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Golf: Tiger catching detrimental for Tour players

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Ernie Els is not alone. Vijay Singh is just as culpable. So is Retief Goosen. They are all guilty of violating golf's most basic mantra.

Instead of playing to beat the golf course, they're playing to beat Tiger Woods.

So is everyone on the PGA Tour.

"I think that's the biggest problem on the tour at the moment -- the players -- especially the guys that consider themselves close to his level," Els said last week. "It happened to me again this year at the Masters."

Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, was trying to catch Woods on the final day at Augusta National when he made a foolish mistake at the par-5 13th. Els drove his ball into the trees and azalea bushes on the left and, instead of punching his ball back into the fairway, tried to play a shot through a small opening.

Els ended up putting two balls in Rae's Creek and made triple-bogey 8. At the time, he was trailing Woods by three shots. Els finished six back.

Singh, trailing by four with four holes to play, did something similar at No. 15, hitting two balls in the water after laying up on the par-5 hole and making 9.

Those actions prompted Jack Nicklaus to say PGA Tour players would have more success against Woods if they stopped worrying what the world's No. 1 player was doing and started playing the golf course.

"I played a shot I shouldn't have played and played myself out of the tournament," Els said. "I think Jack is right. And I think that guys get kind of sucked into his game plan. And I'm sure [Woods] doesn't play myself or [Phil] Mickelson or the [other] players. I think he goes out there and he plays the golf course and plays to the best of his ability.

"And I think that's why there is such a big gap. I think guys have found themselves playing to his level, or not to his level, but trying to compete against him instead of against themselves or the golf course."

Trivia question

Three players with the letter 'z' in their last name have defeated Greg Norman in a playoff to win a major championship. Who are they? Answer at end.

Monty's home fans

Scotland's Colin Montgomerie does not seem to have a lot of supporters in the United States, but he gained a few in Europe after playing with a bad back and losing to Woods in a playoff at the Deutsch Bank-SAP Open in Germany last week.

Despite his ailing back, Montgomerie came right back four days later and shot a first-round 64 in the Volvo PGA Championship.

"I got a lot of support, which was nice, on the range," Montgomerie said. "Everyone comes up and says, well done, because we all know that, as a European player, it would have been good if I had won on Monday. It would be good for the Tour.

"As it was, it was a good effort against someone who, we all feel, is by far the best player that's playing the game right now. That was a good effort, especially the way I felt, and some of you were out watching me try to hit balls before I played on Monday. It wasn't very pretty. I was glad that I could compete against him.

"But, I must admit, the four 2-irons he hit on the last hole were probably the most impressive four shots I have ever seen in golf."

Snead memory

Rader Jewett was the head professional at Butler Country Club from 1935 to 1954, and he did more than win the West Penn Open in 1936.

Jewett beat Sam Snead three times to win the West Virginia Open in 1932, 1934 and 1935. In 1951, Jewett teamed with his son, Rodger, to win the West Penn Pro/Junior. The team they beat?

Deacon Palmer and his son, Arnie.

"He sure could play a lick," Snead once said of Jewett.

Snead, owner of a PGA Tour-record 81 career victories, died last week. He was 89.

Jewett died several months ago. He was 99.

Turf tip

Repairing ball marks on the green is essential because it prevents lasting scars and maintains the quality and appearance of the putting surface. Olde Stonewall superintendent Rich D'Ambrosio, a member of the Greater Pittsburgh Golf Course Superintendents Association, explains the proper procedure for fixing a mark:

Take a ballmark repair tool -- or preferably a knife, key, or golf tee -- and insert at the edges of the mark, not in the middle of the depression. Bring the edges together with a gentle twisting motion toward the center of the mark, trying not to tear the grass. Then, smooth the surface with your putter or foot. Repairing a ball mark incorrectly or carelessly may be as damaging as not repairing the ball mark at all.

Quotable

John Daly on making the Ryder Cup team: "The only way I'll ever make a Ryder Cup team is when I'm captain. Then I can name myself to the team."

Dissa and data

Perry Graciano of Pittsburgh set the course record at Churchill Valley Country Club last week, shooting a 9-under 62. His round included nine birdies and no bogeys. Graciano's score was recorded from the white markers. He held the old club record -- 63 -- which he shot from the blue markers in July 2000.

The sale of golf bags, gloves and shoes dropped in March, according to Golf Datatech LLC, which tracks retail sales of golf products. Typically, that is a busy month for sales because golfers in the North and Northeast are getting ready for the season. However, the sale of irons -- at on-course pro shops and off-course retailers -- rose in the same month, according to Golf Datatech LLC.

Taylor Made has signed Loren Roberts to play its new Rossa putter. The agreement calls for Roberts to carry a Rossa tour staff bag.

ABC Sports will continue to televise the British Open for the next six years, through 2008, under an agreement the network reached with the Royal & Ancient Golf Club.

Trivia answer

Fuzzy Zoeller beat Norman in an 18-hole playoff at the 1984 U.S. Open, Larry Mize beat him on the second extra hole in the 1987 Masters and Paul Azinger won the 1993 PGA Championship in a playoff with the Shark.

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