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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

No Matter Woods' Mission, Nothing Seems Impossible

May 19, 2000|THOMAS BONK

So what are we supposed to make of what Tiger Woods did last weekend at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic? No, Woods didn't win at Irving, Texas, but . . .

He took four weeks off and in his first tournament back was in danger of missing the cut after the first round. Then, three days later, he almost won the tournament.

Even for Woods, that's a first-rate high-wire act. And if Woods had managed to coax in that 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole Sunday, he would have shot a 62 and worked his way into what would have been a four-way playoff, eventually won by Jesper Parnevik.

Anybody want to bet that Woods wouldn't have prevailed had he been in it?

When you look at it, Woods has performed such spectacular feats that he is in danger of making the fabulous appear routine. Like Sunday at the Nelson: He holed out from the fairway on the last day and now everyone expects it every hole.

So what will Woods' next trick be?

Will he ace the shot from the rooftop in Germany to another rooftop in that tricked-up exhibition with Colin Montgomerie this week?

Will he win that Deutsche Bank/SAP Open in Hamburg, then show up at the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, and announce he intends to play left-handed so he can get a good feel from both sides of the plate?

Wait until the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Woods can hit a two-iron off the tee and still outdrive most of the field. After what happened last week, Woods feels good about himself.

"After not playing for a month, I think I did a pretty good job," he said. "That's one of the difficult things about coming back after a long layoff. Your competitive edge isn't as sharp as it should be.

"No matter how much you practice, you always tend to put the driving range swing on it, not the tournament playability swing. And that's one of the things that every player fights after a long layoff. You just need to go out there and play more by feel and instinct and that takes time to get back.

"By Sunday, I felt pretty good, very comfortable about going out there and having every shot count."

By the time he gets to Pebble Beach, Woods should be ultra-comfortable.

A VISION IN PINK

From in front of his television set at his home in Houston, the ultra-colorful Doug Sanders took a long look at Parnevik's bright pink pants on the last day of the Byron Nelson and gave them his approval.

"You got to do something a little different," Sanders said. "That's the way I was."

In his heyday, Sanders could have put a peacock to shame with a wardrobe that looked as though a rainbow had just exploded in his closet.

You won't find this in the history books, but Sanders was perhaps the first golfer to wear pink . . . except he didn't stop at pink slacks. He had pink shoes, pink socks, a pink shirt, pink underwear and, yes, a pink glove.

"Painted it with nail polish," Sanders said.

He says his favorite color was whatever he was wearing that day.

"I took a lot of pride in the colors I wore," Sanders said. "I felt good because I knew I looked good. As for Jesper, I'm just delighted to see some color again.

"I like to see that stuff. There's a bunch of clones out there in all walks of life. Now, I'm not putting anybody down, you know, but if you had a bunch of caddies and pros and after three holes they went around the corner and changed clothes, you couldn't tell who was who."

LET'S GO TO A BREAK

News item: The PGA Tour takes the unusual step of issuing a statement of apology and regret after CBS cut away Sunday from the Byron Nelson playoff before it was over everywhere except on the West Coast and about 22 minutes before the 7 p.m. Eastern time drop-dead cutoff.

Reaction: What did CBS want to show instead? "Heidi?"

Reaction II: Think they would have done it if Woods had been in the playoff?

By the way, CBS had a 4.0 overnight rating for Sunday's telecast--up 25% from last year.

Can you say "Thank you, Tiger?"

Why CBS pulled the plug: It's the sweeps period and it didn't want golf to go long and affect "60 Minutes" and the mini-series "Jesus."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

From Parnevik, asked if 88-year-old Byron Nelson would like the pink pants: "I think he would look good in my pants."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK II

From Woods, the defending PGA champion, when told that the last to successfully defend his PGA title was Denny Shute in 1937: "Well, I wasn't around then."

YESSIR, JESPER

Now, don't laugh, but Parnevik says he will contend at the U.S. Open next month at Pebble Beach.

"The Open is probably one of the best venues where I would have a chance," he said. "Usually, it's just a straight hitter's U.S. Open, where one driver can be a little bit off sometimes.

"So I'm really looking forward to Pebble Beach, where it's going to be more a links-type golf course, which I usually play very well in. . . . "

THE PRICE IS, WHAT?

The Nick Price-Nike-Chipshot.com saga has been proceeding at a dizzying pace. The latest: After Nike said it was suing chipshot.com for using Price in ads with him not wearing Nike-contracted shoes and clothes, Price said he was through with Nike.

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