- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

It's a virtual guarantee: Want to see a PGA Tour player's game bottom out? Name him U.S. Ryder Cup captain.
The Ryder Cup has gotten so big that the captain tends to be distracted by the magnitude of the event. He must pick uniforms, plan menus, worry about accommodations and evaluate the games of the players he is considering for his team. The captain's Cup responsibilities overshadow his game, and the dropoff is usually quite noticeable.
Curtis Strange, who won the U.S. Open in 1989 and '90, has made only seven cuts in 17 events since being honored with the Cup captaincy. Kemper is his sixth event this year.
"Quite frankly, I just haven't put in the effort and put in the time that you need in this game, and that upsets me when I think about it because I still think if I did my best I could play reasonably well," said Strange, who has spent a lot of time in the TV booth as the lead golf analyst for ABC Sports. "But that's all part of my changes in my priority and my career and with TV, and now with the last year and a half of the Ryder Cup."
It's not an unusual scenario.
Ben Crenshaw, whose 19 tournament victories include two Masters, has made three cuts in his last 49 events since being named Cup captain in 1998.
Several weeks ago, Crenshaw told Golf World magazine that the last time he had fun on a golf course was at the Ryder Cup at Brookline and "I didn't even have my clubs."
Tom Kite had 19 wins before being named the 1997 captain but hasn't won since. Lanny Wadkins, who won 21 times and never finished worse than 107th (his rookie year) on the money list, dropped to 185th and 162nd in the two years leading up to his captaincy in 1995. Tom Watson (1993) and Dave Stockton (1991) had similar dropoffs.
Jack Nicklaus was the last captain to win in the two years before his term, when he captured the 1986 Masters a year and a half before the Cup. However, his team became the first U.S. squad to lose on American soil.
Strange realizes he can see more players when he's doing TV but says it helps to be on the course watching them.
"When I'm on the course playing, I look at the players differently than I ever looked at them when I was playing competitively," he said. "Back then all I was doing was thinking about beating their [butts]. Now I'm critiquing their games and now I'm thinking, this is for future reference. I think that's the smart thing to do, plus playing my own game.
"When I'm in the booth I talk about what I learned. You really only get to know a young player by playing with him. You can't talk so much with him on the practice tee and in the locker room or go to dinner. You really get to know a player and his game on the golf course."
Strange and wife Sarah visited the Belfry in Sutton Coldfield, England, two weeks ago to finalize plans for the Sept. 28-30 matches. Strange played in the Benson and Hedges International Open and missed the cut. However he seemed to enjoy the trip, as he does everything related to the Ryder Cup.
"Things couldn't be greater. I couldn't be happier in this stage of my life," he said. "It sounds like a poor story, but it's just fantastic. Everything is going great for me, and as long as my 12 guys play well in September, then I'll be tickled to death."

She's no Fanny

Female caddies are a rarity on the PGA Tour, so it's difficult not to take note when a lean, tan attractive woman in her late 20s walks across the driving range at Avenel carrying a tour bag half her size.
Jennifer Sweeney, full-time girlfriend and part-time caddie of tour pro Jonathan Kaye, is used to the looks; she's been getting them for eight years. Sweeney is one of three women to caddy regularly on the Tour; Fanny Sunesson and Nicki Stricker, who works for husband Steve, are the others.
"A lot of significant others caddy out here and I do it about 10 or 15 times a year," said Sweeney, who started caddying for Kaye when he first turned pro in 1993. "We like it, but it's a business. [Kaye] travels upwards to 38 weeks a year, so if I want to see him, this is the best way to do it. It's a great way to travel and see the country."
The partnership seems to have worked well. Kaye's only top-five finish of 1999 a second at Las Vegas came with Sweeney on the bag. Kaye, still in search of his first win, has steadily improved in the last two years. He earned $854,051 and finished 49th on the money list in 1999, and last year he made $1,096,131 and placed 40th for the year. He is 89th on the money list this year with $270,089.
So how well is Sweeney compensated by her employer?
"Fifty-fifty," she said wishfully.

Career move?

Paul Goydos, winner of the 1996 Bay Hill Invitational, is a gregarious person who likes to spend time in the media center chatting up members of the press. As he was sitting in a soft, comfortable, high-back chair reserved for the Tour's media relations people yesterday, Goydos was asked if he was new on the staff.
"Yeah, I finally got a job I can do," he said.
Goydos has struggled with his real job. He's made six cuts in 11 events, with only one top-10 finish, and ranks 112th on the money list with $193,180.

Tough timing

Perennial Kemper competitor Justin Leonard believes the tournament fails to draw the biggest names because it has a poor location for its time of year.
The Tour spends several weeks in the Texas area before the U.S. Open, which this year will be played from June 11-17. Leonard thinks many competitors would rather stay in one geographic location than jump up to the Greater Greensboro (N.C.) Classic and Kemper.
The stretch begins April 16-22 at the Shell Houston Open. Greensboro follows before the Tour returns to the Compaq Classic of New Orleans. Then it's off to Dallas for the Verizon Byron Nelson Classic and the MasterCard Colonial. The Kemper closes that run before the popular Memorial in Ohio.
"I think it may have a lot to do with the time of year," said Leonard, the 1997 Kemper champion. "A lot of players look toward the U.S. Open. You've got the Nelson and the Colonial, and then there's New Orleans nearby. Maybe they play those three and then take this one off."
Leonard, a Dallas native and resident, started a run of four straight tournaments with the Byron Nelson. He admits that's a long stretch for him, but it follows skipping Greensboro and New Orleans.
"After two weeks off, I have to get back on the road," he said with a smile. "I need somebody else to make my bed for awhile."

Partial purist

Joe Durant said technology can ruin the game, even though the new Titlelist Pro V1 has improved his driving distance nearly 10 yards and has helped him win two events this season.
"You don't want to see the really great courses become obsolete," Durant said. "That's not good for the game of golf… . For the average golfer, it's fun. But for guys out here, you've got to protect the integrity of the game. At some point, skill is diminished and technology takes over. That's not golf at all."


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