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Golf Notes September 20

Despite failing to win a major championship this year, Hal Sutton still achieved the greatest personal victory of his career.

He beat Tiger Woods.

Sutton won the 1983 PGA Championship -- going toe-to-toe with Jack Nicklaus at Riviera -- but says nothing can top his one-stroke victory over Woods in The Players Championship in March.

"It ranks at the top of my list in personal achievements, especially in wake of what Tiger is doing,'' Sutton said Monday at a luncheon where The Players Championship announced $1.3 million for charity. "He started playing a year and a half ago at a level most people don't know anything about. And he's kept it going, as we all know.''

Sutton, fed up with white flags of surrender seemingly waved at Woods, said he would not be intimidated and then proved it with a near flawless final round for a one-stroke victory on the TPC at Sawgrass.

Woods made it interesting with an eagle on the par-5 16th, but he couldn't muster a birdie on the final two holes. That's the way Sutton envisioned it unfolding.

Hal Sutton in action. Allsport

"I told (my wife) Ashley the night before that I've got to get to 16 ahead by three. I had planned on him making eagle,'' Sutton said. "But I knew 17 and 18 ... we both had to play the same way. I felt I could beat him if we had to play the same way.''

Sutton's greatest accomplishment in golf was being on the winning Ryder Cup team at The Country Club a year ago this week. As for his only major?

"I was young and didn't know any better,'' said Sutton, the last man to win wire-to-wire in the PGA Championship. "At the time I did that, Jack wasn'tplaying at quite the same level Tiger is playing today.''


Despite winning the career Grand Slam and setting scoring records in each of the four majors, Tiger Woods always says his most impressive feat is getting into the Tour Championship in just seven tournaments in 1996.

Charles Howell knows what he means.

"I can appreciate that a whole lot because that's what I'm trying to do,'' the NCAA champion from Oklahoma State said.

Howell has earned $213,213, and will need about $190,000 more to get his full-exempt card for next year without going to qualifying school. He already has earned enough for conditional status, meaning he can take unlimited sponsors' exemptions the rest of the year.

That only makes Woods's feat that much more illustrious. He took only three exemptions, winning in his fifth start at Las Vegas and getting into the top 30 on the money list with another victory at Disney World.

"Incredible,'' Howell said. "I'd have to win, and hope a lot of people got hurt, to get into the Tour Championship.''


Titleist has a new three-piece ball that Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson have been testing, but they'll have to wait another month to put it in play because the U.S. Golf Association's conforming ball list is still at the printer.

That might not be a problem for ball companies next year.

The USGA is working on a plan to update its conforming list every month by posting approved balls on its Web site. Eventually, it can do away with the biannual publication.

"It's not quite ready, but it's going to happen,'' the USGA's Dick Rugge said.

That will give companies a lot more flexibility in their research and development. The deadline for the spring list is Dec. 31. Missing that even by a matter of days means companies would have to wait until October for their product to be available for play.

It could also reduce the size of the mammoth, twice-a-year booklet. Companies often submit dozens of balls so they don't have to wait six months should they decide to take a certain product to market.

With the Web site listing, they can submit only what they want to sell.

"We've got 1,500 balls on the fall list,'' Rugge said. "Most of those balls will never see the light of day. With a shorter lead time, that list will be pared down.''


Two tidbits from the 18-month negotiations between Nike and Tiger Woods that led to the five-year deal worth about $100 million.

The lead negotiator for Nike was Ian Todd, head of global marketing. Todd worked for IMG when Woods first signed with the swoosh in 1996 for $40 million. He remains close with Alistair Johnston, who's head of worldwide golf operations for IMG and supervises Woods's agent.

"It was a very interesting situation because he was sitting entirely on the other side of the fence,'' Johnston said. "During the course of negotiations, when tempers got frayed, our relationship kept things on track.''

Also, Golf World magazine first reported a year ago that a new deal for about $85 million to $90 million was being discussed. That indeed turned out to be the base amount -- even though Woods won four major championships during the negotiations.

The extra money comes from profit sharing and other revenue sources in the contract.

"We were not trying to capitalize on his ongoing performance,'' Johnston said. "Nike respected that in us and, I think, at the end of the day delivered a good agreement.''


The Kroger Senior Classic will leave The Golf Center at Kings Island, Ohio, in 2002, for the new TPC at River's Bend, an Arnold Palmer course that is supposed to open in May. ... Quite a week for IMG agent Mark Steinberg. He finalized the $100 million deal for Tiger Woods, then became a father for the first time.


Mark Calcavecchia has 15 second-place finishes since 1990, second only to Greg Norman (17).


"Probably the single most thing I admire about Tiger Woods is he can sign a $100 million deal today, and wake up tomorrow with the same desire to be the best in the world.'' -- Hal Sutton.



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