Originally created 12/30/98

How golf can get even better in 1999



The worst part about the Presidents Cup for Mark O'Meara was that it marked the end of his dream season. When O'Meara headed off to Colorado for a skiing vacation, he had plenty of time to figure out where he goes from here.

"I know that winning doesn't come all the time," O'Meara said. "When you look at the best players of all time in the game of golf, the winning percentage is really small. You lose a lot more than you win."

Don't get any ideas that O'Meara is content with his claret jug and green jacket. Remember, only three other players in their 40s won a major this decade, and none of them won again that year.

O'Meara followed up his Masters victory with the British Open -- the oldest player to win two majors in one year -- then nearly pulled off a Hogan in the PGA Championship before finishing in a tie for fourth.

He turns 42 in two weeks and thinks his best golf is ahead.

"We'll try to take this as a positive step, to set my sights next year on a U.S. Open or a PGA Championship," O'Meara said.

That would be quite an encore. Along those lines, here are some other ways golf can get even better in 1999:

-- Another player in his 40s wins his first major. It turns out to be someone who has been steady for 20 years on tour, had a few close calls but has never received his due as one of the best players without a major. Someone who has finished lower than 40th on the money list just once since 1982. A green jacket would look nice on Scott Hoch.

-- Tiger Woods has a big year. He wins seven tournaments and, because of the huge increase in prize money, becomes the first golfer to surpass $4 million in earnings. But he doesn't win a major. That would be more proof that it takes enormous skill and sometimes just as much luck for everything to fall into place on the right four weeks.

-- Colin Montgomerie has a little more luck in one of those four weeks, preferably in July. He holds the course record at Carnoustie.

-- John Daly makes only one double-digit score on a hole all year. Unfortunately, it comes on No. 13 at Augusta National when he's in contention Sunday.

-- Another star emerges on the LPGA Tour, this time an American. Laura Davies was the strength of women's golf until she was overtaken by Annika Sorenstam, a three-time player of the year. Sorenstam has been challenged the past two years by Karrie Webb of Australia, then Se Ri Pak of South Korea. It's time for Kelly Robbins to have as much ambition as she has talent, and Michelle McGann to finally have a year of good health and major wins.

-- Tom Lehman plays in the final group on Sunday in the U.S. Open for the fifth straight year. Better yet, he plays on Monday in the first U.S. Open playoff since 1994. The Open is due for another playoff, and Lehman is overdue for his second major.

-- Lehman sees an amusement park on his way to Carnoustie and keeps right on going.

-- Greg Norman wins his first tournament since shoulder surgery, then makes another run at a major championship -- how about Pinehurst? -- only to find Nick Faldo waiting for him on the back nine Sunday.

-- Norman finally wins a major on American soil.

-- Tom Watson turns 50 in September and wins eight Senior Tour events.

-- Sam Snead, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen enjoy another year of good health and once again find the fairway with their ceremonial tee shots in the Masters.

-- Seve Ballesteros finds any fairway.

-- Matt Kuchar is a year older, but has no less the charm and innocence that made him everyone's favorite at the Masters and U.S. Open. He uses a caddie from Augusta National, and his father is tossed from the grounds when caught running from green to tee -- a no-no at Augusta.

-- Another amateur turns heads at the Masters, finally giving golf reason to cheer when it hears the words "El Nino."

-- Phil Mickelson wins all three of the World Golf Championship events, but no major.

-- Young guns like David Duval, Ernie Els and Justin Leonard finally go toe-to-toe in the final round of a major, perhaps at Medinah in the PGA Championship. Duval played Medinah as an amateur in 1990 and finished 56th in the U.S. Open.

-- Davis Love III wins a tournament on Father's Day.

-- Corey Pavin, Payne Stewart and Paul Azinger play well enough to make the Ryder Cup team. Europe wins, anyway.

-- Mark O'Meara wins the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.