Meeting Clinton too taxing for Ryder Cup team

Published Aug. 19, 1993|Updated Oct. 9, 2005

Now that Tom Watson has named the last two players to the Ryder Cup team, the U.S. captain may be faced with a bit stickier situation.

It has become tradition for the American players to visit the White House for a brief presidential ceremony before boarding the Concorde for their trip to Europe. And President Clinton does share a love for golf.

But the similarities end there for the players, whose political views are about as different from Clinton's as their ability at golf. An official invitation has yet to come, and as far as the players are concerned, they hope it doesn't.

"Now that the tax bill has passed, we can't afford plane tickets to go to the White House," quipped U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen.

PGA Tour players fall into that PGA Tour players fall into that category of people who could be most affected by Clinton's tax proposals. (Clinton is proposing that individuals making more than $200,000 per year be taxed at a rate of 39.6 percent.) With some of their incomes approaching or exceeding $1-million a year on and off the course, they stand to see a huge chunk of their huge income taken away.

And they are not too thrilled.

"It would be an honor to meet the president, but it would be hypocritical," John Cook told the Orlando Sentinel. "I don't know what we could talk about. We are examples of people who work hard and make a lot of money, and he wants to take it away and give it to people who don't give a damn."

Said Corey Pavin: "If we go to the White House, I would prefer to go afterward like we did the last time. But I'm not excited about it for two reasons. One, I've been there before. The other should be obvious. I didn't vote for him."

PGA champion Paul Azinger, who dropped his hometown newspaper when it endorsed Clinton, was much more diplomatic, saying, "A lot of the players don't particularly care for the policies of Bill Clinton. There was some question as to whether or not we really need to go to the White House before the matches started. I think in the end, the players have all agreed to do whatever Tom wants us to do."

But Azinger's friend, Payne Stewart, burned him by telling reporters at the U.S. Open: "Azinger doesn't want to go. His dad fought in Vietnam, and he doesn't want to shake hands with a draft dodger."

Perhaps Clinton won't even extend an invitation. But if he does, Watson has an interesting problem to handle. Said Jim Awtrey, the chief executive officer of the PGA of America: "If the President of the United States invites us to the White House, we will be happy to attend."

Slammed: Greg Norman, whose playoff loss Sunday to Azinger in the PGA Championship gave him the distinction of losing all four major championships in a playoff, is not the first player to accomplish that dubious honor.

Craig Wood lost playoffs in the 1933 British Open, the 1934 PGA (when it was contested at match play), the 1935 Masters and the 1939 U.S. Open.

Wood also was plagued by bad luck. He was cruising to the Masters title in 1935 when Gene Sarazen holed one of the most famous shots in golf _ a fairway wood for a double-eagle at Augusta National's par-5 15th. That made up the three-stroke difference, and Sarazen won a 36-hole playoff the next day.

Retiring?: Even before he missed the cut at the PGA Championship, Jack Nicklaus hinted his time in competitive golf might be coming to an end. Of course, he's said such things before. But he is clearly unhappy with the way he has played, though he won the U.S. Senior Open last month.

"I've tried the ceremonial path several times and it hasn't worked out too well," Nicklaus said. "I can't be part of the scene. I'll probably just have to quit tournament golf. I'd have to get totally away from it, cleanse my mind or however you want to phrase it. When that time comes, I doubt I'll know. I don't think I'll play a whole lot longer, frankly. I don't have the ability I used to have.

"I always enjoyed playing four rounds, but I don't enjoy playing four rounds finishing 40th. When I can't compete and play in too many tournaments, I'll say enough."

Quote marks: Azinger, soon after his PGA Championship victory in Toledo: "Somebody told me that if I won this tournament, in honor of Toledo I'd have to wear a Toledo Mud Hens hat for a week. And if I lost the tournament, I'd have to wear it for two weeks."