A look at golf’s frontside, the stories you expect to read.
IT GETS DECIDED EARLY
As if to contrast the course, the first hole ended up being the easiest and the second hole the hardest after four rounds of play. The first hole, a 503-yard par five, played to an average of 4.407 strokes. There were 19 eagles, 247 birdies, 158 pars, 13 bogeys and five double bogeys. The second hole, which measures 463 yards and is a par four, played at 4.299 strokes with only 25 birdies, 274 pars, 132 bogeys, 10 double bogeys, and one player had a score we don’t talk about.
THEY’VE GOT OPINIONS
After shooting his eight-under-par 63, one of only 17 players to shoot a 63 in major championship history, Brad Faxon tried to find something nice to say about a Riviera Country Club course that has been criticized for less-than- championship greens.
“Well, these fairways are absolutely the purest fairways you can play off,” he said. “The ball sits up extremely well. It’s easy to fly your ball the right distance. And they’re soft. I think somebody must have thought that by making the fairway soft, it would make the course longer and play tougher. I think if they scalped them down and the ball had some run-out on it, it might have played a little bit more difficult.”
As for the greens, Faxon wasn’t as diplomatic.
“The greens were very bare,” he said. “There’s not much grass left. I feel sorry for them after this week because I don’t know what’s going to be left of them. But I mean, they’re not so bad that you can’t make putts. You’ve got 100 guys here under par.”
Sunday’s final-round play was delayed five minutes because of fog.
BUT NO BREEZE
After opening with rounds of 71, 71 and 70, defending PGA champion Nick Price finally got his act together with a final-round 68.
Price only regretted that he couldn’t take advantage of the course.
“The conditions are so benign,” he said. “I can’t ever recall having played four days in such perfect conditions. There was absolutely no wind.”
DON’T FORGET ELS
Add Price: Despite Ernie Els’ final-day fade, Price had nothing but high praise for the South African.
“Ernie is a big boy now,” Price said. “He is in a superstar league. I think he’s going to win so many majors. I said that a long time ago, about five or six years ago when I first saw him play. I thought his game was like Jack Nicklaus’ game when he was in his early 20s--a long game off the tee and a wonderful short game.”
A QUIETER BOOM-BOOM
Fred Couples, a two-time winner of the L.A. Open at Riviera, finished with a five-under 66 and a four-day total of 279, 12 shots off the lead.
Couples, who has been plagued with back problems of late, was betrayed a showing on the leader board by a Saturday round of 74.
“I hit my irons the worst I have ever hit them [Saturday],” Couples said.
He was happier with his play on Sunday.
“Five under is a good score,” he said.
SALVE ON SUNDAY
Jeff Maggert said securing a place on the Ryder Cup team with his finish Sunday helps ease the pain of not winning.
“I’m a little disappointed about the tournament this week in not being able to win,” said Maggert, who shot a 69 Sunday and finished 15 under par at 269. “I came up a little short, but the Ryder Cup is a good thing to take home this week.”
Ben Crenshaw, normally the most congenial of men, had had enough.
“I don’t want to talk about it any more,” he said, after listening to a question about Riviera’s greens one too many times, and, perhaps, upset at finishing his round with a double bogey.
MOURNING THE MICK
On his way to Riviera, Dan Schillinger, a marshal on the 18th tee, heard on the radio that Mickey Mantle had died.
He pulled in to a gas station, noticed he was at pump No. 7 and stripped the numeral--Mantle was No. 7 with the Yankees--from the pump, stuck it on his hat and wore it all day.