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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Chi Chi in Good Humor, Health

March 14, 1997|THOMAS BONK

That Chi Chi Rodriguez. Does he like to try new things or what?

While most of the other golfers are changing things like grips, shafts, irons, drivers, caddies, setups and swing thoughts, Rodriguez marches right out and tries to drive the green.

Yes, he goes straight to the science of medicine for help.

Let's check Chi Chi's chart. So far, Rodriguez has tried lamb-embryo injections to make

him feel younger, intravenous chelation therapy to remove plaque from his arteries and homeopathic dentistry to remove his silver fillings and the mercury in them.

Where it's all going to end, we're not quite sure, but next week, he probably will volunteer for cloning.

It may all sound very strange, but tell the truth, is it any weirder than Swedish golfer Jesper Parnevik's admission last week that he eats dirt to cleanse his system?

We think not. Anyway, Rodriguez said he feels better at 61 than he did at 20.

"I could run 18 holes right now," Rodriguez said. "I don't think I could play them, but I could run them."

It's looking like that, the golf part, that is. Rodriguez has won only two Senior PGA Tour events since 1991, none since 1993.

He's playing in the Toshiba Senior Classic this weekend at Newport Beach Country Club, where he will try to improve on his best finish in four tournaments this year--a tie for 17th in the LG Championship.

But that was the old Chi Chi, not the new and improved version that now can pull a big, new driver out of his bag. Rodriguez is using Callaway's Biggest Big Bertha, the one with the clubhead only slightly smaller than Brian Barnes' midsection.

"It goes like a rocket," Rodriguez said.

On the driving range this week, Rodriguez felt so good about the distance he was driving the ball, he tried to knock one over the fence. He didn't, but that was not important. That Rodriguez thought he even had a chance was huge.

"I feel better now than I have in the last four years," he said. "I know I'm a solid player."

Rodriguez credited a tuneup session back in Puerto Rico with his brother, Jesus, who tightened his grip. Rodriguez said he was smart to listen.

"After all, if you cannot trust someone named Jesus, who can you trust?" he said.

Besides trusting Jesus with his swing, Rodriguez got involved in a deal to buy property in Puerto Rico to build two public golf courses.

"No private courses," Rodriguez said. "I want the poor people to be able to play golf too. I want to teach some poor kids not to be poor."

He sure could do that. After 22 victories and nearly 12 years on the senior tour, Rodriguez has won almost $7 million. He thinks he can win again, probably soon.

"I plan on winning five times this year," he said. "I was planning on winning just once, but that was before I talked to Jesus."

There is plenty of time left to write his autobiography, but Rodriguez already has come up with a working title: "From the Sugar Cane Plantation to Wall Street."

And after the book, of course, there's the movie deal. Rodriguez is thinking about whom to cast as himself.

"Probably Tom Cruise," he said. "Paul Newman is probably a little too old. People tell me I look like him though."

THIS JUST IN

For what it's worth, Nick Faldo is the favorite to win the Masters.

The odds on Faldo are 10-1, according to one chain of British bookmakers' shops.

Next at 12-1 are Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Tom Lehman and Ernie Els. Woods had been the favorite until Faldo won the Nissan Open at Riviera.

Nick Price is 14-1, Mark O'Meara is 25-1 and Craig Stadler and Tom Watson are 50-1.

Faldo is a three-time Masters champion and last year came from six shots behind on the final day to defeat Norman by five shots.

MONSTER 1, JACK 0

We know that Raymond Floyd put some teeth back into the Blue Monster at Doral with some renovations, especially the 18th hole, where he added bunkers on both sides of the fairway.

Jack Nicklaus surely took notice.

"I have always tried to play golf with a golf club, and there I have a hard time driving with my rifle," he said after a practice round for last week's Doral-Ryder Open.

Nicklaus missed the cut.

SNEAD ON TIGER

Sam Snead, who turns 85 in May, plays only one Senior PGA Tour event--next week's Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf tournament at PGA West.

About 15 years ago, Snead saw a 6-year-old kid hit some balls and came away impressed. That kid was Woods.

"Even at that time, you could see he had something special, he swung so hard," said Snead, who thinks Woods needs to let up a little.

"Even though he hits it such a long way, I'm afraid it's going to take a toll on his back," he said. "I hope he doesn't get hurt."

Snead will team with E. Harvie Ward in the 70-and-over Demaret Division, which also features such stars as Charlie Sifford, Tommy Bolt, Paul Runyan, Doug Ford, Art Wall and Jack Fleck.

Bolt and Fleck won last year. Jimmy Powell and Orville Moody are the defending champions in the Legendary Division for players between 60 and 69. Lee Trevino and Mike Hill won the Legends Division.

IT STILL AIN'T OVER

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