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SPORTS WEEKEND | GOLF

Not Surprisingly, It's Already the Year of the Tiger

September 08, 2000|THOMAS BONK

It's only September, but as long as the four majors are over and Tiger Woods can't win any more of them for a while, this could be a good jumping-off point to take a look back on what has happened so far.

Still to come: Solheim Cup, Presidents Cup, Tour Championship, dozens of off-season boondoggles.

Until that last dollar of petty cash is distributed, we're still tuned in to the year in golf. And what a year it has been, right?

* Players of the year: Woods and Karrie Webb (Who else?).

* Tournament of the year: The Mercedes Championship. You have Woods and Ernie Els and Woods has to go eagle, birdie, birdie to win in a playoff.

* Major of the year: U.S. Open. For a sheer mind-boggling blowout of epic proportions, it's Woods winning by 15 shots at Pebble Beach. Nobody wins the Open by 15 shots. At least, nobody until now.

* Second-best major of the year: PGA. You have Woods and Bob May going shot for shot down the stretch and into the playoff.

* Shot of the year: In total darkness, Woods' iron to the 18th green of the NEC Invitational when the ball stopped a foot from the hole.

* Second-best shot of the year: Woods' six-iron from heavy rough to reach the green in two, at the sixth hole at Pebble during the Open.

* Goodbye of the year: Jack Nicklaus made his final tour of the four majors and made the cut at the Masters, where he tied for 54th.

* Book of the year: "Into the Bear Pit," by Mark James.

* Doofus of the year: Mark James.

* Slump of the year: Lee Janzen, with only one top 10.

* Lucky caddie of the year: Steve Williams, who works for Woods and thus became a millionaire, proving it's not always bad work cleaning somebody's clubs.

* Unlucky caddie of the year: David Renwick, who helped Vijay Singh win the Masters and then got fired four months later.

* Golf club "buzz" of the year: Three initials--ERC.

* Operation of the year: Greg Norman has arthroscopic hip surgery.

* Fall of the year: One week after Rocco Mediate won the Buick Open, his chair collapses under him on the patio of the players' dining room at the PGA Championship and he has to withdraw.

* Best clothes of the year: Anything Woods wears.

* Worst clothes of year: Anything Jesper Parnevik wears . . . including the all-white ensemble he donned at the British Open that prompted Glenn Sheeley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to say he looked "like the guy who showed up to paint the plutonium reactor."

* Birdie of the year: CBS admitting using taped bird calls as "ambient sound" during telecasts.

* Salary of the year (Non-Tiger Division): Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, who pulls down an estimated $3 million.

BJORN TO WIN

The best player this summer not named Tiger?

You're going to have to include Thomas Bjorn somewhere in that list.

Bjorn, from Denmark, was second at the British Open, third at the PGA Championship and won last week's BMW Open, a European PGA Tour event at Munich.

Bjorn, 29, says it's a matter of confidence.

"I feel my golf has gone to another level," he said. "It comes down to my coach [Peter Cowen], the way he's made me realize I am one of the better players in Europe and can keep up with [Lee] Westwood, [Darren] Clarke and [Colin] Montgomerie. My whole game is going in that direction."

CADDIE UPDATE

Reminding us once again that it's a tough world out there, David Duval and Justin Leonard have fired their caddies. Duval said goodbye to Greg Rita, his caddie since February; and Leonard said adios to Bob Riefke, his caddie for six years.

By the way, Leonard hasn't won in 29 months and Duval hasn't won in 16 months.

BUSINESS UPDATE

Orlimar Golf is leaving Hayward and moving to golf-equipment central in Carlsbad.

Jean Van de Velde signed with Signature Sports Group and Jim Lehman, who is Tom's brother.

Davis Love III signed a golf-ball deal with Titleist through 2010.

Hyundai Motor America has replaced Diners Club as the title sponsor of the match-play event now called the Hyundai Team Matches, Dec. 15-17 at Pelican Hill Golf Club.

JORDAN UPDATE

No, he's not coming back to the Chicago Bulls. But Michael Jordan is busy playing golf, the sport of choice for retired athletic superstars. (See Wayne Gretzky, John Elway, et al.).

Jordan said recently that he's ending his association with a charity tournament in Greenville, N.C., and starting one of his own at the Ocean Club on Paradise Island in the Bahamas--the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational. Organizers are looking for a TV deal. Of course.

BUT WHO'S COUNTING?

If Woods wins the Canadian Open this weekend, he would be the only person other than Lee Trevino to have won the U.S. Open, British Open and the Canadian Open in the same year. Trevino did it in 1971.

A victory by Woods would also give him nine in 2000, the most in one year since Sam Snead won 11 in 1950. Tiger's 16 victories in two years isn't close to Byron Nelson's record of 26 in two years (1944-45).

HUT ONE, HUT TWO

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