Notes Rainy Days The End of Getting Goosed

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PGA TourMIAMI -- The alarmists were out in full force the last two weeks in California.
 
First, the Nissan Open was cut short to 36 holes because of heavy rain that left the bunkers unplayable. Then, the Match Play Championship began a day late when La Costa Resort was flooded, and the course was so wet all week that officials could only cut the fairways with mowers typically used on greens.
 
Stuart Appleby suggested moving the West Coast swing to later in the year. Tiger Woods thought the PGA Tour should consider going to Florida first, then California.
 
It sounded like a good idea -- until the Champions Tour event in sunny Florida got so much rain that it was shortened to 36 holes and didn't finish until Monday.
 
This just in ... California is not the only place it rains.
 
Adam Scott sounded prophetic at the Sony Open when asked why he wasn't going to play on the PGA Tour again until the week before Match Play.
 
'For a tour that tries to follow the sun, it seems we play underwater a lot of the time,' Scott said.
 
True, it wasn't the best of weather on the West Coast -- fog delays at Torrey Pines, wind that briefly stopped one round in Phoenix, rain at Riviera and flooding at what is starting to be known as Lake La Costa.
 
But look at the bright side: For an outdoors sport, golf has an incredible record of getting in 72 holes. The amazing thing was not that the Nissan Open went only 36 holes, but that this stuff doesn't happen more often.
 
Since the Nissan Open began in 1928, it was only the second time the tournament did not go the distance.
 
The leader for rain-shortened events on the PGA Tour is the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, with eight tournaments lasting fewer than 72 holes because of bad weather. In second place, which should surprise no one, is the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Five of its tournaments were rain-shortened, with one year canceled altogether.
 
Superintendents and PGA Tour rules officials don't get enough credit for getting courses ready for play, especially given storm systems that can park themselves over a tournament.
 
Greensboro has never had a rain-shortened event since it began in 1938. Tucson has completed 72 holes every year since it started in 1945. Perhaps the best record belongs to the Western Open. It has had only one tournament cut short by rain since it went to 72 holes in 1902.
 
So, when PGA Tour tournament director Mark Russell said at the Nissan Open, 'We are getting into waters here that I can never remember us being in,' it wasn't just a play on words.
 
Everything runs in cycles.
 
Pebble Beach has had mostly sunny skies the last five years.
 
PRO-AM POLICY
The PGA Tour plans to reconsider the pro-am policy that knocked Retief Goosen out of the Nissan Open, but don't expect officials to make a substantial change -- if any.
 
Goosen overslept and missed his pro-am time at Riviera by about 20 minutes. Under a PGA Tour policy adopted at the start of the 2004 season, players are ineligible to play if they don't participate in the pro-am without a legitimate excuse (documented injury, family emergency).
 
But it was quite a jolt for the Nissan Open to lose the reigning U.S. Open champion.
 
'We will take another look at it,' commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'But the reality is, the rule was put into effect and it accomplished its mission. And you can't argue with that.'
 
Some have suggested giving players one free pass a year, but Finchem said the tour has been down that road before.
 
'We didn't have a situation that led to this problem with one or two players taking off 10 weeks,' he said. 'We had a lot of guys taking off. A free pass means a lot of guys are going to take a free pass.'
 
Finchem said it's possible that certain situations might arise when the rule needs to be relaxed -- perhaps a guy who traveled through eight time zones to play at Riviera.
 
'But what's clear to me is you need to be careful about relaxing the rule, because you open up a Pandora's box of 'Well, if this happens over here, how comes this can't happen?' We're going to take another look at it, but I don't know how it's going to come out.'
 
ACCENTURE FUTURE
Another week of swampy conditions at La Costa Resort increased speculation that the Accenture Match Play Championship would be leaving after 2006, the end of the current TV contract.
 
One thing is clear: It won't be leaving the United States.
 
'We'll take a look at all the factors,' said James Murphy, global managing director of marketing and communications for Accenture. 'But we desire to have our tournament in the United States.'
 
The sponsor prefers to be at a resort, with plenty of golf courses nearby to entertain clients. One place under consideration -- if Accenture wants to leave La Costa -- is Arizona.
 
It might not work to be close to Phoenix just a few weeks after the FBR Open, although one possibility is Tucson, which is played at the Omni Resort and has continued to raise significant money for charity despite being an opposite-field event since the World Golf Championships began in 1999.
 
STUCK IN NEUTRAL
Craig Parry won the Ford Championship at Doral last year, giving him the keys to a Ford GT sports car, valued at $140,000.
 
Now if he can just get a chance to drive it.
 
Not long after he won, Ford had to recall the car because of a problem with the suspension control arm.
 
'They're in the process of fixing it,' Parry said. 'I was going to drive it down this week.'
 
Parry started the car last year after he won.
 
'It's an unbelievable car,' Parry said. 'It really is.'
 
DIVOTS
David Toms and Fred Funk are two players headed in opposite directions at the Match Play Championship. Among those who have played six times, Toms has never lost in the first round, while Funk has never advanced out of the first round. ... Chris DiMarco's three straight birdies spared him the dubious distinction of suffering the worst loss in the history of 36-hole championship matches. The record is 8 and 7, set by Paul Runyan (over Sam Snead) in the 1938 PGA Championship and by Nick Faldo (over Jeff Sluman) in the 1992 World Match Play Championship.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Steve Stricker finished fourth last week in Tucson, his highest finish since winning the Match Play Championship four years ago in Australia.
 
FINAL WORD
'Retief Goosen is the most least-known great player we have.' -- Stuart Appleby.
 
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