People with suspicious minds might have said aha, Watson's been winning with an illegal ball. However, several things should be said on his behalf. First, Watson wouldn't knowingly use an illegal golf ball. If it was illegal before the PGA, he didn't know it, and if it was illegal there, it didn't help him finish better than ninth. Second, the difference between his so-called hot ball and one that isn't is minuscule, both in size and performance. Also, a hot ball isn't much of an advantage unless you hit it straight. The ball that gets a few extra yards is hardly a thing of beauty if it has been aimed at a lake or the deep rough. Watson won his majors with skill and guts, not by means of an unfair edge.
Tour officials such as Clyde Mangum and Jack Tuthill have sizing rings that they sometimes put a player's ball through to make sure it conforms. The ball is supposed to linger in the ring and then go through. Last week Mangum laughed at the "ball scandal," saying, "If you tested all of the balls in cold weather, they would drop through like peanuts."
To his credit, Watson met the problem head on. The day before the tournament he marched into the press room and said, "I know what the first question is: 'What's wrong with the golf ball?' " He explained the situation as well as he understood it and said he would, for the time being, switch to a Ram ball that had passed the test. So much for what passed for a scandal in Akron, except that Ram will probably increase its ball sales.
Illegal balls were a lot more fun in the old days. Players looking for an edge used to shoot them up with needles—putting lead in the center—to get more distance. Well, the World Series playoff didn't meet the game's exacting standards, either. Mere pars on those four holes were good enough for Stadler. And, finally, if anybody's ball looked hot, it was Floyd's when his chip blew across the green and did him in.