- MAKE WAY FOR THE SULTAN OF SWIPESRon Fimrite | August 22, 1977
- Blaine LacherChristian Stone | April 11, 1994
- How We Got Here - Chapter 2: Home in The DomeAugust 16, 1994
Douglas Michael Ford, the newly crowned PGA champion and winner of Tarn O'Shanter's All-American last Sunday, is certainly the fastest golfer in captivity today, and may well be the most rapid man ever to have won a major golf title. Gene Sarazen always played with remarkable Duncanesque swiftness, to be sure; but if my recollection and stop watch are correct, Gene's pace when he was at his peak was hardly a patch on the briskness he cultivated as he grew older and became more and more convinced that the less you mess around with a golf shot, the better your chances for hitting a good one. Ford probably takes a few seconds longer over the ball than Sarazen, but where he is really in a class by himself is in the speed with which he rumbles from shot to shot. Doug, as you know, is a big man. His neck is thick, his shoulders wide, his chest strictly Lionel Strongfort, and altogether his physique is so burly that he looks like a blocking back in pro football or one of baseball's old-time tobacco-chewing fence-busters like Rudy York. The difference is that Ford can walk faster than Rudy could run. After a shot, he plunges his head and neck forward and lunges ahead, eating up the fairway with vast muscular strides. It is quite a sight and has inspired many highflying descriptions, but none as graphic as "Ford always looks like he's playing through the foursome he's playing in."
In the PGA championship at the Meadowbrook Country Club outside Detroit, Ford had just the setup he thrives on. As the week wore on, Doug, through the fortuitousness of the draw, was daily one of the early starters. Conveniently, too, the latest starter by the day of the quarterfinals was Cary Middlecoff who, if Ford is the hare of the pro pack, is indeed the tortoise. Cary has always been a very analytical golfer; and possessing a wealth of nervous energy, he expends it luxuriously, figuring out each shot as if it were a new and singular problem, working himself up to a high summit of concentration before he plays it. To some degree, taking his high-ridged temperament into consideration, Middlecoff's measured mileage has undoubtedly helped him to shoot the wonderful game he has this year—but only to some degree. In winning the Masters, for example, he moved around the last 18 much faster than his normal speed, and he played a lovely round. A number of observers who have watched Cary frequently are of the firm opinion that when he takes enough time, but not too much time, over his shots, he rids himself of many nervous mannerisms which otherwise accumulate.
In his quarterfinal match in the PGA against his good friend Jack Burke, whom he defeated on the 40th green as the shades of night were falling fast, Cary had one of his slowest days ever. Especially since this was match play it is just, I think, to say that Cary's overdeliberateness added up to a lack of consideration for his opponent. This, of course, is the last thing Cary intended; but the hard facts are that golf is not a game in which you force an opponent to play at your pace, even unintentionally. You try to play at an agreeable pace, making some allowance for golfers who are a little slower or a little faster than you are, and expecting them to make the same reasonable allowances for you.
In any event, Ford played his way to the final in what was technically the lower half of the draw (defeating Shelley Mayfield 4 and 3 in a semifinal that was closer than the score indicates); and in the other half Middlecoff came through impressively (defeating 4 and 3, in his semifinal match, Tommy Bolt, who had eliminated Sam Snead and Jack Fleck). This brought the hare and the tortoise together in the final and raised all sorts of speculation: Would Ford try to make Middlecoff gallop at his pace? Would Cary be hoping to get Ford to join him in his Tennessee Waltz? Neither of these possibilities came to pass, as it turned out. From the very first hole, Middlecoff marched along at a good and agreeable pace and Ford, for all his impatience on the two or three occasions when Cary examined a chip or a putt with the baleful caution of an automobile dealer studying the condition of a trade-in, made only a few obvious efforts to introduce a true jazz tempo.
A GREAT FOUR IRON
Neither man played quite as well in the final as he had previously in the long, hard week. The day was a fierce broiler, and by early afternoon the temperature (96�) and the humidity had taken the starch out of Middle-coff's concentration. Ford, who had never led during the morning and had gone to lunch one down, went one up for the first time on the 230-yard 26th (where, the wind with him, he hit a great four-iron nine feet from the cup). He was definitely on his way to his ultimate 4-and-3 victory when he birdied the next short hole, the 29th, hitting the center of a severely trapped green with a really fine four-wood.
Apart from his speed, several other features about Ford make him an exceptional figure in this day and age when most pros are precise swingers and precise dressers. Ford is neither. He usually looks as if he had left his laundry in the last town back and it hasn't caught up with him. His effortful swing has a sizable loop at the top but, as Toney Penna, the MacGregor Co.'s chief shepherd-in-the-field explains, "through the ball Doug is as solid as anybody." Ford's long game is erratic by the best standards, but he plays the pitch to the green from 135 yards in probably better than anyone on the tour, and he is a great holer of putts. Above all, he is a very "hungry" competitor. You can only beat Doug Ford when you convince him that that day you are a better golfer than he is. Otherwise, he will beat you.