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THE SHORT STUFF

He Gets a Real Rush Out of Golf

June 26, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

On the celebrity golf circuit, does Rush Limbaugh play conservatively? Is he liberal in his use of drivers? When he hits it badly off the tee, does the ball go far right?

Limbaugh just wants you to know he plays it straight down the middle -- or tries to -- when he's on the course.

"Golf is an escape for me, from talks about tax cuts and radio deregulation," said Limbaugh, who hosts a politics-heavy national radio talk show when he isn't traveling the celebrity pro-am scene.

Limbaugh, who says he has an 18-20 handicap, played in both the Bob Hope and at Pebble Beach earlier this year, and he will be a featured player in celebrity golf's premier event, the $500,000 American Century Championship, July 15-20 at Lake Tahoe. Limbaugh will mix it up with such stars as Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, John Elway, Mario Lemieux, Dennis Quaid, Dan Quayle, Jesse Ventura and Troy Aikman.

If politics are the last thing Limbaugh wants to talk about on the course, he always knows what the athletes in his group are feeling.

"They don't want to talk about their sports," he said. "They don't want anything from me."

And who does?

"The politicians," he said. "They're always trying to clue me in."

If Limbaugh wants to blend in on the course, his mission is just the opposite on the radio.

"There's a lot of noise out there," he said. "You have to stand out. My radio program is a performance."

And his golf game is a work in progress.

*

The first words out of Jonathan Kaye's mouth after beating John Rollins with an eagle in a one-hole playoff last week in the PGA Buick Classic were exactly these, when asked whether it was a good feeling:

Said Kaye: "Yes, it is. I've been seeing my name on the Golf Channel, 'most money without a win,' so I get that off my back, anyway."

You were expecting maybe something warm and fuzzy with the possibility of weepy?

Kaye, 32, has come close before -- he has been second five times -- but if you want to talk about coming close in another area, he has done that too. As a collegian at Colorado, Kaye was a passenger in a car driven by a friend on the way to a tournament when the car flipped and rolled five times and he walked away, even though he wasn't wearing a seat belt.

Another time, Kaye was driving in Mexico and a truck sped up from behind and struck his vehicle, sending Kaye to the hospital for two weeks.

Said Kaye: "My mom says I have nine lives like a cat, so hopefully I've got a few saved up."

*

Jennifer Aniston may be the No. 1 celebrity in the world, according to Forbes' "Celebrity 100 list," but Tiger Woods is third. Two other golfers made the list. Arnold Palmer is 64th and Annika Sorenstam 74th. The celebrities made the list on the basis of salary, Web site hits, press clippings and radio and television interviews or features.

*

How much was winning the U.S. Open worth to Jim Furyk? Besides the $1.008 million he won, of course. Recent estimates place the figure at near $1 million, in incentives from sponsors -- Hogan clubs, Strata golf balls and Exelon, an energy services company.

*

Welcome back, Aaron Baddeley. He's playing this week at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., but it has been more than three months since he completed a tournament, when he was sixth at Bay Hill. That's how long it has taken the 22-year-old Australian to recover from a torn tendon in his ankle that he injured playing Frisbee football.

"The road to recovery has been longer than I'd like," Baddeley said.

Hopefully, Baddeley hasn't forgotten how to putt as he traveled that road during his layoff. He ranks eighth on the PGA Tour. On the other hand, Baddeley is 175th in driving accuracy and 122nd in greens in regulation.

*

In case you missed it, another heckler got to Vijay Singh last weekend and was summarily ejected, which gives Singh a two-tournament ejection streak for spectators giving him the lip on the course. Earlier in the week, Singh also shooed away a group of children waiting for his autograph at the driving range. That's why he's Mr. Public Relations.

*

With his rebuilt swing, Sergio Garcia tied for fourth at the Buick Classic -- easily his best result this year.

In fact, Garcia had done no better than his tie for 25th at the season-opening Mercedes at Kapalua and had missed six cuts in 12 tournaments.

Garcia, who has changed his takeaway to make it more in line with the target, says he has been working hard. He said nobody's noticed because no one pays attention to "the normal guys."

The normal guys?

"That's what it looks like because even though I come to tournaments, you [reporters] don't know anything that I'm doing. So you're probably focusing on the guys that are playing maybe a little better. That's the way it is, I guess."

Yes, Sergio, that's the way it is.

*

Tim Mickelson, Phil's younger brother, is the new men's golf coach at the University of San Diego. Mickelson has been an assistant to Dale Walker the last two years at San Diego State.

*

The Mount Carmel High alumni foundation will hold a tournament Monday at Western Hills Country Club in Chino Hills. The event benefits Catholic schools, nuns and priests in need. Details: (818) 846-6014.... Barlow Respiratory Hospital's foundation will hold a tournament Aug. 22 at Robinson Ranch in Santa Clarita. The event benefits hospital and community programs. Details: (310) 274-8787, ext. 116.

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