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This week on tour

Teeing Off

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

March 15, 2007|THOMAS BONK

1 Karrie Webb defends her Kraft Nabisco major championship in two weeks, and she says winning majors is a lot tougher than it used to be.

Webb played 13 majors and won six of them from 1999 to 2002, then didn't win her seventh until last year at Mission Hills, where she eagled the 18th hole, coming from seven shots down and eventually beating Lorena Ochoa in a playoff.

"In the short period of time that I won six of my seven majors, I think it appeared like it wasn't all that difficult. But winning tournaments in general has gotten tougher on tour just because the standard of golf continues to increase every year. And obviously that is emphasized in the majors."

Webb, 32, will find Mission Hills more than 100 yards longer, about 6,700 yards, and higher rough than usual, according to tournament director Terry Wilcox.

2 This must mean Mark O'Meara has no chance this week at Valencia Country Club: Every winner of the AT&T Champions Classic since 1996 has had a three-letter first name.

The list includes Gil Morgan in 1996, '97 and 2004; Joe Inman in 1998, '99 and 2000; Jim Colbert in 2001; Tom Kite in 2002 and 2006; Tom Purtzer in 2003 and Des Smyth in 2005.

3 The PGA Tour stop this week at Bay Hill has been called a lot of things since it started in 1966, but this is the first time it's using Arnold Palmer's name -- although Palmer has been the host since 1979.

A historical rundown of the tournament's names: Florida Citrus Open Invitational, Bay Hill Citrus Classic, Bay Hill Classic, Hertz Bay Hill Classic, Nestle Invitational, Bay Hill Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational.

4 So where have all the long hitters gone? Maybe they're just getting warmed up, but there are only nine PGA Tour players averaging more than 300 yards in driving distance, compared to 23 at the same time a year ago.

Bubba Watson (320.9 last year, 315.8 this year) leads again.

Tiger Woods isn't on the list, even though he's averaging 317.3 yards. That's because he has played only four rounds, which isn't enough to qualify.

5 It's Ernie Els' third anniversary this week -- the last time he missed a cut in a PGA Tour event was in 2004 at Bay Hill. His streak of consecutive cuts is 44, the longest on the tour, but not even close to Woods' record of 142.



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