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Franco looking for third straight Compaq title

Tiger Woods will not be teeing off when the USPGA tour moves on to English Turn Golf and Country Club this week for Thursday morning's opening round of the 63-year-old Compaq Classic of New Orleans.

Nor will Vijay Singh, who with earnings of  $2,121,595 is second only to Woods on the list of leading US PGA money earners this year.

Woods' winnings so far in 2001 total $3,263,857.

But that's it.

All the rest of the best will be there, including the world's No  2 and 3 hot shots, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els as well as most of this year's biggest money earners on the lucrative premier American circuit.

Among them will be Joe Durant, who has surged out of obscurity to win two tournaments, claim second place in another and bank more than $2m in just four months, Davis Love III, Mark Calcavecchia, Brad Faxon, Hal Sutton, Canadian Mike Weir, Steve Striker and Scot Hoch, the latest US tour regular to join the 2001 millionaire's club.

Hoch, 45, eased into the club which now numbers 15 when he captured the $630,000 top prize with his 16-under par 272 victory in last week's Greater Greensboro Classic.

It was the tour veteran's first title in 97 events since he won at Milwaukee in September, 1997.

The Compaq Classic, first played in 1938 as the Greater New Orleans Open when it was won in 285 strokes by a man called Harry Cooper, has had many distinguished winners down the years, among them greats of their era like Jimmy Demeret, Byron Nelson, Jack Niclaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson.

But the man who has won it most recently, picking up back-to-back wins in 1999 and 2000, is Paraguayan Carlos Franco, known as much for his five o'clock shadow as he is for his golfing skill.

The course and Franco's game obviously go well together and he'll quite likely be up with the leaders again this week, even if he doesn't quite make it three in a row - which, of course would be a record.

Byron Nelson picked up back-to-back wins in the 1940s, Bo Wininger did it in the '60s, and Tom Watson in the '80s, but nobody has ever won it three times, let alone three times in a row.

Franco, looking for third straight win at the Compaq Classic. Allsport.

And talking of records, the course record of 62 is currently owned by Dennis Paulson, who is lying 24th on the 2001 USPGA money list and is a dark horse to win here.

The tournament record of 262 was set in 1988 by Chip Beck who is in the field, but hasn't really shown the kind of form in recent years to constitute a threat.

Other 1990 winners playing this week are the inform Faxon, who won it by three shots from Bill Glasson in 1997, Scott McCarron, another of the 2001 form players who beat Watson by five shots in 1996, and the 1995 winner Love, who with a total of $16,402,361 lies second only to Woods in career earnings on the US tour.

Woods in his short time as a professional, has won $23,767,307 while the next biggest lifetime earners, Mickelson and Nick Price, have won $15,326,617 and $13,617,395 respectively.

That means, of course, that all of these men must also be in the running for $720,000 first prize in New Orleans this year.

But then so too could a host of other exciting recent leader board regulars, some of them established stars like David Duval and Hal Sutton, others relative newcomers like Mike Weir, Chris DiMarco and Jerry Kelly.


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