The Envelope, Please
All of them on the men's side were compelling—Ernie Els's second U.S. Open in four years, Justin Leonard's spotless 65 to win the British and Davis Love Ill's emotional PGA—but there was no topping what Tiger Woods did at the Masters. Only 21, he fulfilled his destiny and ignited imaginations by winning his first major as a pro, shooting a record 18 under par and blowing away the field by a colossal 12 strokes. Key stat: 26.5, the average age of the winners of the men's majors. The average age in the previous 10 years: 33.3.
Most years Gil Morgan's six wins on the Senior tour would have been impossible to top, but Hale Irwin trumped him in '97, tying Peter Thomson's Senior record of nine victories. Key stat: Irwin ($2.3 million) and Morgan ($2.1 million) both surpassed Woods in earnings—on the course, anyway.
Best Advance Billing
Betsy King and Annika Sorenstam made up the final pairing for the last round of the Betsy King Classic. Sorenstam, who would win six times in '97, closed with a 69 to keep King's name off her own trophy. Key stat: Thanks in part to the 41-year-old King's victory in the Nabisco Dinah Shore, the average age of the winners of the women's majors was 39.
Upset of the Year
The U.S. was heavily favored to win the Ryder Cup, but Europe made the most of a home-course advantage at Valderrama while the Americans didn't get the hang of the place until the final day, when a fierce rally fell short. Key stat: The three major winners on the U.S. team—Love, Leonard and Woods—had a combined record of 1-9-3.
Best Near-Fairy-Tale Finish
Nancy Lopez turned 40, shed 30 pounds, won for the first time in four years and made a dramatic run at the one title that has eluded her, the U.S. Women's Open. She came up just short, finishing second to Alison Nicholas. Key stat: Lopez has finished second in four Opens.
Norman proposed a world tour three years ago, but a horrified PGA Tour—horrified mainly because it wouldn't be in control—shot him down. Last month the Tour announced its own series of lucrative world championships featuring only the top players. Key fact: The 64-man world match-play event, which will debut in February 1999, will be the first true championship played at match since the PGA abandoned the format in 1958.
First seen at the British Open: T-shirts sporting the familiar line I AM TIGER WOODS on the front and BUT I WISH I WERE ERNIE ELS on the back.
On Second Thought, I Would Rather Be Tiger Woods
The new Miss Universe, Brook Mahealani Lee of Hawaii, likes alligator wrestling and speaks Japanese. When judges asked what she would do if there were no pageant rules, she answered, "Eat everything...twice!" She's working on a master's degree in communications at Hawaii. One of her goals? Interview Woods.
So How Come I Still Can't Get The Golf Channel?
A scientist for the Mars Pathfinder mission describing the probe's successful flight adjustments: "It was a par-5 hole from Earth to Mars, and we shot a 4."