One thing the two-day opening round did was give everyone a chance to contemplate the myriad statistics that the public is going to be bombarded with this year. Each week America is going to learn—down to several decimal places—who the tour's most accurate drivers are; who the longest drivers are; who the best putters are; who makes the most birdies and eagles; and who hits the most greens in regulation, along with other indices Americans have come to expect, like who is winning the most money and what Jack Nicklaus had for lunch.
However, it occurred to some of the pros around Palm Springs last week that Tour Commissioner Deane Beman had overlooked some important categories in the statistics he ordered up last month as a means of making the tour a more "viable force in the sports marketplace."
Regardless of what the new numbers show after a couple of months, the pros already know who the most accurate drivers are. They are people like Lee Trevino, Larry Nelson and Tom Kite. They already know who the longest hitters are. They are people like Fuzzy Zoeller, Andy Bean and Dan Pohl. They already know who hits the most greens in regulation. They are people like Hale Irwin, Trevino and Nelson. They already know who the best putters are: Ben Crenshaw, Tom Watson and Dave Stockton. And when 102 of them were asked who was going to win the most money in 1980, only 96 of them responded with Tom Watson. Nicklaus did not get a vote for anything, but, then, nobody was asked who they thought the low golf-course architect might turn out to be.
Far more engaging, perhaps, would be the results of statistical analysis to determine:
1. Who takes the most drops from line-of-sight obstructions. The odds would favor John Schroeder, who has intentionally hit into more grandstands to avoid water hazards than anyone. John also takes the most time doing it. Once on the third round of the Colonial National Invitation he took so much time playing into and dropping out of the grandstand at the 18th hole that the telecast went off the air before he reached the green.
2. Who requests the most free drops from holes, which are caused by burrowing animals, that turn out to be anthills. Gary Player already has an insurmountable lead.
3. Who comes up with the most reasons for not playing well, such as, the baby cried all night; the air-conditioning in the motel was impossible to adjust; it was an unusually cold fall in California; the airline lost my golf clubs; and the dog ate my homework. When Johnny Miller withdrew in the first round at Palm Springs, he explained that he had cramps in his neck that might have been caused by clearing land around his home.
4. Who comes up with the most reasons for playing better, such as, Phil Rodgers gave me a bunker tip; Ken Venturi gave me a pitching-wedge tip; Byron Nelson gave me a long-iron tip; David Graham loaned me a driver; I found an old putter in the basement of a friend's house; it was an unusually warm fall in Texas; and I have a new wife. When Nelson started off 1980 by playing as well as he did in 1979 he offered that he did not find as much pressure in a golf tournament as he did while leading a light infantry team into combat in Vietnam.
5. Who in the press tents of the PGA tour will consistently ask the dumbest questions of either a competitor or Tom Place, the tour's public information director, such as, where do they play the Crosby; how many carats are in the diamond in Cal Peete's tooth; and is there anyone on the circuit you admire more than Dave Eichelberger? The answer: any radio man.
Even as the grist for Beman's statistical mill was being gathered by lady scorers in Palm Springs, somebody suggested that the commissioner had other prizes he could award if he really wanted to stimulate interest in the game. There were various slams to win. For example, the winner of the Hope would have a leg up on the TV slam; he would only have to add victories at the Joe Garagiola Tucson, the Jackie Gleason Inverrary and the Ed McMahon Quad Cities. A Singer's Slam would go to anyone who won the Andy Williams, the Bing Crosby, the Glen Campbell and the Sammy Davis Jr. in the same year. The Corporate Slam comes up this summer with the Kemper in Washington, the IVB (Industrial Valley Bank) in Philadelphia, the Manufacturers Hanover Trust in Westchester and the American Optical in Pleasant Valley, outside Worcester, Mass.