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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 22, 2007|THOMAS BONK

1 Prize money on the PGA Tour was $80 million in 1997, Tiger Woods' first full year as a pro. This year, it's more than $266 million, and the reason for an increase of more than 230% isn't inflation, it's largely the impact Woods has had on the game.

So when some of his peers such as Rich Beem and Brad Faxon complained that Woods' new tournament in July, the AT&T National in the Washington area, would have less than a full field and thus mean fewer chances to earn money, their arguments fall flat.

Prize money is up over the last 10 years because TV ratings are up over the last 10 years and so are rights fees. And that's all because of Woods.

Besides, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill tournament has a limited field and so does Jack Nicklaus' Memorial tournament.

If it ever comes down to it, the PGA Tour needs Woods more than he needs the PGA Tour. He's the one driving the bus. Just ask the tournament directors, especially the ones where Woods doesn't play. Any player who doesn't make the limited field at D.C.: Play better.

2 The most marketable active athlete in the U.S.? It's Woods, according to a survey of sports business and media executives conducted by Sports Business Daily. Woods, who heads the field at the $8-million CA Championship that starts today at Doral, had 69.2% of the first-place votes, easily outdistancing Peyton Manning (18.5%) and LeBron James (4.6%).

Kobe Bryant, by the way, tied for 10th, behind No. 9 Maria Sharapova.

3 Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer and defending champion Juli Inkster are all at the LPGA's Safeway International beginning today, but Michelle Wie is missing.

And don't expect Wie to be ready to play in the Kraft Nabisco next week. Wie, 17, injured her right wrist last month when she fell while running. She began chipping and putting last week and is continuing her physical therapy, said Greg Nared, her agent. Wie tied for third last year at Mission Hills, one shot out of a playoff.

4 More Wie news: Her parents are buying a house in Palo Alto, near Stanford, where Wie will enroll in the fall.

5 Phil Mickelson took his family -- wife Amy, daughters Amanda and Sophia and son Evan -- with him to tournaments at Bay Hill last week and this week at Doral. Mickelson, who tied for 36th at Bay Hill, will fly home Sunday night and leave midweek for Augusta, where he will defend his Masters title beginning April 5.

It's more Masters these days, not less, which is why there will be a one-hour online bonus coverage of play-by-play for all four rounds. The program, Masters Extra, will be on masters.org before each day's cable and network broadcasts.

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--THOMAS BONK

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