Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic
Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic
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Nice weather a nice change

Players have already noticed a dramatic change from past years at this week's Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic -- nice weather.

Last year, unseasonably chilly temperatures and soggy conditions forced officials to enact the lift, clean and place rule for the first two rounds. In 1997, most of the tournament was played through rain that ranged from drizzle to torrential downpour.

"I remember being here once when it was snowing," defending champion Trevor Dodds said Monday.

So far this week, players have been treated to sunny skies and temperatures approaching the 80s.

The balmy conditions are expected to stay the same throughout the weekend and that means tougher scoring on the 7,062-yard layout at Forest Oaks Country Club.

"The golf course is in immaculate shape but it's more difficult than before in some aspects," said Dodds. "You have to watch what you do off the tee because the rough is awfully punishing."

"The greens are firm, the fairways are rolling and the rough is plenty high," said former British Open champion Tom Lehman. "If you shoot a low score, you've shot a heck of a round. Usually, when conditions get firm, scores go up."

Tiger Woods, David Duval, Fred Couples and Charlotte native Davis Love III are among the big names skipping the tournament which falls just two weeks after The Masters. Only eight of the Tour's top 25 money winners are entered but that doesn't bother those who are here, including Jeff Maggert, the Tour's third-leading money winner so far in 1999.

"Just because Tiger Woods and David Duval aren't here, there's the perception that's a negative for the event. It's not a negative," said Maggert. "The people in Greensboro love to come out here. They have great fans and great crowds."

Dodds defeated Scott Verplank on the first playoff hole last year, marking the second straight time and sixth time in 11 years in which the tournament needed extra holes to determine the champion.

Dodds did not win again in 1998 and has struggled this season, missing six cuts in 11 starts. In his last three tournaments, he's finished tied for 36th at the BellSouth Classic, missed the cut at the Masters and tied for 70th at last week's MCI Classic.

Despite the poor results, Dodds says he's starting to improve his play.

"It's been an up-and-down year, no question, but my game is on the way back,'' said Dodds, who returned to the PGA Tour last year after a bout with testicular cancer. "Sometimes, when you take some steps back, you can feel when it's getting better. I've played some decent rounds and some poor rounds but I feel OK."

Dodds said coming back to the site of his lone Tour victory could help him shed his slump.

"I've got some of the same feelings I had last year,'' Dodds said. "It feels like coming home again.''