the U.S. gleaned two valuable lessons torn the European team at September's Ryder Cup: 1) Get to know the course you're playing, which the Americans clearly did not at Valderrama, and 2) work on your short game, which proved to be the U.S.'s undoing in Spain, particularly on the second day of the competition, when the Americans went winless in eight matches.

The one area in which the PGA of America apparently did not feel the need to follow the lead of the Europeans was in the selection of a captain for the 1999 team. By picking Ben Crenshaw to head the squad at the Country Club in Brook-line, Mass., the PGA selected an individual who, it would seem, will offer the same studied, low-key approach as his predecessor, Tom Kite.

While he was effusive in his praise of Seve Ballesteros, the manic European captain whose aggressive style was widely cited as making the difference at Valderrama, Crenshaw said last week that he will likely take a less hands-on approach. He also said he will consult with past Ryder Cup players, and members of the '99 team will be expected to assume visible, vocal roles in the clubhouse. "It's a collaborative process," says Crenshaw, who was 3-8-1 in his four Ryder Cup appearances. "It's been my experience that players come to the captain individually, or tell the team in a team meeting, 'Fellas, I'm just not playing well.' "

Such statements will do little to dispel the Gentle Ben moniker that Crenshaw has carried for the last two decades. No matter, Crenshaw says. "The captains I played for—[the late] Dave Marr, Jack Nicklaus and Lanny Wadkins—had diverse personalities. Dave was friendly and charming, but he had a tough side to him that made him very effective in our '81 win [at Walton Heath]. No one has more competitive spirit than Lanny, but we lost in '95. In 83 Jack was very loose, more so than we expected, and we won. In '87 at Muirfield Village he was more serious, perhaps because it was his home club, and we lost. There's no magic formula."

Bye-bye Birdie
During an otherwise forgettable final round of the Las Vegas Invitational, in which he shot a 75 to finish 36th, Tiger Woods felled a bird with his second shot to the par-5 16th hole at the TPC at Summerlin. The deceased bird and the ball ended up next to each other in the short rough fronting the green. Woods got up and down for a 4, thus becoming the only Tour player this year to shoot two birdies on the same hole during the same round.

Former Pharmacist Emerges as Driving Force

Mesquite, Nev., a town of 2,000 about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, looks a lot like the set of a Mad Max movie. Composed mostly of sand and scrub, gas stations and gambling houses, Mesquite offered the perfect setting last Saturday for the boom-or-bust boys at the North American Long Drive Championship, in which contestants took advantage of heavy tailwinds to hit the largest collection of 400-yard drives in the 22-year history of the event.

The winner for the second straight year was Jason (the Terminator) Zuback. The 27-year-old former pharmacist from Drayton Valley, Alberta, slammed the fourth of his six attempts in the finals high into the 50� desert night, rolling it past the 400-yard marker, the last line on the measuring grid. When the ball finally stopped 412 yards, two feet and 3� inches from the tee, Zuback tore around the CasaBlanca Golf Club like a Tasmanian devil. "When you're all pumped up and the crowd is electrifying you, the cold is secondary," the 5'10", 215-pound Zuback said. "I hit it right in the middle of the club face, and it was a beautiful sensation of pure velocity."

Such feats were hardly unexpected from a guy who hit a 410-yard drive in the semifinals with such force that he severed his club head. A former amateur powerlifter who once squatted 628 pounds, Zuback began long-driving in 1992 after watching the North American championship on television. He has since put together an impressive r�sum�. His longest drive in competition is 463 yards. His club head speed averages 133 mph (the average speed for a Tour player is 110 mph), and he owns the second-fastest ball speed ever measured by Titleist (207 mph).

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