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Golf Today 8th March
Golf Notes March 8
Time to let the cart issue drop ?
Nicklaus to be awarded Distinguished Service Award
Another cart case ruled in favour of USGA
European Open prize fund increased

Golf Notes March 8

If David Duval was still trying to decide whether to travel halfway around the world to the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship next January in Melbourne, he got an earful of reasons why not to go -- from none other than Greg Norman, Australia's most popular player.

Standing at the door of the interview room at Doral last week as Norman ticked off a list of reasons why he wasn't going, Duval could barely contain a smile.

Some Norman excerpts:

    • Length of the trip, about 25 hours from the East Coast of the U.S. "I have done it enough for 20-odd years. I know what it takes out of you," he said. "To get all the way down there and get knocked out in the first round is another thing."

    • The tournament starts on Wednesday, and the majority of the 64-man field has never seen Metropolitan Golf Club. Players will need even more time to get familiar with the course, which means leaving about three days after Christmas.

    "That's a big ask," Norman said.

    • Heat. It can be 124 degrees Down Under in January, and most players will be coming from cool or no more than moderate climates.

"I'm just laying the cards on the table to let these guys know exactly what they're getting into," Norman said.

Norman has other reasons. He always goes to Australia for a few weeks before Christmas, and returns in mid-January for two tournaments.

"I don't think I'm going to be a yo-yo across the Pacific," he said.

He won't be alone. Nick Price said he will not give up his family time for a trip to Australia, while Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie have hinted they will not go.

Duval said a few weeks ago he might consider it if he won a PGA Tour event, which would enable him to play the Mercedes Championships in Maui on the way home, but was leaning strongly against Australia -- especially when he got done listening to Norman.

"They'll still get a good field," Norman said. "They've got enough money down there."

SHOWING THE MONEY

Before the World Golf Championships and their $5 million purses came along, The Players Championship traditionally offered the richest prize in golf.

That will be the case again this year.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said today the purse will increase to $6 million, with $1,080,000 going to the winner.

Finchem was hesitant to announce the $1 million increase, saying he feared the focus would be more on money than the elements that make Players a marquee event -- the strongest and deepest field in golf on a quality course.

But defending champion David Duval didn't mind sharing his feelings.

"Wooooo!" he said with a laugh.

MONTY'S STREAK

While the Match Play Championship may have been a shot in the arm for Darren Clarke's career, that one tournament might have killed one of the greatest feats in European golf -- Colin Montgomerie's record run of money titles.

The victory in the World Golf Championship event was worth $1 million -- or about half of what Montgomerie made in 21 European Tour events last year when he smashed the single-season record with just over $2 million.

Montgomerie won five times last year. Because the European Tour has nothing close to a $5 million purse, he may have to win more than he won last year just to keep pace with Clarke. Or, he could just win one of the two WGC events remaining.

The Scotsman remains undaunted.

"My calculator says it's only March 1," he said.

TOP BRASS

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem earned enough money to be ranked third on the tour's money list in 1998.

Golf Digest gleaned the most recent tax returns by golf's top organizations for a report on executive compensation. Its findings? Finchem made $2.1 million in 1998, which would have trailed David Duval and Vijay Singh and finished just ahead of Jim Furyk.

Second on the list in the magazine report was Jim Awtrey, the CEO of the PGA of America, with compensation of $841,905.

The PGA of America posted 1998 revenue of $223.2 million, which includes $138.6 million from the sale of the PGA merchandise shows.

IRISH EYES ON LPGA

The LPGA Tour no longer has Dinah Shore in a tournament name, but it now gets Kathy Ireland.

Ireland, a former supermodel and a regular in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and Greens.com are joining the City of Hope Cancer Center as co-sponsors of the LPGA event in Myrtle Beach.

The new tournament name will be the Kathy Ireland-Greens.com LPGA Classic, held June 1-4 at Wachesaw East Golf Club in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

HARD AT THE BOTTOM

To eliminate confusion, the PGA Tour has returned this year to a "Hard 125," meaning only the top 125 on the money list will retain full-exempt status.

Of course, those on the bubble come October won't have to worry about international players ranked ahead of them. The tour has created a separate list earnings by non-members.

For example, if Jarmo Sandelin finishes second at The Players Championship, his $540,000 would not apply to the regular money list. At the end of the year, if non-members have won enough to make the top 125, they can also get their cards for 2001.

DIVOTS

The PGA Tour said today that no new members gained election to the World Golf Hall of Fame in recent balloting. To gain admission, a candidate must be chosen on 75 percent of the ballots. Greg Norman came closest at 70.1 percent. ... Paul Lawrie's new caddie lasted one week. He will be using a fourth looper in three tournaments at The Players Championship -- Colin Byrne, no relation to Paddy Byrne, whom he fired on the spot before the second round of Match Play. ... Has John Daly joined the fitness ranks? No, but he has dropped about 20 pounds over the past month by trying to eliminate sweets and fried foods. Daly without chocolate? "Well, I'm eating the same stuff, just not as much," he confessed. "I'm just doing this real slow." ... Greg Norman's redesign of the Great White Course at Doral is now open for play -- at $250 per round.

LOOKING AHEAD

If Karrie Webb keeps winning, she would break Nancy Lopez's five-tournament winning streak at the Chick-Fil-A Charity Challenge -- hosted by Nancy Lopez.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Nine weeks into the PGA Tour season, Ted Tryba has not taken a week off.

FINAL WORD

"We played together for two days, so there wasn't much to talk about." - Karrie Webb, asked why she and Annika Sorenstam didn't talk to each other during a one-hole playoff in Hawaii.

 

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