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Jim Murray

This Didn't Even Look Like a Crosby

February 09, 1988|Jim Murray

You know, it's awful nice to have the name "Jones" atop the board as winner of a tournament once again--but, tell me, what tournament was that Steve Jones won at Pebble Beach Sunday?

It's a good thing they don't call it the "Crosby" any more because it sure wasn't. No "Crosby" any of us remember.

You all remember what a "Crosby" was like. Sheets of rain blowing in from the bay. Wind howling down from Siberia. Porky Oliver taking a 16 on the 16th at Cypress. Without really hitting a bad shot. Arnold Palmer standing out on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and finally turning and handing the club to a watching seal.

Henry Ransom, lying five and hitting shots into the side of rocks until one ricochetted back and hit him in the stomach and he handed the club to his caddy and said: "That's it. When they start hitting you back, it's time to quit." And he did.

Tommy Bolt, standing in a howling sleet storm on a fairway outside Bing Crosby's digs and announcing to the world that he was going to stand there "Till that crooner comes out and I'm going to put a gun to his head and make him par all these holes himself."

Bolt, again, who, when a herd of deer marched across a fairway, screamed for the marshals. "Where are the marshals? Ain't they supposed to keep the gallery behind the ropes?"

Ah, that was the Crosby. It was not a tournament, it was a torture. The rack. The wrath of God on golf. Punishment for your sins. When the wind blew and the rain fell, it was 5,200 acres of unplayable lies. Wuthering Heights times two. A great place for a shipwreck.

Its charm was, the golfers came to it from the sand-dune, palm-tree tours in Palm Springs and Arizona. Shirt-sleeve golf where the worst thing that could happen to you was par and cactus now coming where the worst thing that could happen to you was double-bogey and double-pneumonia. They came from shooting 63s to shooting 83s. Ben Hogan shot an 81 here. So did Nicklaus.

One day, when the wind blew and the rain pelted and the pins in the cups were bent double by the frigid blasts of air, a runner came excitedly in the clubhouse. "Tom Nieporte is 11-over-par after 5 holes," he announced breathlessly. "Really?" Jackie Burke wanted to know. "Where did he get his birdies?"

That's the way the Crosby used to be, the Crosby we have come to know and love. Every 20-handicapper in the country loved the Crosby. It was our revenge. The conditions were so bad, the pros got to find out what it was like to play the game the way we had to play it all the time--with trembling fingers, knocking knees, head hurting, ears ringing, feet slipping, hands slipping on the club, shots careening right-to-right, carried on unseen currents of air. That's the way we play the game when it's 90 degrees, windless and on courses that have no sand, trees or water anywhere in sight.

Now, get a load of the tournament Steve Jones won. Call that a Crosby? I should say not. A walk in the park. Look at those guys. Are they wiping their grips with towels before every shot? Are they even throwing grass in the air to check the wind? All bundled up in knit caps and oilskins? Gloves on both hands? They could play this in bikinis. They aim for the green. They don't have to start the shot out over the Pacific Ocean and let a weather front bring it in.

And look at the Pacific. Jack London would be disappointed in it. Here's an ocean that once piled up half the destroyers in the fleet and it looks as if it should have lily pads on it. There's even a guy swimming--without a wet suit.

The Crosby? Hah! I'm glad they call it the AT&T Whatever now. Bing would be mortified.

I'm glad we got a leader named Jones. But if he thinks he won the Crosby, I've got news. I just hope some day before he dies he does get to play in a Crosby. I'll be waiting for him with a St. Bernard and a cask of brandy.

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