Sam Snead turns 85 in two months and splits his time between Hot Springs, Va., and Fort Pierce, Fla., which is where he spends the winter. After teeing it up with E. Harvie Ward this weekend at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, Snead might not play anymore competitively after next month's Tradition.
Snead said it is easy to characterize the way he is playing.
"My golf game at the moment is coming and going," he said.
That's probably to be expected since Snead didn't play much golf in Florida over the winter, but he had some good reasons.
"I didn't have any pigeons," Snead said. "All the pigeons I had are either dead or they stayed away from my building."
As it turns out, Snead tends to have a lot of opinions, mostly because he has either seen it happen or has done it himself during a golf career in its eighth decade.
--On Tiger Woods: "He's in super-high gear, he's on fire right now, but a few more years will tell the story. Most players have a great, high moment in their life. I don't know if he's had his yet."
--On the Stadium Course at PGA West, where the Legends used to play: "They said, 'We want the hardest golf course in the world.' I said, 'You ought to send this one to hell.' "
--On his official tournament victory total, which the PGA Tour reduced from 86 to 81 because five were not considered official events: "The way things are going, [Jack] Nicklaus is going to pass me and he doesn't have to win another tournament."
--On the quality of play on the Senior PGA Tour: "You make one little boo-boo and they go by you in bunches. You go from caviar to rabbit."
--On giving advice to nephew J.C. Snead: "I told him, 'I'll put cotton in this ear and you put cotton in the other ear. That way, it won't go straight through.' "
--On the seven major championships he won between 1942 and 1954: "They didn't total $25,000 altogether. Right now, I'd rather watch senior tour events than PGA Tour events on television. I've got to admit, though, I don't know too many of those flat-bellies over there."
OLD LEGEND, NEW ONE
Paul Runyan won the PGA Championship in 1934 and again in 1938, so he knows a thing or two about what it takes to win major golf titles. Now 88, Runyan said Woods has it.
"He has a chance to become the greatest player of all time," Runyan said. "Right now, he's as good as anybody in the world."
Runyan said he only recently climbed on the Woods bandwagon, waiting until the 21-year-old filled out his game with the restraint needed to become a great champion by keeping his driver in his bag unless it was called for.
"He's got to get smarter, golfingly speaking," Runyan said. "He just needs more experience. He needs to know how to save shots, avoid double bogeys, accept pars when that's all he can get. I don't think he has any peers as far as swinging the club is concerned."
Last year at Augusta, Greg Norman said he thought Woods was capable of winning the Masters right away. Runyan agreed, but with reservations.
"If I were going to make a bet on anybody at the Masters, I would probably take either Davis Love III or Norman over Tiger Woods," Runyan said. "But if Tiger Woods can master or come close to the mental game, he could win hands down."
FALL COMES EARLY
After President Clinton fell down some steps and tore up his knee while a house guest of Norman, reporters for several of the tabloid television shows decided to show up at the Honda Classic for reaction.
To his surprise, New York Times golf writer Larry Dorman found himself facing the cameras of "American Journal." Dorman said he might have imagined being interviewed for winning the Pulitzer Prize or possibly writing a bestseller.
"But never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd ever be asked what I thought about a president falling down some stairs at a golfer's house," Dorman said.
THE MILK RUN
Honda Classic champion Stuart Appleby, 25, grew up on his parents' 250-acre dairy ranch in Cohuna, Australia, where there was plenty of room for a kid to practice his golf.
"I could hit shots from paddock to paddock and over the house," said Appleby, whose first PGA Tour victory was worth $270,000.
Fellow Aussie Norman sent him a congratulatory note. Good thing he didn't ask Appleby over and give him the room upstairs.
ALL THINGS NOT EQUAL
The winner at next week's PGA Tour Players Championship, which is not a major, gets $630,000. The winner at next week's LPGA Nabisco Dinah Shore, which is a major, gets $135,000.
SEVE'S HEAVY HAND
Seve Ballesteros said he has asked Mark James, the chairman of the PGA European Tour's tournament committee, to poll the players if they would approve Ballesteros having as many as four selections for the European Ryder Cup team that will play the United States in September in Spain.
"I think I am going to get something out of it," said Ballesteros, the European team captain. "I don't think it's unfair to change the system but, obviously, it's going to be more difficult to finish in the top eight than the top 10 in the points table.