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Golf Notes December 20

A campaign is under way to make Lee Elder U.S. captain for the 2002 Presidents Cup in South Africa.

Sharon Elder said she was sending a letter today to PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem outlining the reasons why her husband would be the appropriate choice to lead the American team at Fancourt Lakes.

Elder, known best as the first black to play in The Masters in 1975, broke another barrier a few years before that when Gary Player invited him to play a golf tournament in South Africa at a time when blacks and whites were banned from playing in the same competition.

Player is the likely choice to be the International team captain in 2002.

"Lee has been back to South Africa several times, he has a school named after him there and he's well-received,'' Mrs. Elder said from their home in south Florida. "Those are the reasons why we feel so strongly he would make a wonderful captain.''

Finchem and Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the tour, were on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.

Elder would certainly fit the profile of a Presidents Cup captain.

While the Ryder Cup has selected captains who are in the twilight of their careers and still in touch with current players, the Presidents Cup lately has gone for the ceremonial pick -- Arnold Palmer in 1996, Jack Nicklaus in '98, and Ken Venturi this year.

The Elders are asking a few key players to write letters on his behalf.

"I think it would carry some weight that I was the first black to play multiracial sports in South Africa,'' Elder told The Palm Beach Post last week.

Elder won four times on the PGA Tour and eight times on the Senior Tour, and also played on the winning Ryder Cup team in 1979.

To be named Presidents Cup captain "would just about outweigh it all,'' he said.

CHRISTMAS CHARITY

Fred Funk stopped by the TPC at Sawgrass for lunch a year ago in December when he noticed how many touring pros were home for the holidays. That's when he got the idea of pooling resources for a Christmas charity.

The result was the first annual Jingle Bells Charity Classic, played Monday on the Stadium Course, involving 14 players from the PGA and Senior Tour. Amateurs played with a different pro every six holes, and a hole-in-one on the island-green 17th was worth a Mercedes-Benz to everyone in the group.

No one won the car, but the event raised $130,000 for local charities.

"This was a good start,'' Funk said. "Hopefully, this thing will really take off.''

TRIVIA TIME

Who led the PGA Tour with most rounds in the 60s, most birdies, and the best performance on par 5s? (Answer below).

WEST COAST CHA-CHING

A new title sponsor isn't the only difference in next year's West Coast Swing bonus program.

The player who accumulates the most points based on top-eight finishes in the first nine tournaments will earn a $500,000 bonus -- up from $200,000 last year.

Second place will get $300,000, and third place $200,000.

The St. Paul, a property liability insurer, is sponsoring the program, which also pumps $300,000 into each tournament purse except for the Accenture Match Play Championship.

VOTAW & VALDERRAMA

Now that the World Golf Championship has left Spain for St. Louis, is that the end of tournament golf at Valderrama?

Maybe not.

LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw is intrigued by the idea of playing the Women's World Cup on the course that has become infamous for its cork trees in the fairway and its punishing, unpredictable 17th hole.

"I'd like to see our players have a crack at that,'' Votaw said, although he has not contacted course owner Jimmy Patino.

NOT AS CLOSE AS IT LOOKED

In one respect, Tiger Woods came within two holes of possibly winning the Grand Slam this year. He took a double bogey on No. 10 and a triple bogey on No. 12 in the first round of The Masters, shot 75 that day and wound up six shots behind Vijay Singh.

But after looking back at a year in which he won the U.S. Open, Open, andPGA Championship, Woods said it wasn't that simple.

The poor start on Thursday gave him an early starting time on Saturday, and Woods avoided nasty afternoon winds to shoot 68 in the third round and get back in contention.

"What if I would have played a little better and gone out in the wind, not really playing that great,'' he said. "Would I have played good? I don't know. I might have shot 75 that day because the wind was howling.''

ANOTHER CARROT

When she completed the LPGA's Grand Slam last year, Juli Inkster said her biggest goal was to make the Solheim Cup team. After that, she planned to trim her schedule.

But after Europe trounced the Americans in Scotland, the 40-year-old Inkster already is looking ahead to the Solheim Cup in Minnesota in 2002.

"We got fleeced so bad, I want to be there to get my revenge," Inkster said.

DIVOTS

One of the more innovative lines for 2001 should come in handy for the summer months -- a mosquito-proof shirt from Dockers Golf. The product was developed for French military troops in North Africa. ... John Daly led the PGA Tour in driving distance (301.4 yards) for the sixth consecutive year and ninth time in his 10-year career. ... When Bob May tied for 11th at Valderrama, he made enough money by one stroke to bump Steve Lowery out of the top 30 on the final money list and get an exemption to the 2001 U.S. Open.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Steve Flesch had 66 rounds in the 60s, made 493 birdies, and was 173 under on the par 5s.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Tiger Woods won more money this year ($9,188,321) than the total prize money the year he was born. Combined purses in 1975 were $7,895,450.

FINAL WORD

"I don't think you feel unbeatable. You just have to be unbeatable.'' - Jack Nicklaus, who paired with Tom Watson to win the Hyundai Team Matches. They have never lost as partners.

 

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