A Boon from Troon? Seve Ballesteros says he doesn't want to captain the European Ryder Cup team next year, and some players think he meddled too much at Valderrama anyway. So who will captain the team at the Country Club? Peter Oosterhuis is a U.S. TV commentator these days. Mark James, Bernhard Langer and Sam Torrance want to make the team as players. Torrance, who recently quit drinking to shape up for Brookline, knows his capacity: "I have one more match in me as a player, and if I am on the plane to America in 1999, I want it to be in that capacity." Nick Faldo's out, since coaches must speak. Player-coach Colin Montgomerie, anyone?
Remote Control: Karrie Webb (left) and coach Kevin Haller are often 10,000 miles apart, but they meet regularly on the cyberrange. Using Swinger, Australian software designed in part by Stuart Appleby and his coach, Steve Bann, Webb can film her swing, men E-mail the video to Haller for analysis. "Programs like this could change the way golfers practice," says Webb. She and Haller are working on a program that will allow them to hold a fully visual, real-time lesson with a computer and a cell phone. "Then the only problem will be the time difference," says Webb.
Pacing Himself: Greg Norman will pilot the pace car, a 1998 Corvette convertible, at this year's Indy 500. No word on his plans should the race be rained out, but Shark fans needn't worry about his skipping a rain day at the Masters. The scheduling snafu that saw Norman bail on the final round of the South African PGA wasn't his fault, and he tells SI his schedule is clear on the Mondays after all the majors this year.
Five's a Crowd: A plague creeps east from California, where many muni courses now send out fivesomes to clog their already crowded fairways. "We have 40 courses in Southern California, and most use fivesomes," says Mike Heacock of American Golf, which operates more than 250 courses nationwide. "Contrary to popular belief, they don't take longer than foursomes." Players gnashing their teeth while 25% more hackers plumb-bob double-bogey putts may disagree, but the economics are compelling: 25% more revenue for the course. "If your course is full and you want to make more money, why not?" asks Ken Devine of the PGA's Michigan section.
Emmy Alert A pilot for CBS, The Secret Lives of Men, stars Peter Gallagher and takes place largely on a golf course where guys discuss women, beer, friendship, death and the metallic, pesticidal characteristics of golf-course grass. Sample line: "Barry's getting married? That son of a bitch. That's why he stopped playing golf."
Synchro Swim at Sawgrass
This week's 25th Players Championship is the 17th anniversary of the one everybody remembers. Eight years after Jack Nicklaus won the first Players at Atlanta C.C., the event moved to the TPC at Sawgrass, where Pete Dye's fan-friendly, player-punitive Stadium Course drew reviews that were anything but P.C. "This course is 90-percent horse manure and 10-percent luck," said J.C. Snead.
"Everyone was frustrated with Pete's diabolical course. There was locker room talk of firing Deane [Beman], since he was behind it all," recalls Jerry Pate, who won that week, then pushed Beman and Dye into the lake beside the 18th green before diving in after them.
Today nobody thinks Beman and Dye were all wet, not with their baby approaching the majors in importance. "My swim with Jerry Pate is not a favorite moment," Beman says dryly, "but I am pleased with how the Players has grown. The course was too penal at first, but we made changes to bring it to the correct side of fair."
"Those greens can get as fast as a fireball," Dye admits with a chuckle. "But the guy who's playing best still wins." Denying that their synchronized swim that day was staged, he says, "No, and I came out with nothing dry to wear, so I went into the clubhouse and charged a new pair of pants and a shirt to Mr. Beman."