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TEEING OFF

This week in golf

Five things to keep an eye on this weekend on the pro golf scene:

July 05, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

1 -- It's a big week for Tiger Woods, playing his first tournament since he tied for second at the U.S. Open, hosting the AT&T National, the PGA Tour event at Congressional in Bethesda, Md., and also learning how to sleep again. Woods, whose wife Elin gave birth to daughter Sam Alexis 17 days ago, spent his first night away from home as a father and found his sleep already in disarray.

"I had to wake up basically every 45 minutes. It was, 'OK, no, go back to sleep. Oh, OK, it's been six minutes. Great.' So that's kind of how the whole night went."

As Woods the parent evolves, Woods the player/businessman moves on. The AT&T is his second sanctioned PGA Tour event, going along with his Target World Challenge, an unofficial money event, that's played in December.

The PGA Tour obviously believes that a strong working relationship with Woods is good business. He is the only PGA Tour pro with two sanctioned tournaments on the schedule, with charity money from each going to his own interests, in this case the Tiger Woods Foundation. Woods is an adept fund-raiser -- his Learning Center in Anaheim cost $25 million -- and site checks are underway for a second learning center that's in the works for Washington D.C.

As for the AT&T National, crowds of 35,000 a day are expected and the local economic impact from the tournament is pegged at $100 million. More than 600 media credentials have been issued, a number that does not include those from the Golf Channel or CBS-TV.

2 -- Au revoir, Jean. Proving once again that you can't turn back the clock, there will be no repeat of the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, at least not for Jean Van de Velde, one of the primary figures there seven years ago. Van de Velde, who famously blew a three-shot lead with one hole left and stood ankle-deep in a creek at one point, withdrew from qualifying this week because of illness.

By the way, prize money for the Open is up about $400,000 to about $8.4 million.

3 -- Assuming everyone enjoys a good controversy, there's a brand new one to report, involving a confrontation between the European Tour and the Asian Tour.

This little disagreement burst into the open when the European Tour and the Korea PGA signed up Ballantine's whiskey as the title sponsor in the Ballantine's Championship that's going to debut next March in South Korea.

It's the first European Tour event to be held in Korea, and if the Asian Tour had its way, it would also be the last.

In a strongly worded statement by executive chairman Kyi Hla Han, the Asian Tour blasted the new event, saying the European Tour intended to "colonize Asia." The statement also mentions the European Tour's "blatant disregard" of the Asian Tour and calls the move an "invasive action" that has left the Asian Tour "totally aghast."

Last month, the European Tour announced an event in New Delhi in 2008 and didn't involve the Asian Tour in the planning in that one, either.

Meanwhile, the European Tour isn't feeling so warm and fuzzy about the PGA Tour, involving the World Golf Championship events that are typically played in only one part of the world -- the U.S.

4 -- Then there is the story of 15-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan, who is in his first year at Tokyo's Suginami Gakuin High. He became the youngest player to win a Japan pro tour event -- the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup -- and is entered at the Callaway Junior World, July 17-20, at Torrey Pines South.

Ishikawa is nicknamed the "Shy Prince" for his unassuming style. He is playing in the Japan Amateur Championship this week.

5 -- The golf equipment and apparel industry is a nearly $3-billion business worldwide, so good news travels fast. They are probably still celebrating at Cleveland Golf, TaylorMade-adidas, Titleist and Nike Golf, who were all weekend winners.

Roland Thatcher, a Cleveland Golf staff pro, won the Nationwide Tour event; U.S. Open winner Cristie Kerr played a Titleist ProV1 ball and Buick Open champ Brian Bateman, who is also a TaylorMade-adidas staff pro, used a Titleist ProV1x; Shingo Katayama won the Japan Golf Tour Championship with a Nike SasQuatch Sumo driver; and TaylorMade-adidas staff pros Graeme Storm and Lonnie Nielsen won on the European Tour and the Champions Tour.

*

STAT OF THE WEEK

* Of the 26 tournaments played so far on the PGA Tour in 2007, the defending champion successfully defended his title only twice -- the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines and the CA Championship at Doral -- both of them won by Tiger Woods. Six defending champions have missed cuts: Chad Campbell at the Bob Hope, J.B. Holmes at Phoenix, Rod Pampling at Bay Hill, Jim Furyk at the Wachovia, Stephen Ames at the Players and Jeff Maggert at Memphis.

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