Quick! Who won the Vardon Trophy last year?
If you guessed Don Pooley, you get it this year.
Take the L. A. Open last week (please):
The first-day leaders, Jay Delsing and Dennis Trixler, were typical of the current menu. Delsing was 126th on last year's money list, but made the 125-exempt list for the year when Ballesteros got bumped. Trixler, who is as funny as his name, didn't even make the top 125. He was 41st at the qualifying school and got a tee time at Riviera only because enough guys decided to stay home and defrost the fridge.
The second-day leader, O'Grady, was so shy at seeing his name atop the leader board that he literally sprinted from reporters. When he was feeling better, he spoke to a writer for the Los Angeles Times and gave Hogan's Alley a good paving over.
The third-day leader and eventual winner, Tewell, spent most of his off-season deciding whether to play golf or put on a Brooks Brothers suit and look for a regular 9-to-5. He hadn't won in five years.
And now for the bad news. "It's going to get worse," says Ed Sneed, "not better." Which is to say, don't look for the New Nicklaus to arrive by next Tuesday.
"People keep asking me, 'Who's going to be the next superstar?' " says Sutton. "And I know that what they mean is, 'When are you going to be it?' I resent it because I'm working my butt off to become that person. We're hanging on to the idea that you have to have a guy win seven or eight tournaments a year. That's yesteryear. Winning is so much harder today. Our superstars change every day. Now, if somebody does win seven or eight, then he'll stand above any other superstar that came before him."
That's quite a mouthful, including as it does Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Nicklaus, etc. But Sutton isn't the only one spouting such new-world ideas. "If Hogan were out here," says Sneed. "he'd probably win two or three tournaments a year. Do you think golf is different from track? The time for the mile keeps coming down, but people won't believe the players today are that much better than the old ones."
Johnny Miller agrees. "Whether we like it or not, there are a lot of faces out there who are great players," he says. "But the galleries would still rather watch me than some of these other guys who can whip the pants off me. They pour out even now to watch Palmer, when it's become pretty obvious he can't really compete out there anymore. Las Vegas used to take a bet—Palmer, Nicklaus and Player against the field—and not lose money. I'll say one thing. I'd like to have that bet now."