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Golf Today 19th January
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Golf Notes January 19

Now is the time to start paying attention to the Official World Golf Ranking, even if fans -- or players, for that matter -- aren't totally clear how they work.

Only four weeks remain before the cutoff for the top 64 in the ranking to qualify for the $5 million Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship. Seven weeks are left for players not otherwise eligible to get into top 50 and make it to The Masters.

Paul Azinger, one of the most outspoken critics of the ranking, took the biggest leap last week. By winning the Sony Open, Azinger shot up from No. 71 to No. 43. That all but assures a spot in the Match Play Championship, and puts him in good position to return to Augusta.

Mark Calcavecchia, who needs a strong West Coast performance to avoid missing The Masters for the first time since 1986, is in jeopardy of being shut out of Match Play, too. Calcavecchia, who was ranked No. 22 at Match Play a year ago, dropped five spots this week to No. 63.

One reason Azinger doesn't like the ranking is because he doesn't know when he's gaining or losing ground. After the second round of his wire-to-wire victory in Honolulu, he said he wouldn't be surprised if he won the tournament and dropped eight spots.

"We always had a standard," he said. "It was always very black and white as to what we needed to do to qualify for The Masters and the World Series of Golf. We always knew what we were choking for out here. And it's not like that anymore."

MASTERS FIELD: The field for the 2000 Masters will be the largest in 34 years and include more international players than ever before.

Augusta National officially released its invitation list today, and it contained no surprises. Thanks to the addition of two new standards -- top 50 in the World Ranking and top 40 from the 1999 PGA Tour money list -- the field pretty much set by the end of last year. Augusta officials can still invite international players at their discretion.

The list of 99 players -- only 92 are expected to compete -- includes a Masters-record 34 international players, topping the 29 foreign players the past two years. Fourteen players will be making their Masters debut, but only five are PGA Tour regulars.

The field is the largest since 103 were invited in 1966.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Jim McKay of ABC Sports, who has won 13 Emmy Awards and has covered more than 100 major championships, has been honored with the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism.

The PGA award honors media for steadfast promotion of golf throughout a career. McKay, 78, will received the award April 5 in Augusta, Ga., during the Golf Writers Association of America annual dinner.

"I enjoyed the personalities in golf from Byron Nelson to today's stars," McKay said. "I believe you find people at their best on a golf course."

PAYNE TRIBUTE: The Monterey Peninsula Foundation, which runs the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, will rename its youth clinic after Payne Stewart and plans to offer a scholarship in Stewart's name through its AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association.

Stewart would have been defending champion at Pebble Beach twice this year -- for the AT&T the first week of February and the U.S. Open in June.

Along with the youth clinic and scholarship, the tournament will provide Stewart tartan ribbons and bag tags for players.

BY GEORGE: The British Open will return to Royal St. George in 2003, 10 years after Greg Norman closed with a 64 in the wind for a two-stroke victory over Nick Faldo.

It will be the 13th time the course on the southeast coast of England has been host of the world's oldest championship. Royal St. George first had an Open in 1894, but went 32 years without one until 1981.

Several new tees have been added, and the 14th hole has been redesigned.

ENCORE: Jean Van de Velde returned to the 18th hole at Carnoustie, the scene of his debacle that cost him the British Open. He didn't hit driver off the tee. He didn't hit 2-iron into the grandstand. He didn't even hit a wedge to Barry Burn.

In a commercial for Never Compromise, Van de Velde played the 18th hole using only one of its putters.

"I hit my tee shot further than with my driver because there was frost all over the course and the ball wouldn't stop rolling," he said. "It was a great experience, but it was very cold. I didn't take off my shoes and socks this time."

No score was available. No claret jug was waiting for him, either.

DIVOTS: The Senior Skins next weekend is changing its format. It will be played on one day, with 12 holes televised Saturday, Jan. 29 and the final six Sunday, Jan. 30. ...Shell's Wonderful World of Golf is going to the Sooner State. Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson will play at Gaillardia Golf & Country Club in Oklahoma City on Sept. 12. ... Sergio Garcia has committed to play Pebble Beach next month. ... State Farm Insurance, a title sponsor on the LPGA Tour since 1992, has picked up sponsorship of the 10-tournament TV series on ESPN that offers a $250,000 bonus pool. The player with the most points in those 10 tournaments -- triple points in the State Farm Rail -- will get $100,000. ...Tiger Woods's playoff victory over Ernie Els in the Mercedes Championship drew a 3.5 rating, a record for golf programming on ESPN. It was 43 percent higher than a year ago, when David Duval won by nine strokes. ... Grace Park has joined Golf Digest as a playing editor. ... IMG has both Ryder Cup captains in its stable now that Sam Torrance has signed on with the agency.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The last player to make the Bob Hope Classic his first PGA Tour victory was Donnie Hammond in 1986.

FINAL WORD: "If it's difficult to tell the difference between people inside the ropes and people outside the ropes, then there may be a problem." - LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw after players voted against a dress code.


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