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JIM MURRAY

Who Are All These Guys in L.A. Open?

February 23, 1986|JIM MURRAY

Call it the No-Name L.A. Open. Color it gray. Put a bag over its head. Market it in a plain white box. Classify it under the Official Secrets Act. Hide it in the attic when company comes. Censor it.

It's a golf tournament in name only. I mean, it's like the old joke: To you, it's a golf tournament; to me, it's a golf tournament--but to a golf tournament, is it a golf tournament? Like, would the Masters consider it a golf tournament? The British Open? Would Ben Hogan consider it a golf tournament?

You say Mac Who was leading this tournament after two rounds? Mac O'Grady?! You're putting me on. That's a barrack ballad by Rudyard Kipling, right? That's not a real person. If he's leading, you don't even want to know who's 50th.

When did leader boards become as anonymous as spy lists? Why can't we have known people on them anymore? Who in the world is Masahiro Kuramoto? For that matter who is Brett Upper? Would Clarence Rose by any other name be as obscure? Wasn't it only yesterday we had Billy Caspers and Gene Littlers up there? Real names. Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" said: "We had faces in my day!" Well, we had names in ours. Are they as long gone as silent movies?

They accuse us of runaway ancestor worship. Might as well worry where the Sun Kings of France went, they argue. They say Hogan is 73. Palmer is 56. Bobby Jones is dead.

But never mind yesteryear's heroes. Where are last week's? Tomorrow's?

Where's Grier Jones? Didn't he win three tournaments only the other day? Wasn't there a Forest Fezler around here a second ago? Isn't Jerry McGee exempt anymore?

Never mind Johnny Miller, where's Allen Miller? Isn't Bobby Clampett winning U.S. Opens yet? Has anybody seen Rik Massengale lately? Didn't Bill Rogers just win a British Open? Shouldn't he be winning at least a Quad Cities? Weren't they moving trees in the dead of night in a U.S. Open to take away Lon Hinkle's length advantage only yesterday? I guess Frank Beard had to go but did Alan Tapie, too?

Is Bruce Lietzke still out there?. Anybody know where Jerry Heard went? Matter of fact, has anybody seen Tom Watson win lately?

Just as we get used to a guy, he disappears. The tour is tough, but c'mon! It's not quicksand. It's the biggest disappearing act this side of Stalin's Gulags. It makes non-persons quicker than all the secret police in South America.

I believe it was Andy Warhol who said everybody in the world was going to be famous for 15 minutes. He must have had the golf tour in mind. A guy is the toast of the tour one week--and is back cleaning clubs as soon as his exemption runs out. They build swings like they build automobiles. They run out of warranty after 72 holes. The golfers build the obsolescence in. It's as if the fairy godmother gives it to them for that one ball and it turns back into a pumpkin.

They tell us the tour is so crowded with great players that you can't win 11 tournaments in a row as Byron Nelson did in 1945. You can't even win 13 in a year as Hogan did in 1946.

Fair enough. But how about winning a tournament--and making the cut the next week? Or the next year? How about making the top 10 now and then?

Ben Hogan didn't win a tournament--and then finish 42nd or so the rest of the year.

A Man o' War loses a race by a neck. A Dempsey loses by decision. A Hemingway doesn't write a clinker. A Caruso keeps hitting the high note, he doesn't hit it half the time. Carmen is announced and Carmen is sung.

These guys lose by daylight. One-round knockout. They let a different guy sing the high notes every week.

They let everybody in now who can break 80 on his own ball. The tour is about as exclusive as the Red Army.

They like to think they work as hard as the old-timers, but you tell me. The leader in this tournament, Doug Tewell, was about to shine it for a 9-to-5 job as early as a year ago. He got tired of putting for a living. And this is a guy who can strike the ball as well as anyone in an argyle sweater. He won two tournaments five years ago and then forgot how he did it.

Can you imagine Hogan opting for a career in commerce with all those U.S. Opens and Masters and Brtish Opens out there? Think Snead ever considered switching to a briefcase?

A lot of us were enormously cheered then by the presence on the leader board of the L.A. Open at Riviera of a couple of throwback names, one an old familiar one and the other so new it's susceptible of misspelling even after three days.

Everyone knows Lanny Wadkins isn't going anywhere till he wins another 15 tournaments and another two majors or so.

You have to think Dennis Trixler isn't either. He doesn't want to sell alpacas for a living. His love affair with golf is like that unrequited one Maugham wrote about in "Of Human Bondage."

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