Pepper the Spice of the LPGA
Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam have tried. And both have gotten much better dealing with people. For the past, oh, four years, they have dominated the tour. But a Pepper, a Helen Alfredsson, a Meg Mallon, a Pat Bradey, an Amy Alcott . they just let it rip with the comments and then think about it later.
Dottie - 'Snottie Dottie,' they used to call her - isn't always likeable. In the past, if she wasn't expecting you, she could be downright rude. Her fellow players don't always understand the things she does - and it's debatable if she does, either. But in the interview room, she has no equal. She will say anything, answer anything, and she never seems to regret commentating on any pressing issue that is asked of her.
'The first day of the Solheim Cup, I was a flat tire.' How do you get any plainer than that? She could have said, 'The first day of the Solheim Cup, I didn't play so well,' but this so much more descriptive. 'A flat tire' means exactly that. You're flat, and you know it. No need to pretend anything else.
'God, I mean, I hit the ball off the tee,' she was saying, and it sounded so much more descriptive than, 'I hit it well, I thought.' Dottie doesn't know anything about being nice. She only knows to answer the question posed to her, and it has gotten her in trouble in the past. But Lordy, what a breath of fresh air she is.
'Isn't that pitiful? Just rolled it right by the hole. Kept going off the green. Then Annika made mine look good. Hit a worse putt than I did. That was amazing.' Yes, that was Ms. Pepper, talking about the play of herself and Sorenstam on the 12th green when both were down-grain, putting, from beyond 40 feet. Too graphic, perhaps? Maybe if you're in the Salon Room at the Ladies Cotillion, but not here. No way.
Pepper has her own unique way of expressing herself. 'I know this is going to sound like I'm giving the guy a big ol' plug, but I am. Tom Boers is unbelievable, what he does with people with back issues. Stuff I do seems so simple.' Can it be told any other way?
'I wouldn't have been legal for the Olympics, but now I'm legal.' She was talking about the medication she was taking earlier this year for the back ailment which plagued her throughout the summer. Was the medicine legal? Yes, from a doctor's point of view. But it certainly wouldn't have passed muster at the Olympics.
'He called it a `functional overload.' That sounds like something very politically correct. Doing too much when your body can't handle it. I mean, I'm getting older. You've got to be a little smarter.' Certainly. She isn't politically correct yet, and there isn't much evidence that she is getting smarter. She's just Dottie, which is a blessing for the LPGA.
Could she have had a better day than she did Sunday? Could anything possibly have ruined it? 'What would have ruined it is if I forgot to sign the scorecard. That would have ruined the day,' she said, and you know what? It would have.
Pepper cracked up everyone when she talked about voting in the Presidential Election. She voted absentee. And she voted in Palm Beach County, Fla. 'The ultimate combination,' she put it.
Why? 'You didn't have anywhere to put the ballot,' she explained. 'It didn't lay open - you had your ballot here on the right and the instructions, and your choices on another piece of paper.
'So you had Bush and Cheney and then you had to go find one on the entire punch card. You just didn't go straight across (if you were voting for someone else.) You had to go literally punch it on the punch card. It wasn't like you could slide it into the metal part of the ballot.'
Just to make sure, though, she throws in an addendum - 'My opinion - it's probably too strong - but if you can't figure out where the arrow's pointing, you probably shouldn't be voting.' Goodness!
Regardless of how you voted, you've got to like her. Dottie Pepper Mochrie Pepper Scarinzi. I hope she's back on top for good.
Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out
Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.
Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.
Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.
Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.
David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.
These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”
As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.
One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.
Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.
Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.
Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation
Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.
Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.
“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”
Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.
Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.
Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win
After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.
Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.
Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.
Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.
The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.
With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.
What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry
Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.
Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft
Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft
Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts
Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x