Quick Round with Tom Weiskopf
Weiskopf, 67, won the first PGA Tour event staged at Torrey Pines. During the Andy Williams-San Diego Open back in 1968, he showed what terrific drama the stage that is the 18th hole could offer. He made eagle at the par-5 closing hole to beat Al Geiberger and Raymond Floyd for his first PGA Tour victory.
At 6-foot-3, Weiskopf came out of Ohio State with giant expectations. He had a majestic swing and fierce competitive spirit. Inevitable comparisons to another long-hitting Buckeye, though, would prove onerous.
Weiskopf had an impressive career, winning 16 times, including a major championship, the 1973 British Open, but he wandered through the Golden Bear's formidable presence his entire career.
Nobody expected more of himself than Weiskopf. He was so demanding, so intense, and it could make him a storm of a player, frustration rolling like dark clouds over his game when he failed to meet enormous expectations. Bold, intelligent and outspoken, he was called a “Towering Inferno” by one national publication. He was dubbed “Terrible Tom” by another.
Weiskopf was hard on himself all the way to the end of his PGA Tour career.
“If I were asked to look back at myself as a player, I think I would be remembered for having a beautiful swing, for being a complete player, a shot maker, but the negative was that I never reached my potential,” he said eight years ago.
In 1973, Weiskopf came closest, winning seven times around the world, with that British Open victory among his five PGA Tour titles that year.
Today, Weiskopf is enjoying his second career as a golf course architect with more than 40 golf course designs on his résumé around the world. His creation Loch Lomond, home to the Scottish Open, is a master work that’s received considerable acclaim over the years.
As a golf course architect, he’s a different man, more at peace with his place in the game. After his first marriage of 32 years ended in divorce in 1999, he remarried four years ago. With his new wife, Laurie, he enjoys homes in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Montana. He’s excited about the fact that he’s going to become a grandfather with his daughter, Heidi, expecting in May.
With the PGA Tour returning to Torrey Pines this week, I caught up with Weiskopf for a Quick Round:
Take us back in time. In 1968, four years after you turned pro, you broke through for your first PGA Tour victory at the Andy Williams-San Diego Open. What stands out about the victory?
When it’s the week of that tournament, or when someone asks about it, I remember it. I haven’t had any nightmares about it. I’ve certainly had nightmares about other tournaments. All kidding aside, we played at Torrey Pines, on the same 36 holes they compete on today. I’m sure it’s a much different golf course.
I remember the last hole, Raymond Floyd was in the clubhouse, I was tied with him. I was paired with Al Geiberger. I drove the ball perfectly down the fairway, and I hit a 2-iron for a second shot. The pin was in the back right corner of the green. There was no pond there at the time. There was a bunker. I hit it up about 30 feet short of the hole. I knew I had a tremendous advantage before the hole started because I knew I could reach the green in two if I hit a good drive. I knew Al Geiberger couldn’t. Raymond was finished, so I knew the tournament was pretty much in my hands, or I thought it was. It favored the advantage I had on that hole.
I had a lot of opportunities previous to that and had never won. The last putt, I was just thinking about, honestly, trying to get the ball close without doing something stupid, give myself an easy 4. If Geiberger made his, we would eliminate Floyd and be in a playoff. This putt had about a three or four foot break in it, a very difficult putt to try to make, and it went in. So that was it.
Four years after turning pro, was there relief or frustration in winning?
I’m sure I jumped about 46 or 48 inches, probably set a vertical high jump record. There was just tremendous excitement and relief. I never expected to make that putt. I felt all my past frustration of trying to win go away. I remember it well. It was one of my best accomplishments in golf. The first one is the hardest one to win.
Do you have special affection for Torrey Pines?
Yes, it was a great course. I always played well there.
How much do you play golf today, and what do you play for now?
My goal is not to lose a golf ball. If I can play a round and finish with the same golf ball, I’ve probably had a good day.
So do you usually reach that lofty goal?
Pretty much. I have my days where I hit a lot of bad shots. My goals? I do try to shoot my age. That’s always a goal.
How many times have you done that?
It’s a good a question. I didn’t do it last year. I do play all the way back. I did it when I was 65. I did not shoot any 64s. I thought about it when I got to age 63 or 64. The goal is 67 this year. I don’t play very often. I will go in spurts where I play three to five days a week, or I might go without playing for three or five weeks.
You had that Terrible Tom moniker in your prime. When’s the last time that guy made an appearance on a golf course?
Oh, I don’t know, I’d have to think about that.
But it’s been awhile, right? You’ve really mellowed.
