The year before Maggert became a caddie, three Cougars freshmen—Fred Couples, Blaine McCallister and Jim Nantz—skipped classes one day to watch their idols. They picked up Johnny Miller in the rough on the 18th hole. "That was back when we were trying to see how close we could get to the golfer," says Nantz, who stayed with his parents last week while anchoring CBS's coverage. "We're standing right there, watching Johnny try to decide whether to hit it off the hardpan or take a drop. He walks up to see where his target is, and Fred makes a smart remark: 'Hey, why don't you just play it?' Miller snapped his head around, but there were so many people, he didn't know who said it."
The next year, Nantz bluffed his way into the NBC compound and persuaded producer Don Ohlmeyer to allow him to drive the cart that ferried the announcers from the parking lot to the TV compound. Thus a star was born—Nantz got his first press credential that week. He still has it.
On Monday and Tuesday, Couples, McCallister and Nantz were scheduled to stage their Three Amigos charity tournament at the new Shadow Hawk course outside Houston, where their former teammate Paul Marchand is the pro. Marchand counts Montgomerie among his students, as well as a certain former president. Couples and Nantz have become good friends of Bush's. When Bush arrived at The Woodlands on Friday morning and hooked up with Nantz, Couples stood on the 18th green getting ready to make the turn at two over. "Mr. President, Fred's going to need some leadership to make the cut," Nantz said.
"Let's go help him," Bush replied.
They made their way to the ropes along the 1st fairway. Couples saw them, walked over, hugged Bush and exchanged high fives. Nantz said, "Hey, Fred, how about making a few birdies for the prez?" Couples said, "I think I can make about six in a row." In fact, he birdied numbers 1 and 2 and played his final nine in four under, birdieing the 9th from eight feet to make the cut on the number, two under. "I've been around him before," says Couples, who like Nantz has been a guest of the Bushes at their house in Kennebunkport, Maine. "If you don't know him, it would be a little nerve-racking."
Ask Tour sophomore Mike Sposa, who along with Dudley Hart filled out Couples's threesome. "It's not every day that President Bush comes out to see me play," Sposa told his playing partners. Sposa, the fifth alternate when the week began, didn't get into the field until Elkington withdrew on Thursday morning because of a bruised right wrist.
After every player in the morning half of the field had teed off, Sposa left the course to kill some time. "I went over to Barnes & Noble, got a cup of coffee, read Fly Fisherman magazine," Sposa said, "and an hour later I was playing with Fred." Sposa, who had made only two cuts this season, had a share of the lead on the back nine on Saturday and eventually tied for seventh, the best finish of his short Tour career.
Bush left Couples and crossed over to the back nine to watch Gary Nicklaus and kibitz with Nicklaus's parents. That night, at a banquet before 435 guests, Jack Nicklaus received the Dave Marr Memorial Award, given annually for contributions to the community and dedication to golf by Shell in honor of the '65 PGA champion and longtime TV commentator beloved throughout the game for his kindness and sense of humor. Marr could defuse the tensest situation with a quip. The most famous: When he and Arnold Palmer stood on the 18th tee at the '64 Masters, with Palmer holding a five-shot lead, Palmer eyed the surging crowd and asked Marr, who was in a battle with Nicklaus for second, if there was anything he could do for him. "Yeah," Marr said. "Make a 12."
The only thing funny about last week's tournament was that it came down to a playoff between two guys who putted cross-handed, which may have been a first in Tour history. Allenby, 28, didn't decide to go left hand low until he walked off the practice green on Thursday morning. He left his first putt, a 20-footer, six feet short, but holed it and away he went, finishing at 13-under 275. So did Stadler, 46, a 12-time winner who hadn't had a top 10 finish in nearly 15 months. He credits his resurgence to 50 lost pounds and a new work ethic. "I've always gotten away with not working on my game," Stadler says. "It was going downhill fast. More than anything, I wanted to prove to myself that I could play."
That he did, at least until the playoff that began on the 442-yard par-418th. With swirling winds of up to 20 mph and a pin tucked on the right portion of the green behind a pond, the 18th didn't surrender a single birdie on Sunday. Stadler appeared to have the victory locked up when Allenby dumped a six-iron into the water. But Allenby scrambled to make bogey while Stadler three-putted, missing a five-footer for the win. On the next two holes Stadler missed putts of six and nine feet that would have closed out Allenby. When Stadler had to make a 10-footer for par to match Allenby on the fourth playoff hole, he didn't hit the cup.