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In hoops you're nobody without a hip-hop handle. Everyone from his teammates to his prosecutor knows the Sacramento Kings' Chris Webber as C-Webb. The Orlando Magic's Tracy McGrady answers to T-Mac, and Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson is so good you can call him either AI or the Answer. Rap names work in the NBA, with its street roots and the hip-hoperati sitting courtside, from J. Lo and Spike Lee to Sean Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy, a.k.a. P. Diddy. The style works in baseball, too, at least for A-Rod. But lately the hip-hopping of jocks' names has gotten out of hand. Last month San Diego Padres manager Bruce Bochy was talking about a soft-tossing, pasty-faced pitcher named Brian Lawrence. "We're really counting on B-Law," he said.
In case you haven't noticed, the name game is creeping into golf. Davis Love III sometimes goes by DL3, though I think Vanilla Nice would be more appropriate. Karrie Webb occasionally answers to K-Webb, but considering her slump she might think about shortening it to K-Ebb.
Despite my own hip-hop handles, Ice Milk and Tone Def, I have my doubts about this trend. Golf may have a Road Hole, but it's hardly a street game, and while there are plenty of golfaz with attitude—John Daly was born to be called Busta Drive—no amount of hip hype should allow the memory of Ol' Dirty Tom Morris to be dishonored. It would be ludicrous to speak of Fred Funkmaster, Juli Inksta and Ludacris DiMarco. Just because Justin Rose is slimmer, more talented and almost as cute as Jennifer Lopez, we don't have to call him J-Ro.
Still, the possibilities are tempting. It would be fun to refer to Rosie Jones as RoJo and Hootie Johnson as HooJo. ("I got my course tweaked by da Faz," HooJo might be tempted to say, "and damned if I'm gonna let some hoochies into my crib.") Calling Casey Martin K-Mart makes sense—he's the guy with the cart. It might be fitting to dub Michael Campbell and Mark Calcavecchia MC Kiwi and MC Claw, respectively, and to call Colin Montgomerie Mistah Poutfire, disrespectively. We might be able to keep Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby straight if they became Stu-B and Rob-A. I could see hoisting the claret jug with Eazy-E ( Ernie Els), counting waggles with LL Ni�o ( Sergio Garc�a) and getting outdriven by the pint-sized prince of Wales, Lil' Wu-Z ( Ian Woosnam). Other hip-hop handles to consider: B-Hard (Langer), DJ Vijay (Singh), and IMD Walrus ( Craig Stadler). I'd like to see Brad Faxon and Loren Roberts putt for the title of Snoop Mossy Boss. I could root for Mutha Fulke, Lef-T Mickelson and Mark O'Meara, a.k.a. Em-o-em, and be the first to call the volcanic Pat Perez, my favorite rookie, P-Pez da F-Bomb Dispensa.
But inevitably there will be abuses. Some Senior tour hipster might be tempted to call Morris Hatalsky Mo-Hat, and that's going too far.
If they're smart, golf writers and announcers will resist the temptation to imitate rappers. They'll recognize the trend behind the trend: By the time a sports fad reaches golf, it's already played out. Remember the high five? Golfers are still misfiring on awkward high fives long after other jocks have switched to fist-and chest-bumping.
Anyway, golf will endure even without hip nicknames because it is the last major sport to prize decorum and discipline—the game's squareness is part of its charm. And in this unique cultural moment golf gets to flaunt its squareness while still enjoying a modicum of street cred, since it has the No. 1 crossover star in sports. The rest of us can stumble along in our Bermuda shorts and starched polos, high-fiving after bogeys, knowing that we've got the hottest jock of them all in our game—the Notorious T.I.G.