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GOLF NOTES

Compared to Old Days, It Really Is an Easy Ryder

September 14, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

When he took part in the 1937 Ryder Cup, Byron Nelson traveled 6 1/2 days by boat to Southport, England, took another four days to recover from the trip when he returned home and lost about $3,500 in salary to take a leave of absence from his job as head pro at Redding (Pa.) Country Club.

The U.S. team leaves Sunday night from Washington on a chartered jet.

"I'm sure the players can't even realize what it was like back then," Nelson said Wednesday.

The PGA of America picks up the expenses of the U.S. players, but they are not paid otherwise, although each player designates charities to receive contributions. In the last Ryder Cup, the PGA of America gave $100,000 to the charity designated by each player and another $100,000 to universities chosen by each player to support a growth of the game.

But besides the long journey and the out-of-pocket expenses, there's something that Nelson remembers even more clearly -- the 1937 team was the first to win the Ryder Cup on the other side's soil.

Walter Hagen was the captain and the U.S. defeated Britain, 8-4. It was the sixth Ryder Cup played and Nelson's first -- he later played in 1947 -- and he was 3-1 in those two appearances.

Nelson said U.S. captain Tom Lehman has done a good job preparing for next week's matches at the K Club near Dublin, Ireland. And being the underdog might turn out to be motivation for the U.S., Nelson said.

"Europe has got the best players in the world," he said. "Our players are great, but the rest of the world's players are pretty good golfers too. I think it's going to be real, real close."

Nelson said not only Tiger Woods, but all the U.S. players need to play better. Woods won his 53rd PGA Tour title at the Deutsche Bank to move into fifth place ahead of Nelson's 52.

Nelson said he wasn't angry.

"Certainly not, in fact, the thing about it, it makes my record look even better than it was," he said. "If it takes a great player like Tiger Woods to beat it, then it was a pretty good record, wasn't it? It's not like somebody just walked in off the street and beat it."

Nelson, who turns 95 in February, said he isn't looking for any special plans to celebrate.

"I just hope I make it," he said.

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Don't look now, but there's a new No. 2 player in golf. It's Jim Furyk, whose victory at the Canadian Open last weekend bumped Phil Mickelson into third place in the rankings. Furyk, who also became the fifth player in PGA Tour history to pass $30 million in career earnings, made 57 of 59 putts inside 10 feet in his victory in Canada.

As for Mickelson, he might be through playing the rest of the year, except for the Ryder Cup. As Masters champion, Mickelson qualified for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, Nov. 21-22, but it's a special event and chances are he might skip it and not play competitively again until the Bob Hope, Jan. 17-21, 2007.

Mickelson hasn't played a stroke-play event since the last week of August at the Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for 54th.

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Charlie Sifford, the first African American to play the PGA Tour and win an event, will receive the 2007 Old Tom Morris Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Assn. of America. The award honors achievement in a lifetime commitment to golf to mold the welfare of the game.

Sifford, 84, challenged and defeated the PGA of America's Caucasian-only clause in 1961. Sifford received an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews as a Doctor of Laws in June.

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The quote of the week is from Des Smyth of Ireland, an assistant to Europe's captain Ian Woosnam at the Ryder Cup, when asked what kind of drink he will have to celebrate after the matches: "Hopefully, champagne."

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Like uncle, like nephew? Raul Ballesteros, the 25-year-old nephew of Seve Ballesteros, is tied for second after two rounds of the first stage of qualifying for the European Tour at the Oxfordshire Golf Club.

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When the Skins Game is held in November, it will be the 21st year the event has been staged in the Palm Springs area -- and the third time in five years it has a new name. It's now the LG Skins Game, following Merrill Lynch and ConAgra as title sponsors since 2002.

LG Electronics has a three-year contract as title sponsor, but there is nothing to keep the event where it is for 2007. Fred Funk, Fred Couples, John Daly and Stephen Ames will play Nov. 25-26 at Trilogy Golf Club in La Quinta with $1 million at stake.

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Will Ferrell is helping tournament founder Craig Pollard play host to the 13th Cancer for College tournament, Sept. 22 at Temecula Creek Inn. The event provides funding for scholarships to current and former cancer patients. Details: www.cancerforcollege.org.

Pat Boone, Keith Erickson, Pam Teeguarden, Alan Thicke, Tom Kennedy, Don Murray and Mickey Jones are among the celebrities scheduled to play in the 11th Tri-County Teen Challenge tournament Sept. 25 at Spanish Hills Golf & Country Club in Camarillo. Details: (760) 632-7770.

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