Notes PGA Tour Approaches $1 Billion in Charity

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PGA Tour (75x100)PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Money is the easiest way to illustrate overwhelming growth on the PGA Tour.

Vijay Singh earned more money last year than the combined career earnings of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Palmer. Prize money from the three World Golf Championships this year will be about the same as the total purse on tour 20 years ago.

But here's one number that should get everyone's attention:

The PGA Tour is expected to surpass $1 billion in charitable giving early next year.

'It's a big number,' commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'What this represents is that slowly but surely, charitable giving is more than something we do. It's part of our culture. It's what the players think about, the staff thinks about and the tournaments think about.'

The first donation was $10,000 in 1938 from the Palm Beach Invitational, a tournament that no longer exists. The tour hit the $100 million mark in 1987, and it went over $500 million just six years ago.

A campaign called 'Drive to a Billion' will start Wednesday morning at Pebble Beach. A commemorative tee shot will be hit at every tournament until the tour reaches $1 billion. The special driver, made in 1938, will serve as the torch for the campaign.

The tour also plans a public service campaign in print and broadcast that will start this month, and players will be asked to wear commemorative pins that will be sold at tournaments and online, with proceeds going to PGA Tour Charities, Inc.

The PGA Tour has the perfect paradigm for giving. Most of its tournaments are run independently, allowing them to contribute net proceeds to various charities in their communities.

One reason for the accelerated growth in charity was Finchem's decision five years ago that any new tournament had to be set up as a non-profit organization.

'Culturally, we wanted to be married with giving back,' he said. 'And if we wanted to be culturally married, then it was important to be structurally married to giving back. The only way to do that was to have as many tournaments as possible in that situation.'
 
DESIGN ON THE FUTURE
Tom Lehman's golf course design business, and the age of his four children, could alter his long-range plans.

Lehman turns 50 in 2009 but said he has no interest in playing on the Champions Tour.

'The design (business) is part of it. But it's also the age of my kids,' said Lehman, noting that they will be 18, 16, 14 and 7 when he is eligible for the 50-and-older circuit. 'At that point in time, enough will be enough. That's the way I'm thinking now.'

The Lehman Design Group already has 15 golf courses that are opened or under construction. His latest project is to build a desert-style course at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort & Spa, along with redesigning two holes on the course used for the Chrysler Classic of Tucson.

Lehman is not a big proponent of making golf courses longer because of technology, and he has some interesting ideas on the short par 4s, such as the 350-yard third hole at Augusta National, the 301-yard 10th hole at Riviera, and the 305-yard eighth hole at Royal Melbourne.

'My whole theory about short par 4s is that it makes you want to hit driver,' he said. 'It looks so benign, so enticing, that you can't lay off. It's sitting right in front of you. It looks easy, but plays tough.'

So what will he do off No. 10 at the Nissan Open next week?

'If I feel the wind is just right, I'll be going for it,' he said.
 
WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?
The 60 that Phil Mickelson shot in the second round of the FBR Open goes down as his lowest round on the PGA Tour. His 59 at the Grand Slam of Golf in November was unofficial -- although that sure doesn't matter to Mickelson or anyone else who hits golf's magic number.

'If I shot 59 in the PGA Grand Slam or if I shot 59 in the Buick Invitational or if I shot 59 at home, it would not matter to me,' Mickelson said two weeks ago. 'The fact that I shot that number is pretty cool.'

Jason Bohn knows the feeling.

He shot a 58 in the final round of the 2001 Bayer Championship on the Canadian tour, which counts in the Canadian record books but not on the PGA Tour.

'I don't think Phil or anyone who breaks 60 really cares whether it's official or not,' Bohn said. 'It's an incredible round of golf. You're not going to do that many times.'

Others with sub-60 rounds that didn't count include Doug Dunakey and Notah Begay on the Nationwide Tour, and Shigeki Maruyama (58) in a U.S. Open qualifier. Dunakey three-putted from 20 feet on the 18th hole for his 59.

Bohn can relate to that, too.

He had 228 to carry the water on the par-5 18th at Huron Oaks, but his caddie talked him into laying up to protect his two-shot lead. Bohn hit wedge for his third shot, but it spun back to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

'We give him smack about that all the time,' Bohn said. 'His paycheck was bigger for a win.'

Bohn doesn't think any sub-60 round should be recognized unless it's on tour.

'It would be like throwing a no-hitter in Triple A,' he said. 'The golf courses on the PGA Tour are more difficult and they're set up harder.'
 
DIVOTS
Ernie Els will be spending plenty of time over the ocean between the Masters and the U.S. Open. He plans to play twice in China, then in Texas for the Byron Nelson Championship, then in England for the Volvo PGA Championship, before returning to the United States to play the Memorial and Booz Allen Classic. ... The FBR Open was the seventh PGA Tour event Phil Mickelson has won multiple times. All but one of them -- Hartford -- are west of Denver. ... Vijay Singh will try to become only the sixth back-to-back winner of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since it began in 1937. The others are all multiple-major winners: Sam Snead (1937-38), Cary Middlecoff (1955-56), Jack Nicklaus (1972-73), Tom Watson (1977-78) and Mark O'Meara (1989-90).
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
The European PGA Tour will have more tournaments in China (5) than Scotland (4).
 
FINAL WORD
'I was once No. 2 in the world, and it got to the stage if I'd won the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and Greg Norman had missed the cut in America, I would have got to No. 1. He didn't, I didn't and Tiger Woods was born. And it's been downhill ever since.' -- Colin Montgomerie.