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Golf Notes March 19

Ernie Els wanted to be in fighting shape when he arrived at the Bay Hill Invitational for his first stroke-play tournament of the year with Tiger Woods.

The Big Easy might have gone a little too far. He has a sore right wrist from working out with a punching bag at his home in London.

"You're going to laugh now," Els said Tuesday. "I was thinking of taking out some frustration on the punching bag, but I'm not a pro. I kind of twisted my wrist a little bit."

Els hit some balls Monday evening, received treatment on his wrist Tuesday morning and said he should be fine by the time he tees off Thursday afternoon.

What frustration could he have felt?

Els has won four times worldwide and was runner-up in his other two 72-hole events. He is leading the money list in Europe and is third on the PGA Tour money list.

"Just a method of speech," Els said. "It's another way of having a little bit of workout and having some fun. I'll probably strap my wrists next time."

No truth to the rumor that a picture of Woods is on the punching bag.

ALREADY AT 50: Arnold Palmer was ready to stop playing on the PGA Tour until he learned this would be his 50th consecutive season competing in at least one tour event.

He's playing his Bay Hill Invitational this week, but the King is already at 50.

The PGA Tour media guide lists Palmer with playing only one tournament in 1953, which was believed to be the U.S. Open.

In fact, that was the Carling Open, in which Palmer made the cut. He played in four PGA Tour events the following year, and has played in at least one every year since then.

McCORMACK AWARD: In what is becoming a Bay Hill tradition, Tiger Woods was presented the Mark H. McCormack Award on Tuesday for being No. 1 in the world ranking for the most weeks last year - all 52 of them.

In fact, Woods is No. 1 for the 187th consecutive week.

It was the fifth straight year Woods has won the award, but this one came on a somber note. McCormack, the founder and chairman of IMG, has been in a coma for nine weeks.

"It's sad that Mark is not here to be with us for this, because he always gives me a hard time," Woods said. "I hope he's able to pull out of it and get a full recovery somehow."

MYSTERY SPONSOR: When a title sponsor could not be found for the event at Hilton Head Island, residents of the South Carolina town agreed to a hospitality tax that would raise $1.8 million and help the tournament cover the costs.

That's no longer the case.

The Heritage Classic Foundation last week signed a four-year sponsorship deal worth $22 million. The town council was to meet Tuesday to rescind the hospitality tax, which was to take effect April 1.

The only mystery now is the sponsor.

Speculation is centered on MCI, the title sponsor for 14 years before WorldCom took over. WorldCom was dropped last year, two days before it filed for bankruptcy.

Tournament director Steve Wilmot said the new sponsor is in no hurry to reveal itself, and the announcement might not come until April 14, the week of the tournament.

MASTERS UPDATE: The Players Championships is shaping up to be two tournaments in one for a couple of players on the bubble for getting into the Masters.

Starting this year, the Masters tweaked its qualifications by moving back its deadline until after The Players Championship for getting into the top 50 in the world ranking. Also, the Masters will take the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list after The Players, an increase from the top three.

With two weeks to go, who's on the bubble?

Chad Campbell is No. 9 on the money list and will have to play well to make his first trip to Augusta National. Jay Haas is No. 55 in the world ranking and No. 12 on the money list in what could be his last trip to the Masters.

Also needing two good weeks on the money list are Tim Herron (No. 12) and Frank Lickliter (No. 18), who won in Tucson last month.

Seven other PGA Tour winners since the last Masters currently are not eligible - Chris Smith (Buick Classic), Spike McRoy (B.C. Open), J.P. Hayes (John Deere), Gene Sauers (Air Canada), Dan Forsman (Pennsylvania), Bob Burns (Disney) and Luke Donald (Southern Farm Bureau).

TRAVELING IN STYLE: They come from different demographic backgrounds, but Davis Love III and John Daly are in the same neighborhood on the PGA Tour.

Both are living in motor homes while traveling the tour.

"It's been great," said Love, who plans to take his motor home to 15 tournaments. "I haven't been this excited about traveling on tour in a long time, because I have my stuff with me all the time, and it makes it a lot of fun."

Daly, who has never been fond of flying, is the veteran of motor homes. He and Love were in the parking area during the Honda Classic.

"He was trying to tell me how to fix my generator, and he was wrong. Keep him away from the tools and we're OK," Love said with a laugh. "He's been a great neighbor. Everybody says, 'Well, he must be fun to be around.' He's quiet ... which I've been shocked to see, which is good. He's enjoying himself."

DIVOTS: Tiger Woods has added a Humvee to his collection of cars. ... CNBC will take over weekend coverage of the Bay Hill Invitational if NBC News pre-empts sporting events. ... The LPGA Tour will offer exemptions to the top five players on the Futures Tour money list, an increase from three spots. ... David Duval has reported no symptoms from vertigo since he left Doral, and plans to play in the Bay Hill Invitational.

STAT OF THE WEEK: There have been no first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year through 11 events. The eight players have combined for 101 victories and 15 majors.

FINAL WORD: "I'm not knocking Phil Mickelson by any means, but Phil hasn't won. And the difference between winning a major and winning a regular tournament is night and day." - Jack Nicklaus.

 

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