Vince Lombardi was right. Winning isn't everything. Second place is everything. Look at Mark Calcavecchia. He's losing his way to millions. He's getting beat right into the rich house. On Sunday he finished second for the third straight week and had to settle for becoming the Tour's money leader with $551,040. Half a million for 2� months' work will console you in a way you won't believe.
"It's real tough, isn't it?" said Calcavecchia, who brooded about his latest crushing defeat for almost 30 seconds. "I guess I'm the new Mr. Consistency on the PGA Tour."
Cutting his initials into Calcavecchia's tree this time was a human bunker rake named Jodie Mudd, all six feet and 145 pounds of him. Mudd won The Players Championship last week in Ponte Vedra, Fla., by giving away 55 pounds to Calcavecchia but not a damn thing else.
Mudd is short on pounds but long on guts. He kept Calcavecchia's famous molars out of his backside the entire day, matching Calcavecchia's final-round 69 with a 69 of his own. But it wasn't until Mudd finally pushed his luck, and his tee shot, at the 17th on Sunday that he won the tournament.
Come to think of it, he was lucky to get a tee time. The Marriott at Sawgrass has 85% of the allotted tee times on the Tournament Players Club course, and the Tour let the hotel send guests onto the course as late as March 9, the Friday before the tournament. On March 11, the pros got on, and by last Thursday the greens were as silky as a Tibetan thruway. "It was like putting over a three-day beard," said Tom Watson.
"It's the Marriott Muni," said former TPC champion John Mahaffey. J.C. Snead said tournament officials should draw a circle around the second green and call it "casual grass." Added Tim Simpson, "[ PGA Tour commissioner] Deane Beman wants to make this a great championship, but he wants to run it on a publinks course."
Even the tournament leaders were roasting it. Calcavecchia said, "You couldn't look five guys in the eye and have them tell you this is their favorite course. If this were just the Greater Jacksonville Open, we'd have 10 out of the top 100 money-winners here." The PGA Tour's home course being savaged? By its own players? It was like the waiter not recommending the house special. On Saturday, in its daily newsletter, the Tour's public relations machinery attempted some "damage control." NBC commentator Charlie Jones, whose network happened to be televising the tournament, was quoted as saying that The Players Championship was "one of the truly great sporting events of our time." Yeah. This and American Gladiators. Beman blamed the bumpy greens on the worst winter in Florida "in 100 years" and admitted that the course should have closed earlier. "Next year will be different," he said. But Greg Norman wasn't biting. "This course is not ready for this [tournament] in March," said Norman. "We should play it in May. It's a sad thing we can't put on a better show."
Are you kidding? What could be a better show to a guy from Tallahassee with binoculars around his neck and a footlong in his mouth than watching some polyester who made $6 trillion last year put up 8s? Mark O'Meara made a 9 on the par-5 16th hole on Thursday and withdrew. Roger Maltbie made a 9 on the par-3 17th on Friday and withdrew. Phil Blackmar came to 17 on Friday at three over par for the tournament. By the time he walked off the 18th green, he was 14 over. He had fed three Titleists to the alligators at 17 for a 10. Then he put two more into Lake Pate on 18 for an 8. The 6'7", 240-pound Blackmar chose not to comment on his round, and reporters chose not to risk wedgectomies by pressing the issue.
The only sad thing for fans was that they didn't get to watch the best players in the world make 8s and 10s. With the exception of Sandy Lyle, not a single member of the three-time winning European Ryder Cup team showed up. Why should only Americans have to play pit-and-pendulum golf? Why can't we see Seve Ballesteros bounce a few off railroad ties? Or Nick Faldo? What would Bernhard Langer sound like cussing at Beman in German?
You don't think there was some kind of plot to take the air out of Beman's balloon, do you? You don't think it was a snub, do you? Does Faldo have an accent? Most of the Europeans passed up the "fifth major" in favor of the world-renowned Tenerife Open in the Canary Islands. Winner gets 40 oxen.