August 8, 2007

Final exam with Chris Berman

ESPN Sportscaster

Golf Digest / Your ESPN colleague Andy North won the U.S. Open in 1978 and '85 at what courses? (Answer: Cherry Hills in Colorado and Oakland Hills in Michigan.)

Chris Berman / Cherry Hills and Oakland Hills. He'd never talk to me again if I didn't get that. The U.S. Open is No. 1 among majors for me. In 1974 at Winged Foot, I snuck in as a fan all four days on the fourth tee after parking on a friend's driveway. I felt so guilty all these years later, I gave the $40 admission fee for those four days to [USGA Executive Director] David Fay on the air last year. Told him: "I can't sleep at night!"

GD / ESPN is the acronym for Entertainment Sports Programming Network. In golf, what does GHIN stand for? (A: Golf Handicap and Information Network.)

CB / GHIN? Or gin, the 19th-hole drink? I have two home courses: The Farms in Wallingford, Conn., and TPC River Highlands, where we have the Travelers Championship. I play in Maui when I'm on vacation in March. I play 15 to 20 rounds a year. For a New Englander, that's pretty good. I'm about a 17-handicap, but I'm going the wrong way.

GD / You're "Boomer," but what Masters champion is nicknamed "Boom Boom"? (A: Fred Couples.)

CB / That's Freddie "Ryder" Couples. He liked that one.

GD / Who's The King? (A: Arnold Palmer.)

CB / Arnie, of course. I wasn't around when he was The King, and The Golden Bear was long before me. But 15 years ago, we had Curtis "People Are" Strange, Bob "Curds and" Tway and Mark "Unplayable" Lye. The best golf nickname, which I couldn't use when I heard his name pronounced correctly, was Jose Maria "Two Strokes" for Oh-lozz-a-ball.

GD / What did Tiger and Elin Woods name their baby? (A: Sam Alexis Woods.)

CB / I missed it, but I'm thrilled for them. [Told Sam Alexis.] Sam Alexis, huh? S.A.W.? So, we have to nickname the baby already: "Buzz Saw."

GD / Who's the heaviest player to win a tour event in 2007? (A: Mark Calcavecchia, 225 pounds.)

CB / Are you talking Calc? Golfers come in all shapes and sizes. Everybody who sees me on TV thinks I'm a short fat guy, but I'm 6-4½. I'm a tall fat guy.

GD / Tom Kite won the '92 U.S. Open at what California course? (A: Pebble Beach.)

CB / I was there, and I actually picked him to win. Pebble Beach is where even God waits for a tee time. It's also the site of the greatest golf story I'll ever have in my life.

It was Saturday of the 2005 ATT, with about 10,000 people lining the 18th hole. I'm playing with Jeff Sluman, Scott Simpson and Bill Murray. Slu and I are 19 under. The cut is 20 under, but I'm not thinking that. I get to 18, and I say to myself: You've been waiting all your life for this. It was my first invite to Pebble, I was turning 50 that May and my bosses had let me go despite the fact we had the Pro Bowl that weekend.

After hitting 3-wood and 5-wood, I was about 185 yards from the green. Mickelson had just finished ahead of us, and now the crowd is waiting for Murray. I decided to hit a 7-wood. I mean, who's ever birdied the 18th at Pebble with 3-wood, 5-wood, 7-wood?

I hit my shot, but with the light I have no idea until I hear the roar from the crowd. I hit it to eight feet! I'm inside everybody, so I had essentially 15 minutes to look at it. Murray revs up the crowd to rhythmically clap for his 10-footer, and he makes it. But I get over mine, and it's dead silence. I can't move. I can't pull the club back. So I turn around and give the crowd the signal to start clapping again . . . and I roll it in! I did a Chi Chi. It was a birdie for a net-eagle.

By the way, that 7 p.m. flight from San Francisco to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl? Cancel it. We made the cut.