To which Tom Watson, another former champion, said, "We've tampered with the qualifying system too much. You ought to have to win something to get here."
"Here" was still Akron and still Firestone, whose water tower has been on television more times than Mary Tyler Moore. And once again the championship didn't signify the end of anything on the tour. The World Series is supposed to represent the statistical and emotional end of the season, but it doesn't do any such thing, because the pros keep on playing those Pensacola Opens right up to Christmas. There are eight more tournaments in 1983.
Tour Commissioner Deane Beman hoped that the World Series would "transcend the major championships," and he's labored hard to make the event special. First prize is worth $100,000, and the winner receives a 10-year exemption on the tour. But fat purses have become almost commonplace—the Tournament Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, Fla., a Beman extravaganza that has succeeded, paid Hal Sutton $126,000 last March, and Sutton took home $100,000 for winning the PGA earlier this month. A new event scheduled for Las Vegas in two weeks will weigh the winner down with $135,000.
"If I didn't acknowledge that we have a problem, you'd want to put me away," Beman said in Akron. "Our original plan was to make it very select, make it the biggest purse, and conclude the season with it. We can still do that, and we're going to work on it."
The pity is that the tournaments at Akron have all been fascinating, if not downright thrilling, though played more or less in secrecy. Many of the game's marquee names have done their part to keep it from looking like a rerun. Last year Craig Stadler nipped Floyd in a sudden-death playoff. Competitively, at least, the World Series hasn't exactly been a Sammy Davis, Jr.- Danny Thomas Condo Classic.
But so what? The tournament still comes across like the old four-man World Series of Golf exhibition, which lasted 14 years, and reminds TV fans of the old CBS Golf Classic, which, four months a year, from '67 through '74, also filled your screens with the Firestone water tower. Maybe people think this is still the American Golf Classic, played at Firestone off and on from 1961 through 1976.
The '83 World Series unfolded with what does set it off from other tournaments—its usual hilarious opening ceremony. A high school band marched down the 1st fairway and later offered a few national anthems that sounded like the music piped into Oriental restaurants. Strange flags were raised, momentarily giving the crowd a feeling that Akron had undergone a coup.
The image of the World Series was not enhanced when Masters winner Seve Ballesteros, along with Great Britain's Nick Faldo and Sandy Lyle, chose to skip it in favor of action on the European tour. A World Series of Golf without Ballesteros? That's like a Taiwan Open without Hsieh Yu-Shu.
Crowds were sparse at Firestone, and one CBS executive was already complaining that the telecast was going to cost the network about $300,000 because the commercial spots sold for less than expected. With one thing and another, the series seemed to generate about as much excitement as the Akron Beacon Journal's Great Vegetable Cook-Off, in which Green Beans Supreme went up against Milk and Honey Carrots.
When last seen, Beman was bent into the Ohio humidity, a man determined to "fix" the event. Assuming he wasn't going to suggest a new format in which the golfers played through the streets of downtown Akron, twice circling the Quaker Oats Hilton and the United Rubber, Cork, Linoleum and Plastic Workers building, Beman's serious options appeared to be as follows: