Do you vant to spank me?" Irina the Russian Playmate asks as she rises from the dinner table, her voice devoid of emotion or irony. Several men look up from their steaks, mouths agape, as Irina, who lives in Hugh Hefner's mansion but insists she hasn't slept with him, saunters off to the rest room while another $80 bottle of cabernet arrives. Then the actors, record executives, models and professional schmoozers at the restaurant table revert to their conversations until the man who has gathered them—a pro golfer, of all things—intones for the fourth time in 90 minutes, "Let's go have a smoke."
Sixty seconds later Tommy Armour III pulls a silver Zippo from his Versace overcoat, torches a Winston Ultra and exhales into the West Hollywood night. Sitting in a sort of urbanized opium den overlooking the pool of the Grafton Hotel, Armour, the bon vivant of the PGA Tour, regales several guests with his wry wit and effortless charm. Set up perfectly by his younger brother, swing coach, perpetual copilot and sometimes caddie Sandy, Tommy refers to O.J. Simpson (pre-1994, they played golf together and saw each other in New York City) and Mark Cuban (the Dallas Mavericks' owner was the doorman at Armour's Christmas party last year) in a single cigarette break without coming off like a name-dropper.
"Is there anyone you don't know?" asks Tour rookie Pat Perez, the latest addition to the TA3 entourage.
"I don't know," Armour says, deadpan, after a long pause, kicking his Prada loafers halfway off his feet. He gets laughs from everyone—Cindy the former supermodel; Michael the TV actor who's complaining about the $18 valet-parking tab ("Michael, let it go!" Armour advises); Laura the waitress-actress; Monique who's staying at Dennis Hopper's house; and David who...well, no one really knows exactly what it is that David does, but his brother co-owns the hotel's restaurant (the ultrafly Balboa Prime) and his date is Irina, whose most obvious gifts, word has it, are as real as the Hollywood hills.
"This is what we do," says the 41-year-old Sandy, throwing out his arms in his brother's direction. A 20-year Tour veteran with an ever-humming social motor, Tommy, 42, lives his life like a man hell-bent on proving that not all pro golfers are tedious automatons.
Three days from now Armour, a Dallas resident, will tee off in Los Angeles's Nissan Open for the 12th time and run with the leaders at Riviera Country Club for the first two rounds before leveling off on the weekend and finishing 29th, 10 shots behind winner Len Mattiace. As always Armour will eclipse his peers in arcane statistical categories such as BIG (Babes in Gallery), DLD (Designer Labels Displayed) and CIR (Carcinogens in Respiration). "Tommy doesn't want to be a normal Tour player like the rest of these jerks," says Andrew Magee, a friend and fellow pro. "He has his own sense of style, and he wants to maintain that style more than anything else. So many guys out here fall victim to all the crap that goes with being on the PGA Tour, but he's never succumbed to any Tour stuff about the way you're supposed to act. He's Tommy, and that's the way it's going to be."
Born to an esteemed golfing heritage and raised just off the 3rd green of the Desert Inn Country Club in Las Vegas, Armour has never approached the success—victories in the U.S. Open, the PGA and the British Open—attained by his grandfather and namesake, who died when Tommy was eight. But if he can't always play like the Silver Scot, Tommy can at least honor the forebear's legacy. From his expensive wardrobe to his golf bag, inside which reside handcrafted MacGregor blades with genuine leather grips and woods sheathed in hand-knit head covers, this is an athlete who carries himself with a regal air. Before his practice round at Riviera on the Tuesday morning of tournament week, as Armour left guest passes at the will-call booth for onetime James Bond George Lazenby (Armour and Lazenby had been introduced the previous day at nearby Brentwood Country Club), the connection seemed obvious: There's plenty of 007 in TA3. "I don't think Tommy knows this, but we call him Mr. Fabulous," says six-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater. "He likes his nice clothes and his fancy watches and his fine food and his fast cars, and he always hangs with an in crowd. There's a serious air about him, but he's not so consumed by himself that it bums you out."
Nor is Armour overly obsessed with the fame of some of his friends, many of whom rank low enough on the celebrity food chain that they can roam the streets without being hounded by pesky paparazzi. For every relatively recognizable name in Armour's universe, like Slater, Charles Barkley or Stephen Stills, there are lesser stars like former NFL safety Chuck Cecil, now a Tennessee Titans assistant coach; actress Molly Culver, who costars in the syndicated series V.I.P.; and veteran TV actor Jack Wagner. At various times during last Saturday's third round at Riviera, Cecil, Culver and Wagner were part of Armour's Army—and one of the army's foxy female foot soldiers attracted the attention of Armour's fellow pros. That's how it is with Armour; most of his colleagues not only tolerate his excesses but also get a sort of vicarious pleasure from his lifestyle. "Tommy's a kick-in-the-ass to hang around with, though I don't do it that much," says Fred Couples. "Opportunities like that don't come around too often, so if you get the call, you'd better take it. Look, the guy's got it tough out here [on Tour], having to live up to that heritage, but he's a battier, and he's stayed a long, long time."
Last year Armour slipped to 161st on the money list and had to go to Q school, where he tied for eighth to earn back his exempt status. It wasn't an unprecedented path for a player whose best season, 1990, ended with him 35th on the money list. That was also the year of his lone Tour victory, at the Phoenix Open, a triumph that at least insured he would never be Kournikova-ized by his peers.
That doesn't mean he isn't the object of the occasional derisive whisper. At 6'2" and nearly 200 pounds, Armour is a big, multi-skilled player whose dedication hasn't always been as impeccable as his appearance. He admits there have been tournament rounds played after sleepless, tequila-drenched nights, though "not in the last eight years," he says, and he concedes that those who believe he has squandered his talent have a point. "I would say there have been times when I've done that, but not now," Armour says. "There are times when I probably should have gone home earlier than I did. But I didn't, and you've got to let it go and move on. A lot of guys probably wouldn't want to live the lifestyle I live. Well, I wouldn't want to live the lifestyle they live."