There was a rare Lauri Merten sighting last week at the LPGA Championship. Sporting bleached-blonde tresses, Merten—the 1993 U.S. Women's Open champ who hasn't played in an LPGA event since 1997—walked the back nine on Thursday, following her good friend Laurie Rinker-Graham. "It was nice seeing some old friends," Merten, 41, told SI, "but I don't miss it one iota." Merten says she walked away from the game because of burnout; undoubtedly another factor was the unwanted attention surrounding the murder conviction of her brother-in-law, Thomas Capano, in 1996. (Capano remains on death row; Merten is still married to his brother, Lewis, a Delaware real estate magnate.) Merten, who claims to have played only one round of golf in 2002, has become an avid painter, saying, "It satisfies the need for creativity I used to get playing out of the trees."
?Don't count Scott Hoch among the proponents of LASIK surgery. Hoch has undergone the procedure three times in the past 18 months and has been left with double vision and halos as a result. Now experimenting with various contact lenses to eliminate the trouble, Hoch, 46, says he's "totally optimistic" that he'll get his career back on track soon. "I don't see any problems," he says with typical gallows humor.
? LPGA rookie Natalie Gulbis lost a caddie at the LPGA Championship thanks to the continued meddling of her father, John. During a practice round Natalie and her bagman, Eric Pohl, a Sacramento club pro who had been on the job for six weeks, were talking strategy on the tee of the par-4 12th hole when John Gulbis wondered aloud from outside the ropes what the yardage was to carry a distant fairway bunker, which most competitors choose to play around. Pohl initially ignored the question but snapped when Gulbis repeated it twice more. "If you want to know the yardage, then buy your own yardage book," Pohl said before removing his green bib and storming off the course. Local caddie Tom Freeland, who had been following the Gulbis group as a fan, offered his services and helped guide Natalie to 15th place, her second-best finish of the season.
?While competing at the NFL Golf Classic two weeks ago in Clifton, N.J., Tom Kite decided to take a road trip to Bethpage for a sneak peek at the course, but he never made it. After taking nearly two hours to get across the traffic-snarled Verrazano Bridge, which connects Staten Island and Brooklyn, Kite turned around and headed back to New Jersey. The worst part? "It cost me $17 in tolls," he says.