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The Day in Sports | THE SHORT STUFF

Tiger Cuts It Close to Nelson

October 23, 2003|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Chances are good that this will be a record-tying week for Tiger Woods, who can equal Byron Nelson's record of making the cut in 113 consecutive tournaments at the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World.

In fact, it's a done deal, at least according to Nelson.

"As long as Tiger stays healthy and wants to play, I can't ever imagine him missing a cut in any tournament," said Nelson, who has no problem with Woods bumping him to No. 2 in the record book.

"Any time my name or record gets mentioned with Tiger, I'm happy about it. I have so much respect for him and his game. And I appreciate it that he really knows a lot about the history of golf."

And so does Nelson, 91, who made a lot of it himself, including a record 11 consecutive victories in 1945.

Nelson didn't simply make the cut in 113 tournaments in a row, he finished in the money each time, when only the top 20 players earned a paycheck.

During his streak, the lowest Nelson finished was 17th.

In fact, Nelson was in the top 10 in 108 of the 113 tournaments in a streak that began at the Crosby in 1941 and ended at the Crosby in 1949, where he withdrew.

At that first event in his streak in 1941, Nelson finished fifth and made $125.

"If you won a little money, that's all you were interested in," he said.

Woods' streak goes back to Pebble Beach in 1998, when rain postponed the third and final round of the tournament until August, six months after the first two rounds. Woods, who had no chance of winning after two rounds, didn't come back for the last day, which is regarded as a missed cut by the PGA Tour.

The only other time Woods has missed a cut in 144 starts as a pro was the Bell Canadian Open in 1997, his first full year on the tour.

Woods was 14 and playing at Bel-Air Country Club when Nelson met him.

"I watched him play a few holes and he was hitting balls farther than any I had in my whole life," Nelson said.

Nelson is prepared for Woods to break his record at the Tour Championship next month and knows what he will say if asked about it.

"I'm going to say more power to him. I'm happy for him."

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Woods gave caddie Steve Williams the week off to race cars in New Zealand, so Tiger will again turn to substitute caddie Bryon Bell. Bell, who was a childhood friend of Woods, filled in as Woods' caddie in 1999 at Torrey Pines and the Match Play at La Costa and again at Torrey Pines in 2000.

Williams has been with Woods for 36 of his 46 victories worldwide and seven of his eight wins in majors.

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The "other" player-of-the-year award is run by the PGA of America and started in 1948, when Ben Hogan won it. Unlike the PGA Tour player of the year, which began in 1990, this one isn't based on players' votes, but by a point system based on victories, money and scoring.

There is one similarity: Woods leads in this one too and is trying for his fifth consecutive award in each.

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News item: Seve Ballesteros says that Ernie Els has more talent than Woods and that Els can pass Tiger as the No. 1-ranked player.

Reaction: Is this stuff cropping up again? It has been quiet since March, when Woods won at Bay Hill by 11 shots and Els flopped, but there is no end to the Find-a-Rival-for-Tiger campaign.

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How much does consistency pay? Jim Furyk leads the PGA Tour with 55 rounds in the 60s and has made a career-high $4.9 million.

Neither Ben Curtis, who won the British Open, nor PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel has been in the top 10 this year since he won his major. That hasn't happened to a major champion in 10 years -- after Lee Janzen won the U.S. Open at Baltusrol.

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News item: For the 2005 British Open, St. Andrews will be 160 yards longer.

Reaction: For the 2005 British Open, the players will be driving the ball 160 yards longer.

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News item: In an interview with SportsBusiness Journal, Greg Norman reveals his management style: "I give my people enough rope to either pull with it or hang themselves."

Reaction: Any more sweet talk and he can just about wrap up the boss-of-the-month award.

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Eddie Merrins is a guest instructor at Lost Canyons Golf Club in Simi Valley, where he gives lessons two days a week. Merrins is the former UCLA golf coach and pro "emeritus" at Bel-Air. ... The clubhouse is finished at Moorpark Country Club, which opened recently. The course was designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy.

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