Carlos Franco not the typical tour pro
The time had come for Carlos Franco to look deep within himself. What he discovered on his voyage of self-discovery should either inspire or sicken golfers everywhere.
Franco was the 1999 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. Won twice that year. Finished sixth at the first Masters he played. Received a parade in his honor from his homeland of Paraguay. Won again in 2000. Hadn't sniffed a victory since.
On his way to falling to 127th in the world rankings, Franco re-discovered a fundamental truth: Practice makes perfect.
A perfect waste of his time.
Franco is the anti-Vijay Singh, who considers a driving range an unlimited supply of practice balls to be necessities of life. Singh implores Franco to practice more, but time spent on the range is time away from a fishing boat. From start to finish at Milwaukee's Brown Deer Park, Franco declined to hit a single practice ball.
"When I came here in 1999, 100 percent no practice," explained Franco.
Franco won in Milwaukee that year, finishing two strokes ahead of Tom Lehman. He didn't finish higher than 25th in his subsequent four visits to Milwaukee, undermining his simple, natural swing with periodic attempts to practice.
"Maybe I need it, but I don't like it," Franco said. "I'd rather go fishing."
Franco, 39, reeled in a two-stroke victory that jumped him from 62nd to 30th on the money list. When a second-round 63 mandated a trip to the interview room, Franco urged his questioners to cut it short so he could get back to fishing.
"He probably practices more than he leads on," Rich Beem said. "The guy's so talented, it's unbelievable. You don't get that good without practicing a little bit."
In the case of Franco, the emphasis would be on little. And if Franco were the rule, the tour would be in trouble. Thanks to Tiger Woods, the tour has no shortage of workaholic players who flock to fitness trailers and driving ranges in hope of keeping up with the competition.
More than ever, playing on the tour is a profession - with all the seriousness and somberness that implies. There are swing doctors, physical trainers, psychiatrists and dietitians, it's a wonder anybody has a spontaneous thought. If today's players seem to be a robotic lot compared to their predecessors, then it might be a matter of perception. Does a demonstrative Craig Stadler, who never did get on friendly terms with salad bars and weight rooms, have any more drive or passion than the new breed of fit and focused players?
"Any time the money goes up, there is less passion visually from the guys because they're choking their guts out," said CBS analyst Gary McCord, a former tour player. "We used to play in the '70s, there wasn't a whole lot of money, you had fun, you went out at night, you'd go screw around. You're playing for this kind of money, $5 million a week, you'd better be focused, you'd better be in the gym and doing all that stuff. The old days you had a lot of passion, not a whole lot of money. Right now you'd better pay attention or you're out of there real quick."
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