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Weather Won't Force Tour's Swing Changes

GOLF NOTES

March 03, 2005|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

The PGA Tour's West Coast swing ended Sunday with winners that included some of golf's biggest names, but while Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson were collecting trophies, Mother Nature collected most of the headlines.

Fog delayed the Buick Invitational in San Diego, and wind delayed the FBR Open in Scottsdale, Ariz. Rain shortened the Nissan Open at Riviera Country Club to 36 holes and delayed the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa.

The bad weather had some players -- Woods among them -- suggesting a schedule change might be in order. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is listening, but he says flip-flopping the West Coast and Florida swings wouldn't necessarily solve the problem.

"The weather the second, third or fourth week in January in Florida is not necessarily a picnic," Finchem said.

He added that the record storms this year were probably a freak occurrence.

"I don't think we should overreact because of what just happened," he said.

Finchem acknowledged that anything is possible after the tour's television contract expires at the end of the 2006 season.

"We're looking at a lot of different ways to look at the schedule," he said. "It may be very little change, it may be a number of changes."

He suggested that the tour would like to expand into several markets that don't have tournaments. Finchem singled out Minnesota, St. Louis, Seattle, Indianapolis and Portland, Ore.

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Jerry Kelly didn't think the weather in Southern California was all that bad. Asked about the worst course conditions he'd experienced, Kelly said, "The last time I played Poppy Hills ... and the last time I played Poppy Hills before that ... and the last time I played Poppy Hills before that."

The Florida swing kicks off today with one of the strongest fields the Ford Championship at Doral has had in years. Eleven of the top 12 players in the world rankings are playing, but not without controversy.

Ford held a pro-am on Monday with No. 1 Singh, No. 5 Retief Goosen, No. 6 Sergio Garcia and No. 8 Padraig Harrington. Associated Press reported each player received $150,000 to participate.

The tour has a rule against appearance fees for tournaments, but that rule does not apply to pro-ams, leaving a loophole that Ford exploited even though none of the players were obligated to play at Doral.

"Perception-wise, I understand the concern," Finchem told Associated Press. "We have to deal with the perception."

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Mickelson, a two-time winner on the West Coast, earned a $500,000 bonus for his performance in the first nine tournaments of the year. It was the second consecutive year and third overall that Mickelson has been crowned "King of the Swing."

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Woods can recapture the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with a victory at Doral. He can also move to No. 1 with a solo second if Singh, the current No. 1, finishes outside the top five.

A tie for second would move Woods to No. 1 only if Singh finished outside the top 23.

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Kevin Na became the first player since Hal Sutton in 1987 to finish runner-up twice in Arizona in the same year. Na was second to Geoff Ogilvy last week in Tucson after finishing behind Mickelson in Scottsdale on Feb. 6.

Na, 21, the youngest player on the PGA Tour, is 15th on the season money list with $734,255. If he moves into the top 10 by the end of the Players Championship on March 27, he will earn an invitation to the Masters.

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The European PGA announced Wednesday that Ian Woosnam would captain its 2006 Ryder Cup team and Nick Faldo would be captain for the 2008 team.

Woosnam, a Welshman, will be in charge for the Sept. 22-24, 2006, matches at the K Club in Dublin, Ireland. Tom Lehman will captain the American team. Faldo will lead the team at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.

It's the first time two captains have been named at once.

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Annika Sorenstam makes her 2005 debut this week in the MasterCard Classic at the Bosque Real Country Club in Mexico City.

It is Sorenstam's first appearance since she announced she had filed for divorce from husband David Esch.

The LPGA has not held a tournament in Mexico since 1975.

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The Champions Tour has a week off before coming to Southern California for the SBC Classic at Valencia Country Club beginning March 11 and the Toshiba Senior Classic at Newport Beach Country Club beginning March 18.

Gil Morgan is the defending champion at Valencia, and Tom Purtzer won last year at Newport Beach.

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Thomas Bonk is on vacation.

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