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Golf Notes August 30th

When PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem introduced The First Tee program in 1997 as a way to make golf more affordable and accessible to kids, he set a goal of 100 courses and training centers under development by the end of 2000.

They made it -- and then some.

Joe Louis Barrow, executive director of The First Tee, said 129 facilities are at least under contract, with 35 already open and 16 others expected to open by the end of the year.

Barrow said officials estimate about 25,000 kids have been introduced to golf this year through The First Tee program. And while public and private sectors have made it happen, some credit goes to Tiger Woods.

"I think the fact that cities are more readily wanting to donate golf facilities just recognizes some of the impact that he has had,'' Barrow said. "Golf is a game for all, and it should be played by all.''

Every First Tee chapter will gather at World Golf Village in November for the third annual meeting. Among the topics will be how to develop more programs west of the Mississippi and how golf can remain affordable when First Tee kids graduate.


Now, it all makes sense to Tiger Woods.

A couple of weeks ago, while refuting another false rumor that he was engaged, Woods said he remembered as a kid seeing tabloid photos of the late Princess Diana and other celebrities, usually on a yacht or some other resort setting.

"I never realized until later that those people were on vacation when the pictures were taken," Woods said, shaking his head.

Lack of privacy is something Woods will deal with the rest of his life, along with rumors. At one point early in "Tigermania,'' the tabloids had him dating LPGA player Kelli Kuehne, model Tyra Banks, and Sarah Ferguson -- all at the same time.

"It's just unfortunate that people don't ever come to the source,'' Woods said. "They just make it up as they go and hope it turns out right. If not, there's no retraction, and we have to deal with the consequences.''


Cristie Kerr and Kelli Kuehne, rivals and friends since junior golf, are locked in a battle for the final spot on the U.S. Solheim Cup team.

By finishing third last week in the Oldsmobile Classic, Kerr moved into the 10th spot by less than a point ahead of Kuehne. Neither has played in a Solheim Cup.

Kerr never has won on the LPGA Tour. Kuehne has one victory, has challenged in a U.S. Women's Open, and has a strong match-play record with back-to-back U.S. Amateur titles.


With more European Tour players coming to America, officials are expected to meet this week to discuss whether Europe should alter its qualification process for the Ryder Cup team.

Colin Montgomerie favors six qualifiers and six captain's picks for Europe. Darren Clarke thinks three wildcard selections is more appropriate, while Lee Westwood suggested four picks. One of the more interesting proposals came from Thomas Bjorn -- six players from the European money list, and the next six available from the Official World Golf Ranking.

"I think you should be rewarded for supporting the European Tour, but I still feel that the Ryder Cup is Europe vs. America, rather than the European Tour vs. the PGA Tour. If Jesper (Parnevik) and Sergio (Garcia) play over here, that doesn't make them any less European than anybody else.''

Europeans can start earning points -- determined by earnings -- starting next week in Switzerland.


Tiger Woods keeps setting a new standard in the Official World Golf Ranking, this week up to 29.42. That could be a record that never gets broken --even by Woods.

Starting next year, the World Ranking will go through significant changes that will make it harder to attain such a high average.

As it is now, points that a player earns from how he finishes in a tournament count for one year, then count half for the next year. Next September, players will lose one-eighth the value of their points every 13 weeks over a two-year period.

Tony Greer of IMG, who administers the rankings, already keeps two lists of both systems. Tour officials thought about publishing both lists to make the transition easier, but Greer talked them out of it.

"That would be too confusing,'' he said.

An understatement.


One reason the LPGA Tour is leaving the Desert Inn as site of its season-ending Tour Championship is because the golf course on the Las Vegas strip is closing, and several employees are leaving for other jobs.

But the Desert Inn remains on the PGA Tour's schedule as one of three courses used for the Las Vegas Invitational in October. Tour officials are keeping an eye on the situation.

"I don't know what the future holds,'' commissioner Tim Finchem said. "But I think we'll be fine this year. We don't anticipate any problems.''


Tiger Woods may be the undisputed king of the career money list on the PGA Tour, but he's still No. 2 behind Greg Norman in official money around the world. Then again, Norman turned professional the year after Woods was born. ... Lee Westwood has decided not to play for England in the Dunhill Cup matches in October. The only question is what took so long -- Westwood has never been a big fan of St. Andrews, and finished 64th in the British Open this year at the Old Course. ... The GTE Byron Nelson Classic raised a record $6.063 million for charity. Proceeds go to the Salesmanship Club Youth and Family Centers in Dallas. ... Woods used a new set of Titleist irons last week because the grooves on his old clubs were wearing out.


Fred Couples, Scott Hoch, Greg Norman, Mark O'Meara, and Hal Sutton are the only players still in the top 50 who were also in the top 50 when the World Ranking made its debut in 1986.


"When you only take 61 shots, it doesn't take too much out of you.'' -- Karrie Webb, when told she looked rested after her LPGA record-tying 61 in the Oldsmobile Classic.

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