Okay, let's take off the headcovers and pull out the furniture. Let the big dog eat. Fire at the flag. Never up, never in. Miss on the pro side. Time to press the bet.
Usually, the only time golf gets colorful is when you play it yourself, then swap lies about it afterward. For a sport full of juicy language, the game is amazingly short on controversy and scandal.
Now, the pot's boiling at last. So, let's stir it. For once, talk here at the Masters isn't exclusively about the azaleas and Gene Sarazen's knickers. Instead, the veranda's buzzing about Ballesteros vs. the PGA Tour; O'Grady vs. Beman; Player vs. the All-Exempt Tour and even Nicklaus vs. Nicklaus. Let's take sides, forget our manners, cause some trouble. As Tom Watson says, "It's gettin' just like baseball, football and basketball out here. Nothing but controversies."
Hey, Deane, Bring Back Seve:
Commissioner Deane Beman and the PGA Tour should drop eligibility restrictions on foreign golfers as soon as possible. Especially Seve Ballesteros, who has been banned from the Tour this season for petty reasons.
The Tour should keep its rule of eight sponsor exemptions per event, but should let foreign stars have unlimited exemptions if they're glamorous enough to attract them. Then (as we'll explain later) the problem solves itself.
Earth to Mac -- Pay Up, Shut Up:
Mac O'Grady should cease his shrill, self-destructive fight with Beman. He's been given more than due process at every juncture in appealing his $500 fine for bad-mouthing tournament volunteers two years ago. He's also made a buffoon of himself with his exaggerated insults and irresponsible innuendos about Beman.
After his first-round 37-45 -- 82 at Augusta National, maybe O'Grady ought to start worrying about his golf game again.
Bag the Gag Rule:
The PGA Tour should get rid of its ludicrous gag rule, which has fanned the flames of the O'Grady flap. Golfers zip their lips too much. Instead, start giving Seiko-Vantage-Nabisco-Nissan bonus points to anybody who utters an original thought -- like those hole-in-one prizes nobody ever wins. O'Grady has been wrong in most of what he's said, but the Tour has been equally silly and short-sighted in challenging his right to say it.
Bring Back the Rabbits:
The wee South African, Gary Player, was right this week when he said that the PGA Tour started tending toward mediocrity and complacency the day the All-Exempt Tour arrived. When only the top 60 money winners had a free pass to play, everybody was hungry and scared. Call it creative tension -- mean but effective.
Now, dozens of ordinary folks who stagger through qualifying school set up shop on Tour and nobody can dislodge them. How tough is it to finish 125th? Last year Brad Faxon missed the cut more than he made it (16 of 31 events), never reached a leaderboard anywhere, yet kept his card. Let 'em eat lettuce. Cut the exempt list back to 100 or even 75. And fast.
Make Up Your Mind, Jack:
Jack Nicklaus, at 46, is 10 pounds overweight, has spent the last six months obsessed with assuming direct control of his $400 million empire and has won just $4,404 in seven events. Byron Nelson once said: "A fine golfer only has one fine thing and that's his fine golf game. If he doesn't take care of it, he's a fool."
Nicklaus is no fool. He just has to make a choice. He can be a tycoon or he can try to play quality golf a few more years. Watching the Olden Bear dump an iron shot in the water at the 12th hole Thursday for a double bogey on his way to a 74 is ugly stuff.
Of all the Tour's "problems," the most tangled on the surface, yet the simplest underneath, as well as the easiest to solve, is the Big Ballesteros Brouhaha.
The PGA Tour's protectionist rules on foreign players make the U.S. tax code look easy. Basically, America's pros do not want the good Asians or Europeans to skim cream from our purses without paying some dues by playing a few drab Pensacola Opens. If you want to take our money home with you, goes the argument, then help our whole Tour by playing in the Hardee's Classic in Coal Valley.
That's unreasonable. Why should Ballesteros, who lives in Spain and loves Europe, have to play 15 U.S. events a year, as well as 15 to 18 around the world? Does anybody tell Pavarotti where he can sing?
Any foreign player who is so good that a PGA Tour sponsor wants to grant him one of its eight exemptions is, de facto, a drawing card who helps American golf by coming here. That should be enough.
Last month at Doral, Watson and Nicklaus were discussing Ballesteros and both said the same thing: "Just allow unlimited sponsor exemptions."
"Well, that one's solved," said Nicklaus, and the two gave each other a high five.
What about the foreign players who aren't charismatic enough to command the sponsor exemptions? They can become PGA Tour members and play 15 events to keep their card, just like Tom Watson. In other words, leave the door open to superstars like Ballesteros, but make it tougher on run-of-the-mill foreign players to come to America. That way, we skim the cream of their tours for star appeal.
Gee, solving all golf's problems wasn't too hard. Baseball, football and basketball should have it so easy.