Having thus officially established that golf will be colorblind, the PGA started play on Thursday with one black in the 151-man field—41-year-old Tour veteran Jim Thorpe. By Friday afternoon the Shoal Creek rough had sent Thorpe packing, but he had plenty of illustrious white golfers for company. The once-feared Seve Ballesteros, for example, shot 77-83-160 and was gone. Shoal Creek's designer, Jack Nicklaus, shot eight over par and missed the cut by a stroke. Mark Calcavecchia, Bernhard Langer, Curtis Strange and Tommy Armour III went away muttering. Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino—golf's richest minority member, who won the 1984 PGA at Shoal Creek-failed too. They headed back to the Senior tour, where the rough isn't so.
Still around after two rounds was a 33-year-old Englishman who made no secret of his interest in joining an exclusive club. The club Nick Faldo wanted to join, restricted to golfers who have won three modern majors in one year, has just one member: Ben Hogan, who won both Opens and the Masters in 1953. Faldo, with wins in the 1990 Masters and British Open (and with only a lipped-out putt on the 72nd hole separating him from the U.S. Open playoff won by Hale Irwin at Medinah), stood poised on the brink of golf immortality. That, in hindsight, may have affected his stance.
America doesn't quite have a handle on Faldo yet, but we're working on it. The
Birmingham Post-Herald took a stab last week, noting that Faldo "bares [sic] a slight resemblance to Harrison Ford, the actor...."
Faldo did emerge from the dark cave of his swing thoughts now and then. When a butterfly bothered one of his playing partners, Irwin, on Thursday, Faldo joined Payne Stewart in a putter-waving bug drive that amused the gallery. At other times he mocked himself with sardonic shakes of the head or made crowd-pleasing gestures over holed putts.
These may be concessions to stagecraft, but Faldo needs only a hint of warmth and wit to broaden his appeal in this country. While British golf writer Peter Dobereiner described him recently as "a loner to the point of stand-offishness, consumed by ambition, arrogant, self-centred and obsessively driven by the impossible dream of technical perfection," Faldo is not the robot golfer he's often made out to be. He is, however, a man who has learned, like Indiana Jones, that snakes can't bite what they can't reach. On Thursday, for example, Faldo drove into the left rough on the 9th hole, leaving himself 170 yards to a green fronted by water. After numerous practice swings, Faldo addressed the ball with an eight-iron, but he backed off before swinging. Disgusted, he exchanged the club for a sand wedge, blasted safely into the fairway and took his bogey.
"I had half a lie," he said later. "I had half a chance of getting there. Every time I put the club down, the grass closed over the ball. I thought, Well, I've seen this movie...."
Compared with the wide-open Old Course at St. Andrews, where Faldo lapped the field by five strokes—or even with Augusta National, where he has won two Masters in a row—Shoal Creek must have seemed confining, if not downright claustrophobic. Each hole, carved by Nicklaus out of dense pine and hardwood forest, is defined to the point of isolation. For the week of the championship, woolly collars of rough were allowed to flourish around greens already guarded by wide bunkers. "There's no finesse," said a worried John Simpson, Faldo's agent. "There's no practicing for it."
"It's a perfect Faldo golf course," countered Tom Kite. "He's long and he's very, very straight."
As it happened, Faldo wasn't so straight on Thursday, but he scrambled around in one under par. In the second round he shot 75 and admitted to a gradual leaking of self-assurance. "I kind of lost my confidence about where to aim," he said, blaming greens that treated iron shots capriciously, accepting some and rejecting others. "There's a bigger bounce here than at St. Andrews after three months of drought."
He shrugged and added, "A good whack around the back of the head and I'll be ready tomorrow."