It’s interesting, we all have labels. The media labels everyone. At one time, I was labeled Terrible Tom. In ’73, I was Tom Terrific. My former wife, when someone said Towering Inferno, she said, `Who is this person I’m reading about?’ I think there are players out there who could easily take that torch from me. Tiger Woods might be Terrible Tiger this year.
As someone who loves the game, what’s your take on Tiger’s saga and the impact it has on the game?
It has a tremendous impact on all of sports, especially golf. Obviously, he has some problems. That’s all I’ll say. I don’t know him at all. I played one round of golf with him. It was a great day, a practice round at Troon about six years ago. I’m a Tiger Woods fan. That won’t change. I want to see him back out there competing like everyone else.
You made a limited return to TV the last couple years with ESPN-ABC. Will we see more of you describing action this year?
I was invited last summer to be involved in the telecast at the Open Championship in Turnberry and the Senior Open at Sunningdale. It was fun, I enjoyed it. I don’t know what they thought of what I did. There might be more this year. I don’t know, we’ve been talking a little (with ESPN) about it, but there’s nothing concrete.
So what do you think of the new rules governing grooves? Will the new rules have any significant effect?
I don’t know if the V-groove definition today is identical to the V grooves I played with in the 60s, 70s and 80s. But it is a copout, in my estimation. They aren’t addressing the problem. It is a way for the USGA to get around the ball issue. They lost that groove ruling (to Ping) in court. The USGA and the R&A have a responsibility to protect the skills of the game that the players possess. It’s in their rule book. Consequently, they are definitely afraid of another lawsuit. The major issue is the golf ball. It goes too far. They won’t address that because if they go to court they’ll lose it.
Do you think the USGA and R&A are living up to their responsibilities?
No, I don’t think so. What happened was their technology wasn’t as good as the manufacturers. So the manufacturers turned the definition of rules concerning equipment to the finest line they could. It got away from the USGA and R&A. The ball got away from them. I could go on and talk about this, which I have.
The ball is still the issue. It’s the No. 1 component and element of the game that’s transformed scoring since the feathery golf ball. Go through time, it’s been the golf ball. This (new grooves rule) isn’t going to wipe the mustard off their red, white and blue ties or brush the dandruff off their navy blue sport coats. They are not living up to their responsibility. They are afraid of a lawsuit.
Let’s get a tournament ball, every manufacturer can make it and let’s go on with life. Then we won’t have to build these golf courses that are 7,500 or 7,600 yards where nobody but the best who play the game can play them. They’ve eliminated so many classic golf courses from competition.
You were so hard on yourself as a player, more than once saying you didn’t live up to your potential. Do you still feel that way?
No, I’ve gotten older. I understand what life is all about. I understand myself better. I can’t change the past. Nobody can. I don’t dwell on it like I used to. I have a new lease on life, which is design. I don’t live in the rearview mirror.
Are you a better and happier architect than you were a player?
I don’t know, I get frustrated. I’m a perfectionist. I can’t stand mediocrity, never could when I played, and as well in my design aspects. I just enjoy what I do, I love what I do. It’s different, you can’t compare the two.
How would you like to be remembered as a player and architect?
I was a very fortunate player to have played in an era with Jack Nicklaus and the other Hall of Famers that he competed against. That group of individuals may go down as the greatest group of players of all time. I could have accomplished more, anybody but Nicklaus could say that. It is what it is. It’s over and done with. I made a choice to leave it. I wasn’t happy with it. It’s why I retired very early in life. I went on to pursue something else. I didn’t know whether I would like it or not. I do. I’ve been successful with that. I will continue to be involved in golf course design until I lose interest. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though.
Is the guy once tabbed Terrible Tom happy, peaceful and content in his life now?
I’m very happy, very content. I quit drinking Jan. 2, 2000. Still haven’t had a drop. That’s something I wish I could have done 20 years previous, but I didn’t. Every day is exciting to me. I have a lot of great friendships and I spend time with those people. I remarried and I’m very happy in that regard.
I’m going to become a grandfather for the first time this May. I’m very excited about that. I have a great life. I was blessed to be in golf, to have traveled the world and had a chance to meet people I never would have met. I have a terrific life.
Davies wins by 10 on 'best ball-striking round'
WHEATON, Ill. - Laura Davies immediately recognized the significance of having her name inscribed on the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy.
It might be a long time before anyone secures the title as emphatically as Davies did.
Davies went virtually unchallenged in Sunday's final round of the inaugural USGA championship for women 50 and older, claiming the title by 10 strokes over Juli Inkster.
