Notes Last Chance for Status Golfs Yogi Berra

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HONOLULU -- Tom Byrum suffered the biggest heartache at the final stage of PGA TOUR qualifying when he finished bogey-bogey to miss his card by one stroke. But thanks to a bum knee, he still has one more chance.
 
Byrum is among 20 players who have been granted various levels of medical extensions for 2007. He had knee surgery this summer, causing him to miss the final four months of the season. Byrum will get 17 starts to make $559,804, which would give him the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list and allow him to finish out the year.

Byrum and Scott Hoch were among a dozen players who sought and were granted extensions through the major medical category. Others on that list and the number of starts they get include Chris Perry (18), Scott McCarron (13), J.L. Lewis (14), Kevin Na (21), Hank Kuehne (21) and Carl Paulson (15).
 
Hoch's request was peculiar because he is 51 and might not even play a full schedule. His exemption is a carryover from 2005, and Hoch can get as many as 27 starts if he wants them. He also is eligible for as many two more exemptions from career money, depending on how he does when -- or if -- he plays on the PGA Tour.
 
'It would make it an advantage for me to play the regular tour for the sake of endorsements,' Hoch said. 'The deals I've got are a lot more if I played the regular tour.'
 
He said Yonex did not renew his equipment deal -- Hoch had been with them since 1990 -- and he declined to say with whom he has signed because the contract was not final.
 
If he does play the PGA TOUR, his first start might not be until after the Masters. He wants to try the Champions Tour first. He is no longer eligible for Doral, where he won in 2003, because it is now a World Golf Championship. And he fears the Bay Hill Invitational requires more power than he has.
 
Meanwhile, minor medical extensions -- injuries that kept them from playing for fewer than four months -- were awarded to seven players, including Rocco Mediate (10), Thomas Levet (10), Bill Glasson (3) and Steven Bowditch (5).
 
Andrew Magee also received a nonexempt medical extension, giving him two starts.
 
GOLF'S YOGI BERRA
Fred Couples has delivered some of the most perplexing lines in golf, such as 'I'm a lot older than I was 10 years ago,' and 'I'm playing as well as I've ever played, except for the years I played better.'
 
Even though he is in the twilight of his career, golf's version of Yogi Berra hasn't lost his touch. Consider this comment from the Target World Challenge when asked about his career back problems, then try to figure out what he means.
 
'I wouldn't be playing great golf every week if my back didn't hurt,' he said. 'I wouldn't be able to play golf if my back really, really hurt, and I don't. So therefore, I try to play.'
 
CAREER MONEY
David Duval and Bob Tway are the only players using a one-time exemption from career earnings to keep their PGA TOUR cards for next year.
 
Duval's five-year exemption from winning the British ran out this year. His exemption is from the top 25 on the career money list (Duval is No. 24), and because he is more than $4 million clear on 50th place, he should be able to use a top-50 exemption next year if he needs one.
 
Tway is 29th in career earnings, and will use his one-time exemption from the top 50. An eight-time winner and former PGA champion, Tway finished 175th on the money list, his lowest position since 1992. He did not need an exemption then because he had a 10-year exemption from his '86 PGA victory.
 
HENRY'S YEAR
J.J. Henry didn't want to see the 2006 season end.
 
'If somebody told me I'd have won my first tournament, played in the Ryder Cup, played in the Tour Championship and got to play in the World Cup, I'd probably have had to pinch myself,' Henry said in Barbados. 'I'm proud of the way I played this year.'
 
His first PGA TOUR victory came at the Buick Championship in his home state of Connecticut. He was unbeaten at the Ryder Cup (three halves) and finished his breakthrough season with more than $2.3 million.
 
A year like that means his first trip to Kapalua for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship, and his first trip to the Masters.
 
Henry's offseason will be a quick one. He plans to leave Sunday for a New Year's celebration in Hawaii.
 
'The offseason is kind of bittersweet,' he said. 'We only really have about three weeks until we fire it back up again, but there's two ways to look at it. I didn't really take a lot of time off, per se, this offseason but at the same time I feel like I'll be ready to play in Maui.'
 
WEIR CHANGES
Mike Weir is seeing quick progress with his new swing.
 
The Canadian changed coaches after back problems -- which he believed were caused by his swing -- hampered him late in the season.
 
Weir, who helped Canada tie for 15th at World Cup in Barbados, said he'll be spending much of his offseason further honing his new swing. He won't open his 2007 season until the Bob Hope Championship, the third event of the year.
 
'I'm seeing results already,' Weir said at the World Cup. 'I'm striking it well and it's the time of year where I don't have a lot to do. I'll have about five weeks off until the Bob Hope, so I'll be able to get some good work done this winter and be ready to go for next year.'
 
Weir's last PGA victory was the Nissan Open in February 2004.
 
DIVOTS
The World Amateur Golf Ranking, sponsored by the Royal & Ancient, will make its debut next month. Officials say 280 amateur events around the world will count toward the weekly rankings. ... Cottonwood Valley, one of two courses used for the Byron Nelson Championship, will reopen Saturday after redoing its greens and tweaking some of the holes. The course was lengthened only 29 yards. Bigger changes were replacing the turf with fresh bent grass and renovating bunkers with new sand and keep. The first green is still the shape of Texas, with a bunker the shape of Oklahoma right above it. ... Europe's Ryder Cup team was selected for the Association of Golf Writers' Trophy for 2006 for another smashing win over the Americans. Darren Clarke was voted second, while U.S. Amateur champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland was third.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Thirteen players will be playing the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship for the first time.
 
FINAL WORD
'Everyone is trying to get to that level. I don't know if that's ruined players or made them better.' -- David Toms, on Tiger Woods' affect on the PGA TOUR.
 
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