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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Els Is Resigned to a Lifetime of Facing 'Next Great Player'

October 20, 2000|THOMAS BONK

Ernie Els was second to Tiger Woods in two of the four majors this year, which is better than finishing, say, 54th. At least Els knows what's ahead of him--and for the rest of his career.

Chances are that Els and Woods are going to be running into each other for a long time. Els simply says there is nothing he can do about it.

"We are living in the time of the next great player and that's the way it is," Els said.

"When Jack Nicklaus was around, I'm sure the same questions were asked of Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson. 'What are you going to do about Jack?' Well, what am I going to do to beat Tiger?

"I'm 31 this month and he's coming up 25, so for my lifetime, I'm going to be playing against this guy.

"I can only do as good as I can and hopefully my cycles will come around when I will play at [his] level. I have to believe in that and play better than I ever have. That's the bottom line. I can't help that he's here."

TIGER UPDATE

The Tiger Factor converges with the Tiger Fatigue Factor sometime in the next several weeks, or so it would seem. Woods has played only one tournament since he won the NEC Invitational on Aug. 27, but he is going to be one very busy player, starting right now.

Woods is scheduled to play seven consecutive events, beginning with the Presidents Cup. Here are the others: the Disney, the Tour Championship, the American Express Championship in Spain, the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand, the PGA Grand Slam in Hawaii and the Williams Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

TIGER UPDATE II

At his fund-raising Tiger Jam III in Las Vegas, a fan paid $85,000 for a set of Woods' autographed flags and pictures from his victories in the four majors.

TIGER UPDATE III

Think things have never been better for Woods? You would be wrong.

"The best year of my life was when I was 11," he said. "I got straight A's, had two recesses a day, had the cutest girlfriend and won 32 tournaments that year. Everything's been downhill since."

HUNTER BAGS BIRDIES

Hunter Mahan, a freshman at USC, did something this week that such famous Trojan players as Craig Stadler, Al Geiberger, Dave Stockton and Scott Simpson never did--shoot a 63.

Mahan's 63 is the lowest known round in USC history, although no one is certain because records are incomplete before 1968.

Anyway, Mahan already is well on his way toward making a name for himself in amateur golf. The McKinney, Texas, player came to USC as the No. 1-ranked junior player in the U.S. and the American Junior Golf Assn.'s player of the year.

Mahan's round of 63 came at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate at Birmingham, Ala., where Mahan was fourth and 23rd-ranked USC was sixth.

In five tournaments so far in his career at USC, Mahan has two victories, a fourth place and a fifth.

USC's golf season takes a break until Jan. 29.

BETTER RED

News item: Jim Thorpe wears a red shirt on Sunday and wins last week's Senior PGA Tour event. Says Thorpe: "It worked with Tiger." Thorpe promptly orders 24 red shirts.

Reaction: Thorpe had two tournament victories in 22 years on the PGA Tour, but at 51, he has now won the last two weeks. Expect the entire Senior Field to be wearing red shirts this week at the Kaanapali Classic on Maui.

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES

Chances are, this quote didn't go over too well in the U.S. team's locker room at the Presidents Cup: "We don't want to see guys running around the greens and screaming."

Who said that? Team captain Ken Venturi, referring to the U.S. players' celebration on the last day of the Ryder Cup last year.

By now, the players' version of the events is well known: "Sorry we upset you, but we're not apologizing for being excited."

Venturi said he really does want his players to show emotion, apparently at the proper venue. It's clear that Venturi and his counterpart, Peter Thomson of Australia, are committed to a civil scene this weekend.

At the same time, no one is taking any bets about next year's Ryder Cup at The Belfry in England.

Said Thomson: "Compared to the Presidents Cup, the Ryder Cup is an absolute war. . . .

"The U.S. team that has to come to visit England next time round will have to wear armor and earplugs and perhaps blinkers."

UH, CHOPPED LIVER?

Here's another bulletin-board quote for the Presidents Cup: "Luckily, there is only one Woods in the U.S. team. There are 11 others who are more vulnerable."

Who said that? Thomson, in a guest column in an Australian newspaper.

CUPDATE

Let's see, we have the Presidents Cup on the even years and the Ryder Cup on the odd years, so that should be enough international competition, right? Of course, there have been scattered grumblings by U.S. players that there is one international team event too many.

It will be up to PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to convince his players that the Presidents Cup is not only worthwhile, but rewarding, historic and important.

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