Then, at the Open
last June, when he wondered aloud whether golf architect Robert Trent Jones had
read his blueprints for Hazeltine upside down, Hill engaged in incident No. 3
and at last became a national figure. He poured it on so heavy that Jones felt
compelled to appear in the press tent to defend himself. Amid all the
commotion, a sportswriter said to Hill: "What's bugging you, anyhow?"
Hill replied, "You guys. You guys are bugging me. I gotta be leading a golf
tournament before the press comes around. Look, anytime I'm only two or three
strokes off the lead, I can win."
So the question
is, did Hill batter Trent Jones and Hazeltine to attract attention?
Probably not. His
complaint—namely, that for a major tournament a course had been chosen that did
not reward good shots—was the gravamen of a man whose pursuit of the perfect
shot amounts to a religion. "It makes no difference to Dave what he
scores," says Lee Trevino. "I've seen him knock a beautiful shot to
within 10 feet of the pin and then three-putt for a bogey but not be bothered a
bit, because he'd hit a pretty shot." Indeed, Hill seems to derive his
greatest pleasure from the practice range—"painting pictures with a ball
and a club," is the way he puts it. Hour upon hour he revels in practice,
his spirit soaring with the flight of the ball. "My little daughter can
putt," he says, "but can she hit that high, soft fade?"
crime deserved triple the vituperation Hill might accord a mere official's
ruling, for the course had forced him to play vulgar shots to stay in
contention. But let it be said that a course Hill finds pleasing can evoke from
him a devotion as intense as the passion that on at least one occasion has led
him to methodically break an entire set of clubs over his knee.
But that was
neither Incident No. 4, nor No. 5. Those were not lonely explosions; certain
celebrated names were involved. The incidents are known, for catalogue
purposes, as the Chi Chi Affair and the Tuthill Affair.
erupted during the 36-hole final day of the Kaiser Open at Napa, Calif. in
1970, Hill being paired with Chi Chi Rodriguez, the consummate showman, who at
one time had roomed with him on the tournament circuit. Through the morning
round Chi Chi played quietly, Hill recalls, adding pointedly that they had no
gallery to speak of. But into the final 18, with the galleries thickening, Chi
Chi launched into a patter that brought laughter at the tees and greens. Hill
at this point stood very much in contention for the $30,000 first prize.
Normally a fast
player, he had to wait for the laughter to die down before he could drive from
the 6th tee. He hooked his ball into the left rough and, while pulling down a
gallery stake to clear the way for his next shot, glanced over his shoulder to
find Chi Chi striking a burlesque of a batter's stance in a bunker, a rake
cocked over his shoulder. Hill's ensuing shot fell short of the green.
"While I'm trying to figure what to do with my chip," he says, "Chi
Chi is talking to the gallery. So I said, 'Cheech, I don't mind your clowning
after I've completed the hole, but I'd appreciate it if you'd wait till I've
played.' Well, he started hollering so, you'd think I'd hit him in the mouth.
He said, 'I don't want to play with you.' He called for an official to split us
up. Right there, I should have buried my club in his head."
through the balance of the round the two men exchanged acrid remarks, Hill
fuming at the thought that he might suffer a loss of concentration that would
cause him to blow the tournament. "When I came to the 18th green I was so
upset I could not see the ground," he says. There he missed a 15-foot putt
that would have given him a tie for first place. As he left the green, a
phalanx of PGA officials swiftly packaged him into a golf cart, whose driver
whisked him away and drove him aimlessly around the course until his fists came
unclenched. "If I'd had my way," says Hill, speaking the sort of
dialogue they do not teach at the PGA Qualifying School, "I'da killed
Rodriguez. I would've just literally whipped the intestines out of him. What
would have been left of Mr. Rodriguez would not have filled a cigar
Chi Chi made an
official complaint accusing Hill of salty language, but the PGA fined Chi Chi
$200 for his antics, at the same time conferring innocence upon Hill in a
switch tantamount to Senator McClellan sending a fruitcake to Jimmy Hoffa.
Affair, which unfolded during this February's Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm
Springs, is more complex. One of Hill's tee shots had landed in a palm tree,
and, being that he lacked pitons and a length of rope, he could not pluck the
ball from its lodging. But he could see that it was a Titleist 2, so he was
satisfied that it was his Titleist 2 and therefore he declared an unplayable
lie and hit his next shot. At day's end, however, Jack Tuthill disqualified
Hill for having failed to identify his treed ball with certainty. Anybody could
have been playing a Titleist 2, Tuthill argued, concluding that Hill should
have declared a lost ball and gone back to the tee—a more severe penalty.
Tuthill claims it was Hill's responsibility in the beginning to mark his ball
with a pen or a pencil or his fingernail, and then identify that mark on the