''It's great seeing this (trophy) paraded down for the very first time and I get my name on it first, you know?'' Davies said. ''This championship will be played for many years and there will only be one first winner - obviously a proud moment for me to win that.''
The 54-year-old Davies shot a 5-under 68 to finish at 16-under 276 at Chicago Golf Club.
It was the English player's 85th career win, and she felt the pressure even though her lead was rarely in danger.
''I haven't won for eight years - my last win was India, 2010,'' Davies said. ''So that's the pressure you're playing under, when you're trying to do something for yourself, prove to yourself you can still win.
''So this ranks highly up there. And obviously it's a USGA event. It's hard comparing tournaments, but this is very high on my list of achievements.''
A 7-under 66 Saturday provided Davies with a five-shot lead over Inkster and what she said would be a sleepless night worrying about the pressure.
The World Golf Hall of Famer widened her advantage early Sunday when she birdied the par-5 second hole and Inkster made bogey. Davies said a par she salvaged at the 10th was another turning point.
''It wasn't the greatest hole I ever played, but I think that, to me, was when I really started to think I might have one hand on the trophy and just had to get the other one in there.''
Inkster shot an even-par 73. England's Trish Johnson also shot 73 to finish third, 12 shots back.
''I mean, she was absolutely spectacular this week,'' Johnson said about Davies. ''I've played against her for 35 years. Yesterday was the best I have ever seen her play in her entire career.
''She just said walking down 18 it was best ball-striking round she ever had. Considering she's won 85 tournaments, that's quite some feat.''
Danielle Ammaccapane was fourth and Yuko Saito finished fifth. Martha Leach was the top amateur, tying for 10th at 6-over 298.
Davies plans to play in the Women's British Open next month, and called this win a confidence-booster as she continues to compete against the younger generation. She finished tied for second at the LPGA's Bank of Hope Founders Cup earlier this year.
''You build up a little bit of momentum, and a golf course is a golf course,'' Davies said. ''Sometimes the field strength is a little bit different, but in your own mind if you've done something like this, 16 under for four rounds around a proper championship course, it can't do anything but fill you full of confidence.''
Romo rallies to win American Century Championship
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Nev. - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo rallied from four points back to win his first American Century Championship at Lake Tahoe on Sunday.
Romo, who retired after the 2016 NFL season and is now an NFL analyst, had 27 points on the day to beat three-time defending champion Mark Mulder and San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, the the leader after the first two rounds.
''It's a special win,'' said Romo, who had finished second three times in seven previous trips to the annual celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. ''It feels like you're playing a tournament back home here. The day felt good for a lot of reasons.''
Romo tapped in for par, worth one point, on the 18th hole to finish with 71 points, three ahead of Mulder, the former major league pitcher. He then caught a flight to Berlin, Wis., where he was to compete in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifying tournament on Monday.
The American Century Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system which rewards points for eagles (six), birdies (three) and pars (one) and deducts points (two) for double bogeys or worse. Bogeys are worth zero points.
Pavelski had a 7-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th that could have tied Romo, but it slid by. He finished with 66 points, tied for third with Ray Allen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7.
''It feels like nothing went in for me today,'' Pavelski said. ''But I couldn't ask for more than to have that putt to tie on the last hole.''
Romo plays as an amateur, so his $125,000 first-place check from the $600,000 purse will go to local charities and the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, the primary charitable arm of title sponsor American Century Investments.
Rounding out the top five were Trent Dilfer, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, and former tennis player Mardy Fish. Each had 62 points.
Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry, who fell out of contention with a mediocre round Saturday, jumped into Lake Tahoe amidst much fanfare after losing a bet to his father, Dell. The elder Curry jumped into the lake last year, so he negotiated a 20-point handicap and won by two points.
Other notable players in the 92-player field included John Smoltz, the MLB hall of Fame pitcher who two weeks ago competed in the U.S. Senior Open and finished 10th here with 53 points; Steph Curry, who finished tied for 11th with retired Marine and wounded war hero Andrew Bachelder (50); actor Jack Wagner (16th, 47 points); Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (tied for 18th, 44 points); actor Ray Romano (tied for 71st, minus-26 points); comedian Larry the Cable Guy (tied for 77th, minus-33 points); and former NBA great Charles Barkley, who finished alone in last with minus-93 points.
The tournament drew 57,097 fans for the week, setting an attendance record for the fourth straight year.
Singh tops Maggert in playoff for first senior major
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. - Vijay Singh birdied the second playoff hole to beat Jeff Maggert and win the Constellation Senior Players Championship on Sunday.
