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Notah Begay resting back injury

Defending Greater Hartford Open champion Notah Begay III says that despite a back injury, he's looking forward to returning to the Cromwell course where his 25-foot putt on the final hole gave him his fourth career victory last year.

''I get a great feeling from the town, the tournament and the golf course,'' Begay said today. ''I think it's one of the venues I'm going to return to time and time again because every time I tee it up, I think I can win.''

The Canon Greater Hartford Open starts June 28.

Begay, speaking by phone from Albuquerque, N.M., has taken several weeks off from playing because of a lower back injury. Begay hurt his back during the off-season in December.

He first thought he would rest for six weeks, but decided to extend that when his back acted up in cold and damp weather, he said.

''I'm trying to win majors and win tournaments,'' Begay said. I can't do that unless I'm 100 percent.''

Begay has struggled on the PGA Tour this season after winning four tournaments the last two years, capped off by his GHO victory. His father, Notah Begay II, said the back problem flared up at the Masters, where Begay missed the cut by one shot.

Begay's one-stroke victory over Mark Calvecchia at last year's GHO followed a win at the St. Jude Classic, making him the first player to win consecutive tournaments since his former college teammate Tiger Woods won the final three events the year before.

Begay celebrated a victory Tuesday of another one of his Stanford teammates, Casey Martin, who won not on the golf course, but in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court ruled that Martin, who suffers from a circulatory disorder in his right leg, has the legal right to ride in a golf cart between shots at PGA tour events.

''I couldn't be happier for Casey,'' Begay said. ''He belongs on the PGA tour and I know he's going to go back out there and focus this last part of the year.''

Begay advised Martin to put the controversy behind him and focus on his golf game, he said. That's what Begay did after being arrested in January of 2000 for drunken driving, he said.

He missed five cuts in 10 tournaments before the back-to-back wins in Memphis, Tenn. and Cromwell.

''I know all of the distractions that can be associated with a high profile case ... and how much that can pull away from your game,'' Begay said.

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