June 25, 2007

What Faldo really said to Norman

Hard to believe it has been 10 years since that day on the final green at the Masters when Nick Faldo and Greg Norman embraced, and Faldo whispered, "I thought I told you never to call me here." No, that's wrong. What Faldo said was, "I'm sorry, Greg, but my financial consultant tells me I can't accept a gift like this without having to pay taxes on it."

Well, that's wrong, too. Actually, Nick said, "My name is Dr. Dieter Heimlich, and if you will hold still a moment, I'll try to invent a maneuver."

All of which brings up the fact I can now reveal to golf fans what somebody really said to somebody in other historic moments.

Take Ben Hogan. Jack Fleck once did. But as Ben shook Jack's hand after tragically losing that 18-hole playoff for the U.S. Open at Olympic in '55, Ben said, "Well, Jack, congratulations. But I hope you realize that someday this is going to be regarded as the most disgusting result in the entire history of sports."

Many people have wondered how Sam Torrance responded to Tom Watson at the '93 Ryder Cup dinner when Tom refused to autograph a menu, saying, "Don't start this, Sam, we'll be here all night." Here's what happened. Sam didn't respond to Watson at all. He simply motioned to a waiter, held up his glass, and said, "Uh, if it's no trouble, Superintendent, could you sprinkle my green one more time?"

For years all of us have been curious about the private exchange between Hubert Green and Frank (Sandy) Tatum Jr. of the U.S. Golf Association. The one when Hubert was en route to winning the '77 U.S. Open in the last round at Southern Hills and was informed he'd received a telephone death threat.

Now it can be told. Out on the 14th green, after reporting the death threat to Hubert, Tatum said: "We may suspend play for a bit so we can add more security."

To which Hubert said, "Aw, let's play golf — it's just an ex-wife deal."

You might recall the obvious chitchat between Tom Lehman and Steve Jones as they battled down the stretch for the '96 U.S. Open Championship at Oakland Hills.

It's well documented that in the heat of the moment Lehman glanced over at Jones, and said, "The Lord wants us to be courageous and strong."

At last I can reveal Steve's reply, which was, "Yes, I heard the Lord say it, but I also heard him say he wants me to win."

Maybe you didn't hear Annika like I did. Annika Sorenstam? After she tagged that tee shot flat-out perfect on her first hole at Colonial? With all 25,000 spectators on the course and the whole golf world watching on TV? Talk about pressure packed.

Time to let posterity in on it. After she nailed that drive and swaggered down the fairway with those two guys she was paired with, she said, "What's the course record?"

Everybody is familiar with Hogan's famous words after he and Jack Nicklaus lost the '60 U.S. Open to Arnold Palmer at Cherry Hills. Ben supposedly said, "Don't feel sorry for me. I played with a kid today who could have won this Open by 10 shots if he'd known what he was doing."

Wrong. What Hogan actually said was, "If you want to talk about hitting fairways and greens, I should have won this Open by 10 shots. But I played with a kid today who's going to win four Opens as soon as he gets rid of that crew cut, loses some weight, and finds some clothes that fit."

Remember the '95 British Open at St. Andrews? Remember Costantino Rocca? You surely want to know what John Daly said after the Italian chili-dipped his chip shot at the last hole, then sank that 65-foot putt to tie Daly and get into a playoff.

Daly said, "That sure looks like a hard way to make fettucini Alfredo. Me, I just go to the grocery and get the stuff for noodles Romanoff."

Reality takes over now. Seve Ballesteros has been a part of two things that were actually said. First, there was the deal at the '91 Ryder Cup at Kiawah when the U.S. team of Paul Azinger and Chip Beck got in a squabble with Seve and Jose Maria Olazabal over the switching of golf balls during their alternate-shot match. Azinger said to Seve, "I can tell you, we're not trying to cheat." And Seve said, "Oh, no, no. Breaking the rules and cheating are two different things."

Then there was the Ballesteros-Lanny Wadkins back-and-forth in the '93 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. Said Seve to Lanny: "Sorry we didn't get to play today." And Lanny said: "Yeah, sorry I didn't get to kick your ass."

Truth sometimes gives fiction two a side.