Singh knocked in a putt from about 2 feet after a nearly perfect approach on the 18th hole at Exmoor Country Club, giving an understated fist pump as the ball fell in. That gave him his first major title on the PGA Tour Champions to go with victories at the Masters and two PGA Championships.
Singh (67) and Maggert (68) finished at 20-under 268. Brandt Jobe (66) was two strokes behind, while Jerry Kelly (64) and defending champion Scott McCarron (71) finished at 17 under.
Maggert had chances to win in regulation and on the first playoff hole.
He bogeyed the par-4 16th to fall into a tie with Singh at 20 under and missed potential winning birdie putts at the end of regulation and on the first playoff hole.
His 15-footer on the 72nd hole rolled wide, forcing the playoff, and a downhill 12-footer on the same green went just past the edge.
The 55-year-old Singh made some neat par saves to get into the playoff.
His tee shot on 17 landed near the trees to the right of the fairway, and his approach on 18 wound up in a bunker. But the big Fijian blasted to within a few feet to match Maggert's par.
McCarron - tied with Maggert and Bart Bryant for the lead through three rounds - was trying to join Arnold Palmer and Bernhard Langer as the only back-to-back winners of this major. He came back from a six-shot deficit to win at Caves Valley near Baltimore last year and got off to a good start on Sunday.
He birdied the first two holes to reach 18 under. But bogeys on the par-4 seventh and ninth holes knocked him off the lead. His tee shot on No. 7 rolled into a hole at the base of a tree and forced him to take an unplayable lie.
Davies a fitting winner of inaugural USGA championship
Laura Davies confessed she did not sleep well on a five-shot lead Saturday night at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
It’s all you needed to know about what this inaugural event meant to the women who were part of the history being made at Chicago Golf Club.
The week was more than a parade of memories the game’s greats created playing in the USGA’s long-awaited showcase for women ages 50 and beyond.
The week was more than nostalgic.
It was a chance to make another meaningful mark on the game.
In the end, Davies relished seeing the mark she made in her runaway, 10-shot victory. She could see it in the familiar etchings on the trophy she hoisted.
“I get my name on it first,” Davies said. “This championship will be played for many years, and there will only be one first winner. Obviously, quite a proud moment for me to win that.”
Really, all 120 players in the field made their marks at Chicago Golf Club. They were all pioneers of sorts this past week.
“It was very emotional seeing the USGA signs, because I've had such a long history, since my teens, playing in USGA championships,” said Amy Alcott, whose Hall of Fame career included the 1980 U.S. Women’s Open title. “I thought the week just came off beautifully. The USGA did a great job. It was just so classy how everything was done, this inaugural event, and how was it presented.”
Davies was thankful for what the USGA added to the women’s game, and she wasn’t alone. Gratefulness was the theme of the week.
The men have been competing in the U.S. Senior Open since 1980, and now the women have their equal opportunity to do the same.
“It was just great to be a part of the first,” three-time U.S. Women’s Open winner Hollis Stacy said. “The USGA did a great job of having it at such a great golf course. It's just been very memorable.”
Trish Johnson, who is English, like Davies, finished third, 12 shots back, but she left with a heart overflowing.
“Magnificent,” said Johnson, a three-time LPGA and 19-time LET winner. “Honestly, it's one of the best, most enjoyable weeks I've ever played in in any tournament anywhere.”
She played in the final group with Davies and runner-up Juli Inkster.
“Even this morning, just waiting to come out here, I thought, `God, not often do I actually think how lucky I am to do what I do,’” Johnson said.
At 54, Davies still plays the LPGA and LET regularly. She has now won 85 titles around the world, 20 of them LPGA titles, four of them majors, 45 of them LET titles.
With every swing this past week, she peeled back the years, turned back the clock, made fans and peers remember what she means to the women’s game.
This wasn’t the first time Davies made her mark in a USGA event. When she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1987, she became just the second player from Europe to win the title, the first in 20 years. She opened a new door for internationals. The following year, Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann won the title.
“A lot of young Europeans and Asians decided that it wasn't just an American sport,” Davies said. “At that stage, it had been dominated, wholeheartedly, by all the names we all love, Lopez, Bradley, Daniel, Sheehan.”
Davies gave the rest of the world her name to love, her path to follow.
“It certainly made a lot of foreign girls think that they could take the Americans on,” Davies said.
In golf, it’s long been held that you can judge the stature of an event by the names on the trophy. Davies helps gives the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open the monumental start it deserved.