Players to public: Scale down your expectations.
Public to players: Bag it.
If the players are so much better today, why hasn't the best stroke average been under 70 in the last four seasons? Pooley's tour-leading 70.36 last year was a full stroke higher than Hogan's 69.30 37 years ago.
The irony is that here on The Other Side of Nicklaus, the tour has never been deeper in money. It has come at a price. When the Bing Crosby became the AT & T this year, it left only a handful of tournaments without commercial billing. The L.A. Open, one of the few that are left, is a pretty accurate indicator of how sentiment runs these days. On today's tour, money talks and tradition walks. This year, the once-mighty L.A. had one of the smallest purses on the tour ($450,000, and only an $81,000 first prize) and, perhaps not by coincidence, had no Zoeller, Langer, Norman, Watson or Nicklaus. Not to mention no network television coverage and a deadly date on the calendar (after Hawaii and before the tour moves east to Florida). And all because it isn't called the Doritos Open or some such.
"The L.A. Open—that has such a nice ring to it," says tournament chairman Ted Grace. "What would I do with all the mugs and sweaters I have at home if I changed it?"
Yet Grace admits that he is entertaining proposals from more than one elegant commercial sponsor interested in attaching its name to the tournament. He will almost surely have to give in next year. What the tour is today is Zingo events like the Panasonic Las Vegas Invitational (a purse exceeding $1 million and a $207,000 first prize), which, in only three years, has network TV, a choice date and will draw more players than a free-buffet line.
If only there were someone out there who could lead us from the great golf hurly-burly of money and mediocrity; if only there were a player with a huge, flawless swing, interesting looks, an occasional odd peccadillo, a golden tongue and the fearlessness to use it. If only there were someone who, say, smashed his driver righthanded, putted lefthanded, had changed his name in another life, carried bananas and raisins with him on the course, talked incessantly and could lap the field all the while.
If only there were somebody like...Mac O'Grady?
"Mac O'Grady," says Miller, "is dial-a-shot. He can hit the ball as far as he wants. He can hit a six-iron 220 yards or 150 yards. He has the best swing that has ever been seen on the tour."