Barring late phone-in changes from you viewers at home, T.C. (Two Chip) Chen appears to have won the L.A. Open by mastering the notion of one whack of the ball per golf swing. Not so good at the new math was Ben Crenshaw, who forgot that taking more than one swing of the putter to navigate four feet often equals second place.
And so Crenshaw becomes further burdened as the worst playoff player in history (0-6), while Tze-Chung finally unburdens himself from his ignominious nickname, acquired in 1985 when he blew a four-stroke lead on the final day of the U.S. Open by, among other things, hitting the ball twice in one pass of the sand wedge, a neat trick mostly used at Jaycee exhibitions.
How about Too Cool as a new nickname? After all, hadn't Chen taken the lead with a hole in one on Saturday? And hadn't he given us the thrill ride of the golf year by matching Crenshaw's three-pointer of a putt on the 72nd hole with his own ought-to-be-an-L.A.-law sidehill 14-footer? And doesn't he have a Boston Blackie mustache? He's Much Too Cool.
And when Crenshaw walloped his four-foot putt left and past the cup on the first playoff hole at historic Riviera Country Club, Chen, after four years and too few close calls, finally became a True Champion—the first Taiwanese to win on the Tour.
"Well," someone asked him, "will you be able to sleep tonight?"
"I don't think so," said Chen in slightly tortured English. "I'm too exciting."
You got that right. Ditto for the whole PGA Tour lately. Remember a year ago, when the Tour was notable mainly for who's-he winners—three first-timers in the first 10 tournaments—and the bickering triumvirate of Deane Beman, Seve Ballesteros and Mac O'Grady?
Since then, it has been like one giant Dr. Leo Buscaglia hug. Greg Norman emerged as the new Arnie. Bob Tway became the Great American Hope. Ballesteros is only mumbling his gripes instead of shouting them. Mac the Quote is (relatively) silent ("My goal is to get through the entire year without being fined," he says). And the golf has been perfectly splendid.
Of the first seven tournaments this year, two have gone to playoffs and four have been decided by one shot. Better yet, some great names, once thought put away in the deep freeze until cures could be found—Craig Stadler, Johnny Miller, and Crenshaw—have gotten a good dose of I-think-I-cans. Not only did Johnny come lately to his first Tour win in four years, at Pebble Beach, but Stadler already has two, oops, make that one (see page 85) second-place finish. George Burns won at La Jolla, and now Crenshaw comes to L.A. to prove that last year's two-win comeback was no chimera.
Everybody seems to be getting his kicks. "The players have been so nice to me about it," says Miller. "Hale Irwin was crazy over it. He said to me, 'That was fantastic! Maybe this means I can win, too.' "