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THE SHORT STUFF

It's Almost a Slam Dunk

August 07, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Sure, it's only August, but if anyone is looking for an early choice for athlete of the year, a convincing case is being presented by Annika Sorenstam.

Not only has she won four times on the LPGA Tour and 46 times in her Hall of Fame career, but Sorenstam won the Women's British Open last weekend -- her second major title this year -- and became only the sixth LPGA player to win all four majors.

Add her gender-bending experiment at the Colonial, where Sorenstam was the first woman in 58 years to play on the men's pro tour, and you already have a year that will prove tough to beat, no matter what happens from here on out.

Sorenstam said she tried not to think about achieving a career grand slam as she came from behind to defeat Se Ri Pak by one shot at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

"I knew what was at stake, but there's enough pressure just to play the golf course," she said. "There is enough emotion just to be out here that I try not to think about the history and what it would mean."

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About the only group not thrilled with Sorenstam is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has sent a letter to Sorenstam urging her to ask Kentucky Fried Chicken to stop abusing chickens or to step away from her endorsement deal.

PETA said it is "teed off" with KFC's treatment of chickens.

"While we cheer your birdies and eagles on the golf course, we were saddened to learn that you are supporting the suffering of real-life birds by appearing in a commercial for KFC," said PETA special projects coordinator Carrie Beckwith.

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If you think that Tiger Woods is still kicking himself over what happened at Royal St. George's, where he missed a chance to win the British Open on the back nine on the last day, he's not -- at least not in public.

"Face it, guys are going to win major championships and guys are going to play well," Woods said. "It's a matter of giving yourself enough chances over the course of your career to win majors. No one has ever done it any better than [Jack] Nicklaus. He's won 18, but he's also had 19 seconds. If you win half those seconds, how good of a career would he have?

"So it's just a matter of putting yourself there enough times. You're going to lose, that's part of the deal. But if you put yourself there enough times, you're also going to win your share."

How frustrating was it for Nicklaus in 1964, when he was second at the Masters, the British Open and the PGA?

Anyway, Woods was fourth at Royal St. George's, but he has been second in a major only once -- last year at the PGA Championship, when Rich Beem shot a 68 while Woods shot a 67 and lost by one shot.

Woods has been third twice in majors (the 1998 British Open and 1999 U.S. Open), but that's far short of Nicklaus, who was third nine times.

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News item: The last round of the Women's British Open on Sunday on ABC had an overnight Nielsen rating of 1.2.

Reaction: Thus matching the rating for NBC's taped BMX race Saturday and falling short of the NASCAR pre-race show Sunday.

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As of this week, 97 of the top 100 top-ranked players in the world are in the 156-player field of the PGA Championship next week. Missing are No. 10 Nick Price (family reasons), No. 49 Nick Faldo (new baby) and No. 98 John Cook (shoulder surgery).

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With the PGA Championship next on his plate, the quote of the week is from Jim Furyk, who won the Buick Open and was asked when it would be a good time to win back-to-back tournaments.

Said Furyk: "This would be a good time."

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Ricky Barnes, the U.S. Amateur champion who turned pro after the British Open, has signed an endorsement deal with Callaway.

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According to an ESPN poll, conducted by TNS Intersearch, the NFL is the most popular spectator sport in the U.S., with 22.5% of the respondents choosing it. Major League Baseball was second with 12.9%.

Golf tied for 10th with boxing at 1.4%, trailing pro soccer and figure skating, but ahead of high school football and tennis.

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There is a year to go in the points race to make the Ryder Cup team, but the top 10 right now are Woods, Furyk, Kenny Perry, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, David Toms, Fred Funk, Beem, Justin Leonard and Jerry Kelly.

Meanwhile, the PGA of America is taking steps to make sure the 40,000 spectators will have no trouble seeing the event next September at Oakland Hills Country Club in Michigan. Nine large-screen video boards will be on site, more than any other tournament, breaking the record of six from the 1999 Ryder Cup in Brookline, Mass.

All 58 corporate hospitality tents are sold out -- a 100-person chalet runs $350,000 for the week. Also, 200 10-person tables in three on-course pavilions run $60,000 and 85% of the tables are sold.

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The PGA Tour is a new sponsor of the fifth V Foundation Wine Celebration this weekend in Napa. The event benefits cancer research in California and is named after former North Carolina State basketball Coach Jim Valvano, who died in 1993. Details: (707) 945-0505.

Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron will receive the Great Ones award of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation Oct. 26 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The fifth Jim Murray Memorial Classic will be played Oct. 27 at Wilshire Country Club. Details: (310) 476-8948.

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