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THE SHORT STUFF

A Major Event for Couples

May 01, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Only a year ago, a proposal to launch the Major Champions Tour caused more than a few ripples among the establishment at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. There, the Big Thinkers thought it might dilute the Senior PGA Tour because it would be designed for players between 37 and 55 who had won major titles but felt they were no longer competitive on the PGA Tour.

It was an idea worth thinking about, but it didn't fly, which is what made Nick Price's victory at 45 at last year's Colonial and last week's victory by 43-year-old Fred Couples at the Shell Houston Open such remarkable success stories. Couples, who last won in 1998, was one of the more vocal players in support of the proposed tour, the brainchild of independent TV sports guru Terry Jastrow, who was one of the first to applaud the victory by Couples.

"If he had won last year or two years ago, there never would have been a discussion of a Major Champions Tour," Jastrow said. "It's a thrill that Fred won. When Fred Couples wins a PGA Tour event, nobody is thinking about a Major Champions Tour because it gives us what we want -- a chance to watch a great star win on the main stage."

The planned tour was altered as a potential six-event format for 2004 that caught ESPN's interest, but the concept has been tabled indefinitely.

Couples clearly enjoyed winning at Houston, played at a new course -- Redstone Golf Club -- designed by Peter Jacobsen. Tiger Woods wasn't there; he isn't expected to play again until the week of May 12 at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open near Hamburg, Germany.

Couples said he would recommend the tournament and the course to Woods: "I am going to tell him, 'If I can win, you can win.' "

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Media news: It's still early for Annika Sorenstam mania, but tournament officials at the Colonial three weeks away are projecting that reporters will outnumber players (the field is 124) by nearly a 4-1 ratio.

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News item: Jack Nicklaus is to play the BMW Charity Pro-Am with Jack II, Steven, Gary and Michael Nicklaus -- his four sons.

Reaction: Too bad William Frawley, as "Bub," can't caddie.

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There is probably no player happier to be in Italy this week than Colin Montgomerie. Actually, Monty's mood is certain to be elevated almost anywhere he is, just as long as he's not someplace in the U.S. and has to play a PGA Tour event.

Monty made a commitment to the U.S. in the early part of the year and he was at least resolute, if not almost completely unsuccessful. He played six stroke-play events and missed the cut in five of them, including the Masters, his last before heading back home to England. The best Montgomerie did in his two-month stay was a tie for 31st at Bay Hill, where he won $25,521.

The only other tournament where Monty made money was at the match play at La Costa, where he lost his first-round match but still earned $30,000 because they pass cash around like onion dip in that tournament.

It hardly seems worthwhile for Montgomerie, whose total take of $55,521 is about what rookie Chad Campbell made last week at Houston when he tied for 21st.

The Italian Open is Montgomerie's first event on the European Tour, where he once won seven consecutive money titles. Once the undisputed top player on the European Tour, Monty turns 40 next month and has long since been supplanted by, among others, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington.

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Se Ri Pak's playoff victory at last week's LPGA event was her 20th in less than six full years and enabled the 25-year-old to become the third-youngest to reach that level, behind only Nancy Lopez and Karrie Webb.

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News item: Last week before he played in the Spanish Open at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Seve Ballesteros blasted golf's technological advances in equipment. He told Reuters that he would ban anything greater than 54-degree sand wedges, ban belly putters, long-handled putters, any more clubs in the bag than 12 and "would make the ball bigger."

Reaction: Why not just allow canes, brooms, pool cues and make the hole smaller?

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