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Lights Shine at Bighorn

Golf: Woods and Nicklaus team up against Garcia and Trevino tonight at Palm Desert in made-for-TV event.

July 29, 2002|LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's played on grass, under the lights, on Monday night, and ABC is primed. Al Michaels will be there, and so will Melissa Stark.

Are you ready? Are you ready for some ... golf?

In the fourth edition of ABC's version of Monday night golf, four of the sport's biggest names will be on the same course tonight in Palm Desert.

Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods will team up against Lee Trevino and Sergio Garcia in the $1.7-million Lincoln Financial Group Battle at Bighorn.

They will play the Canyons course at Bighorn Golf Club, a 7,057-yard layout set among rock-studded canyons, copper foothills, meandering streams and majestic waterfalls. The course, designed by Tom Fazio, opened in December 1998.

Tonight's winners will split $1.2 million, and the losers will split $500,000. A portion of each player's earnings will be designated for charity.

ABC's coverage begins at 5 p.m., although the 18-hole, best-ball round actually gets underway at 3:30.

Under a team best-ball format, the lower score on each team is the one that counts.

Play is expected to conclude around 8 p.m., so lights have been set up on the final five holes.

The old guys, Trevino and Nicklaus, are a little concerned about the timing.

"If we have to play under the lights, Jack and I are goners," Trevino said. "We're blind when the sun's out. We can barely see. Do whiffs count?"

Said Nicklaus: "The last time I played under lights, I was a kid out at a driving range. I can't see anyway, so it doesn't make much difference. It will be unique."

Garcia, who played Woods two years ago in this event when there were lights only on the last four holes, said, "We barely made it to the lights. I remember we were playing 14 in the dark, with no lights. But it was a good experience. It was fun."

The first of these exhibitions was played at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks in 1999, with Woods defeating David Duval in match play, 2 and 1, in what was called the Showdown at Sherwood.

The telecast drew 23.2 million viewers and was the second-highest rated golf event of the year with a 6.9. Only the final round of the Masters got a higher rating.

The event then moved to Bighorn, where in 2000 Garcia defeated Woods, 1 up. That match drew a 7.6 rating and 29.2 million viewers.

Last year's competition featured Woods and Annika Sorenstam against Duval and Karrie Webb, playing an alternate-shot format. Woods and Sorenstam won in 19 holes. The TV rating dipped to a 6.1.

Tonight's competition ends a three-year run at Bighorn. It will be announced today that the event will move to the Bridges in Rancho Santa Fe next year.

Besides Michaels and Stark, ABC's announcing team tonight will also include Mike Tirico and Curtis Strange.

Stark, a sideline reporter on "Monday Night Football," has replaced Judy Rankin. ABC said the reason for the change was that the format lends itself more to a reporter/interviewer such as Stark than an on-course commentator such as Rankin.

Tonight's telecast will have an interactive aspect, a first for golf. Viewers will be able to log on to Enhanced TV through ESPN.com. and, besides getting different camera angles and graphics, can attempt to predict the outcome of each hole and win prizes.

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