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Not All the Pro Golfers Choose to Gut It Out at Riviera--Several Quit

February 05, 1989|RICH TOSCHES | Times Staff Writer

The Riviera Country Club course has just turned you upside down and shaken all the dignity from your body. It is raining hard; your shoes, pants cuffs and ears are rapidly filling with water and you have just turned in a horrible round of golf.

Some pro golfers who found themselves in that situation at the Los Angeles Open did the only responsible thing.

They quit.

Technically, PGA Tour rules require that a player be injured or ill or have a dire personal problem such as a death in the family for them to withdraw from a tournament without risking a fine or other sanctions.

In reality, it is a rule the PGA does not enforce. If a player wants out, he simply calls the tournament office, tells an official that he doesn't feel well and cannot continue, and he is excused. No questions.

One of the first to head out Friday was Payne Stewart, who complained of a bad back. He shot a 76 on Thursday and was 6-over-par on Friday when rain halted the second round.

Others who withdrew because of "illness" were David Edwards, Brad Fabel, Doug Tewell, Tony Sills and Mark McCumber. All except McCumber had shot 75 or 76 in the opening round and had little chance of making the 36-hole cut.

McCumber shot rounds of 70 and 74 and entered the press tent Friday night to check the scores of other players. He decided that he would probably not make the cut, heard the weather report that called for continued rain and told writers he was getting on the next plane back to his home in Florida.

"I can watch the last two rounds from home," he said.

If he did, he would have seen that the cut was 3-over-par 145 and that he had earned a spot in the field for the final two rounds, the money rounds.

The PGA officially listed his absence as, "Withdrew-illness," an illness seemingly brought on by walking in mud while wearing wet shoes and made worse by missing several easy putts.

Sills was sick, also. He became sick when he discovered that he was 11-over-par with 5 holes to play early Saturday morning to complete his second round.

Bailing out of a tournament is not a common practice on the tour, however. Ken Green, for example, bravely thrashed his way through two full rounds and missed the cut before packing up his bag and heading home to see his father, who had suffered a heart attack on Tuesday.

Tom Byrum staggered to a round of 82 on Thursday and clearly was not going to make the cut. But he showed up at 7 a.m. Saturday and finished his second round in a pounding rain, knowing he needed a 63 to qualify.

Morris Hatalsky, who had trouble in the rain on Saturday also and missed the cut, said there's no excuse for quitting.

"It was very difficult out there today, and I know how those guys felt," he said. "What they do is their business. I did it once. I withdrew from the Tucson Open a few years ago because I had played badly in the first round and wanted to get home to see my son play in his soccer game. But I felt bad about it, and I don't condone it at all.

"Even when things get miserable like this sometimes, we're supposed to play. We are professionals. Once you tee it up in a tournament, you've got to finish. You've got to play until they tell you that you can't play anymore."

And sometimes, lowering their head into a howling, wet wind and continuing to tee it up pays off.

Brian Tennyson, a 26-year-old pro from Evansville, Ind., who finished 108th on the money list last year, began the L.A. Open with a round of 76, the same as Stewart, Tewell and Sills. But he came back and shot an exceptional 69 and made the cut by one stroke.

Perhaps McCumber will see him today on television.

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