"Every golfer has a little monster in him. It's just that type of sport." --Fuzzy Zoeller, 1979 Masters champion
There were no sightings Tuesday at the Congressional Country Club. The only monsters were the alligators festooning every other bosom. Craig Stadler, 1982 Masters champion and defending Kemper Open champion who says he has been called "everything from A to Z," was minding his own business walking up the 18th fairway. "Excuse me," a tactless companion said, "but if you were a monster, what kind would you be?"
Stadler thought for a minute and smiled, showing no fangs. "A cookie monster," he said.
In April, Arnold Palmer wrote a letter to PGA Commissioner Deane Beman criticizing some top players for "discourteous and ungentlemanly behavior and thoughtlessness . . . that is despicable to me."
What kind of creatures are these? What monstrous deeds have they done? "I would have to say we have a couple of monsters," Fuzzy Zoeller said. "But you have to understand golf is very frustrating. It tends to make you feel like a monster."
The pressures are tremendous. They can make a man walk off the course on the ninth hole of a pro-am, as Tom Weiskopf did yesterday, or stuff the rough in his ear as a friend of Gary Player's used to do. It takes a funny creature to play a game that never can be fully mastered yet demands that you always master your emotions.
All things considered, the creatures say, it's amazing they act as well as they do. "The only athletes who are better behaved are bowlers," said Chi Chi Rodriguez.
There's no doubt: the game will make you crazy if you let it. "The game is so humiliating," said Rocky Thompson. "It makes mice out of men."
And Mr. Hydes of Dr. Jekylls. It can make the nicest mild-mannered fellow, Zoeller said, "act like the Incredible Hulk."
Sometimes, Sam Snead said, "A golf ball just sits there, sticks its tongue out and says, 'now what are you going to do?' "
So sometimes they do strange things, tales of the deep end. Once, when he was 20 years old, Thompson played a match tournament in Saltillo, Mexico, against a man he knew he should beat but didn't. "There was a sewer right in the middle of the hole," he said. "I made a very bad second shot. I blamed it on my caddie. I took the little Mexican caddie, and threw him in along with the clubs."
Then Thompson went in after him. The sewer meandered through the course. Every time he came to it, Thompson went into it. "I walked around all day with the odors of Mexico all over my body," he said. "Frankly, I didn't care."
When the round was over, he walked into the clubhouse and ordered a rum and Coke. None of the members said a word. "The players didn't stop saying things for two years," Thompson said.
Many years ago, in one of his first tournaments, Gary Player found himself with a terrible lie with his ball up against a stone fence. He thought he needed a 4 to win. His only chance was to ricochet the ball off the wall and onto the green. He whacked at it fiercely. The ball hit him square in the face and knocked him cold. "The only time in my life I've been knocked out," he said. "I get up and see about three holes. I said, 'Fine, any one will do.' I put it in the hole and thought I won."
He took a two-shot penalty for hitting himself and finished third.
One day after a terrible day on the greens, a friend of Player's asked him to drive him home. Faster, he said, faster. "He took his putter out of his bag, stuck it out the window and said, 'Now you suffer, you s.o.b.,' " Player said. "He was grinding it into the highway."
Rodriguez once got so frustrated he auctioned off his clubs at the end of a round. "I just didn't want to see 'em no more," he said. "I figured if I kept 'em I would have used 'em again."
D.A. Weibring was walking up the 17th hole at Pleasant Valley with Gary McCord one day when it got to both of them. "I walked over to the side of the ropes and called a youngster out under the ropes," Weibring said. "I said, 'here's a golf ball, I hope you do better with it than I did.' McCord looks at him and says, 'That's a good idea. Now you need a putter.' He gave his putter away and walked away. He played the final hole and putted with his driver."
"It was to the point where, before we became monsters, the round was so ridiculous we made light of it, instead of insulting anybody."
Sometimes, it's hard to resist. The intimacy in golf means players are scrutinized in ways that other athletes, who keep their distance, are not. The demands made on them can be excessive.
This year, at the Bob Hope Classic, Jim Colbert said he made the two best shots of his life, but the second hit a sprinkler and bounced into a water hazard. A birdie became a bogey just like that. "I'm almost totally out of control," Colbert said. "I'm having the biggest fight of my life not to make a fool of myself. This guy comes out of the crowd and says, 'Hi, Jim, I'm from Kansas City and I know your dad.' I said, 'That's fine, tell him hello.' "
The man refused to take a polite hint and kept walking and talking. "The third time, he puts his arm around me and says, 'I mean, how the hell are you, Jim?' I said, 'Did you see me play that last hole? How the hell do you think I am?' "
Later, Colbert turned to his wife and said, "I'm bad people back in K.C. now."
Eighteen years ago, Player walked off the 18th green at Congressional surrounded by people pushing programs in his face, asking for autographs. He didn't mind until they pushed him into the water. It was a hot day but he had a new outfit on. When he came up for air, he was greeted with outstretched arms and pens. "I signed the last few in the lake," he said.