November 19, 2007

The Answer Man revisits 2007

As a starter for our year-end quiz, what is to be made of the PGA Tour's new drug program?

Joe Durant, a member of the policy board that voted it in, said, "I can be in my house playing with my boy when inspectors knock on my door with a cup in their hand. I don't like my children seeing that, and I don't like us being grouped with other sports almost as guilt by association, but that's the world we live in." Commissioner Tim Finchem feels likewise, but at least the rules are strict and public disclosure of guilty parties is part of the deal, as he stressed in a recent meeting with reporters. (Is that what would be described as a joint press conference?)

How many golfers will be pinched when testing begins?

I wouldn't be surprised if they're all clean. But I also stood by naively when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke home run records a few years ago, only to be upstaged by Barry Bonds. Before my eyes, those guys got as big as umpires while I thought only the ball was juiced.

What do you think is the enduring snapshot for 2007?

It would tough to beat Woody Austin at the Presidents Cup, where he entered an unsuspecting pond via a flying somersault from a pike position with an added tuck to increase the degree of difficulty. On land and at sea, he was the star of the show.

What does that prove?

Austin always felt somewhat out of place among his coiffed and buffed peers. Now he's one of the boys. Paul Azinger, the U.S. Ryder Cup captain, can’t help but note that different personalities might enhance team chemistry. Besides the regulars--Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Toms, Verplank, Cink, Johnson--and guys such as Steve Stricker and Lucas Glover, how would America's Team in Louisville next September look with Woody on it? Or Bubba Watson? Or ... are you sitting down ... Boo Weekley? Think about it. If we don't know what to make of Boo, how would the Europeans?

Anybody else make 2008 so special?

A couple of runners-up, probably. Bill Murray, the comedian/actor/golf nut, was pulled over while driving a golf cart through downtown Stockholm. He refused to take a Breathalyzer test. Then there was Marc Warren, who was practicing in his hotel room during the Seve Trophy when he smashed a chandelier. He was taken to a local hospital for cuts in his head, arms and abdomen. Warren said he was swinging a 5-iron, which was obviously too much club. He also refused to take a Breathalyzer.

How will the first FedEx Cup be remembered?

If it were a car, you would not want it to be recalled, only tuned. Some of that has been accomplished, although the change in payoffs resulted from pressure not only by players, but the government. Massive deferred money is a red flag these days.

Will players warm to the concept?

Ernie Els, who calls it a "thingy," said: "These people have to realize that the FedEx thingy doesn’t change what it’s all about. What it's all about are four weeks every year." I think we know what four weeks he means, and whom he means by "these people." The constant drumbeat by tour employees for the playoff got old when it was still new. I recall years ago when the tour force-fed us the concept that its Players Championship simply must be regarded as a fifth major. Eventually, the pounding noises abated and look what happened. Players and media are lauding the event without being prompted.

When did TV cables become so heavy?

In July at the British Open, where Tiger Woods got a free drop, almost as amazing as that Firestone clubhouse caper or the Phoenix Open a few years ago when spectators helped relocate a rock that was in his way. Derek Lawrenson, the witty writer from the Daily Mail across the pond, noted the oddity of TV cables being deemed an immovable object while a 10-ton boulder is ruled a loose impediment.

Besides Tiger and Lorena Ochoa, which golfer had a really good year?

E. Stanley O'Neal is an avid player. Some critics at Merrill Lynch might say too avid. Anyway, when he was dismissed as head of the company, O'Neal received a $161.5 million going-away present. That will buy a lot of clubs. Country clubs.