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Strange season brewing on PGA Tour

Four multiple winners. Five playoffs. A lefty — but not Lefty — in a green jacket.

Sixteen weeks into the season, this is shaping up to be a strange year on the PGA Tour.

Davis Love III won the MCI Heritage Classic last weekend to join Tiger Woods and Mike Weir as three-time winners this season. That sent researcher Dave Lancer thumbing through 53 years of PGA Tour history before he found so many players winning so much, so early.

The last time it happened was in 1950, when Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret and Jack Burke Jr. each had three victories in the first 15 weeks of the season.

How rare are so many three-time winners? Go back to 1992 before there was a trio of them for an entire season — Love, Seattle native Fred Couples and John Cook, who won his third event at the Las Vegas Invitational in October.

Love won three times in four starts in 1992 (everything but the Masters) and is on a similar roll now. He has won three times in eight tournaments, and could have made it four victories had he not stumbled down the stretch in the Honda Classic.

Still, he is atop the PGA Tour money list for the first time in 11 years.

Weir also has won three times in eight starts, capped off by his playoff victory in the Masters. The Canadian won a total of three times in his previous five years on Tour.

Woods, the world's No. 1 player, remains the most impressive. He has won three times in six tournaments, and his worst finish was a tie for 15th in the Masters.

Don't forget about Ernie Els, who won the first two tournaments of the year in Hawaii — the first time that has happened since 1989 — and could have won in Hilton Head Island, S.C., except for a sloppy finish. He was 4-over par on the last three holes, missing the playoff by three shots.

Els is playing the Houston Open this week. Should he win, it would mark the first time since 1982 that the PGA Tour had at least four players with three victories apiece.

A year ago, 15 players won the first 16 tournaments, and the running joke was that the winners-only Mercedes Championships would have so many players they would have to go to a two-tee start.

Kapalua could have the smallest field on the PGA Tour next year.

"We're excited about the champions we have. We're just going to need a few more," said Gary Planos, Kapalua's vice president of operations.

Planos sends a gift and a note of congratulations each time someone qualifies for the Mercedes by winning a Tour event.

He isn't making many trips to the post office these days.

Meanwhile, the five playoffs at this stage in the season are the most since 1992, and none of these overtimes could be classified as routine.

The only sudden-death playoff that required merely one hole was won by a bogey — Weir at Augusta National.

Two days before the Masters, Phil Mickelson was asked who would be the next left-hander to win a major.

"I can't tell if you're being facetious or if you want me to really answer that," Lefty said, feeling as though he were being kicked around before the tournament started. "I'm going to leave that one unanswered."

The answer came that Sunday: Weir.

Mickelson, with 21 career victories, remains the best southpaw in golf. And he remains the best player to have never won a major, now 0 for 39 as a professional.

 

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