Notes Harrington Can Handle Woods

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2006 Sony OpenHONOLULU -- Padraig Harrington can claim a unique distinction in golf. He is the only player to have been in the same group with Tiger Woods at least five times and has outscored him.
 
In the most comprehensive study published in January issue of Golf Digest, the magazine analyzed every round Woods has played to find out who has performed the best while playing with him.
 
Harrington has a 68.83 average in six rounds, compared with Woods' average score of 69.50.
 
Mark O'Meara has played the most times with Woods (30), which isn't terribly surprising considering they often played together at Pebble Beach and Disney, two pro-am formats.
 
Ernie Els is second with 24 rounds, and that's not surprising, either. Els and Woods have battled more than any other of Woods' rivals, and the Big Easy's seven runner-up finishes to Woods are more than anyone.
 
And while Harrington is the only player with a better head-to-head scoring average, the closest anyone else came to Woods was Vijay Singh. The Fijian's average score playing with Woods is 70.14, compared with 69.48 for Woods. Against everyone else, Woods has a scoring advantage of at least one stroke.
 
One other side note to the research. The first time Harrington was in weekend contention at a major was the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, when he played in the final group with Woods in the third round. Trailing by three, Harrington shot 73 to Woods' 70.
 
FIRST CRACK
Because of the shorter season with the FedExCup, there was some concern that Q-school and Nationwide Tour grads would get squeezed out of tournaments early in the year because they are at the bottom of the list for eligibility.
 
So far, so good.
 
Forty-two players from that category made it into the Sony Open, compared with 39 last year and 36 in 2005.
 
The Q-school/Nationwide players usually get limited starts early in the season when the fields are smaller, having to wait until Pebble Beach (180 players) or the tournament in Mexico, which is opposite a World Golf Championship.
 
Cameron Beckman tied for fourth at Q-school and said he already was in the Bob Hope Classic with 18 players ranked behind him also in the tournament.
 
'I wasn't expecting that,' Beckman said.
 
A NEW TRICK
Jesper Parnevik was hitting balls on the practice range with a club at his feet for alignment, and an umbrella sticking out of the ground about 2 feet away from where he hit the ball.
 
'Can you tell I've been hanging out with Vijay (Singh)?' Parnevik said.
 
The Swede noticed he was rotating his hips too quickly, which caused him to push the ball to the right. The umbrella forces him to correct this mistake by turning his upper body. If Parnevik doesn't swing properly, a ball coming off the club at about 175 mph would strike the umbrella, and no telling what happens then.
 
There were a few close calls Tuesday afternoon, and caddie Lance Ten Broeck was caught inching backward a couple of times when his boss lined up over the ball.
 
'If it rains,' Ten Broeck said, 'this is our only umbrella.'
 
WEIR SIGN
Not everyone in Mike Weir's hometown thinks highly of the former Masters champion.
 
For the second time in two years, vandals damaged an expensive sign honoring him at Mike Weir Park in Bright's Grove, Ontario. It had been called Huronview Park until he became the first Canadian to win the Masters.
 
This time, vandals used the decorative stones to smash several pieces of the sign and destroy a pair of lights used to illuminate it. A few weeks after the park was dedicated to Weir in 2004, vandals stole the sign by cutting off its posts.
 
'It just boggles my mind,' said Dave Beatty, who created the sign. 'It's unreal what they did. It took a lot of effort to smash it up. I don't know what would possess somebody to be so stupid.'
 
Beatty said he will speak to the police before figuring out what to do with the sign.
 
'People in this town love Mike Weir,' he said.
 
DIVOTS
FedExCup standings will be used to help set the field for invitationals such as Colonial, Bay Hill and the Memorial this year. The money list previously was the criteria, and that will still be used in 2007. Starting next year, those tournaments are expected to exclusively using FedExCup points. ... Wie's father, B.J. Wie, will be caddying for her at the Sony Open. The Wie family fired Greg Johnston in August and has not found a permanent replacement. ... Among players who have switched equipment companies this year are Lucas Glover (Nike) and D.J. Trahan (Wilson). Both were under contract with Titleist last year. ... Suncoast Golf raised $2.4 million for Tampa Bay charities through its PGA TOUR event. The Tampa Bay Championship remains without a title sponsor this year, but PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said the tour is in talks with a prospect and he was confident a deal would be done.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Of the 28 players classified as rookies on the PGA TOUR, 23 of them are in their 20s.
 
FINAL WORD
'When I became commissioner, 100 percent of the players on the Champions Tour were older than I was. And now, 65 percent of them are younger than me. So I'm no longer in a position where I'm eager for any year to be over.' -- PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem.

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