Notes Ryder Cup Leftys Plans

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04 Ryder CupSince 1979, when continental Europeans were allowed to compete for the first time, the Ryder Cup has consisted of 28 matches crammed into three days -- eight alternate-shot and better-ball matches, followed by 12 singles on Sunday.

Don't expect that to change any time soon.

'Most everything that other event does has been suggested to us,' said Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA of America.

That 'other event' to which he referred is the Presidents Cup, and two of the suggestions Awtrey has heard were to play an additional team match each session, and to let the captains manipulate the draw to get more marquee pairings.

Awtrey wasn't impressed with either.

'When we were talking about adding points, or adding matches, we saw what can happen,' he said. 'You get too many points early, and it's over before it gets to Sunday. With the possibility of a nonevent on Sunday, that has never been a serious discussion.'

Indeed, the International team took a 141/2-51/2 lead going into Sunday in the '98 Presidents Cup. Two years later, the United States led 14-6 going into the last day. Both matches ended in blowouts. Three of the five Presidents Cups have been decided by at least eight points.

Awtrey also said television officials liked the idea of the captains announcing one match at a time.

'They thought that would be great theater, and television wants theater,' he said. 'But the captains know they've got to start out with strong players and have someone to close it out. We've found that created some strategy, some excitement. And that had tremendous theater.'

He also believes playing 36 holes on Friday and Saturday (the Presidents Cup spreads the four team sessions over three days), leads to more strategy because captains have to decide who has the stamina and the hot hand.
 
The only substantial change Awtrey can recall is allowing the home captain to decide which format to use at the start the Ryder Cup. Seve Ballesteros changed in 1997 to start with better-ball matches.
 
'I don't recall that we've done any material change,' he said. 'And I really don't expect any.'
 
MAPPING MICKELSON
Phil MickelsonPhil Mickelson has played Hartford the last three years and won consecutive titles in 2001-02. But the Buick Championship has been moved to the end of August, and Lefty might have to skip it this year.
 
Mickelson won't play again until the PGA Championship, followed by the NEC Invitational at Firestone. To play at Hartford would be three straight, with the Ryder Cup looming.

'The date change has made it difficult for me,' Mickelson said. 'After the major, I have historically tried to take a little time off because they are draining weeks. So Hartford is difficult. It's not a for sure 'no,' but it's very unlikely.'

Mickelson said he probably would take two weeks off after Firestone, then play in the Canadian Open leading into the Ryder Cup matches Sept. 17-19.
 
And after that?
 
'I may play zero tournaments, I may play five tournaments,' he said of his end-of-the-year schedule. 'It just depends on how I feel. I haven't really taken any full weeks off. I've kept practicing, trying to maintain my level. But then, I may be trying to get that money list because I know Vijay (Singh) is going to play every week, trying to make up ground. I just don't know yet.'

Mickelson has a $420,000 lead over Singh, despite playing four fewer tournaments.
 
BEEFING IT UP
With so many repeat winners on the LPGA Tour, the Tournament of Champions was turning into one of the smallest fields in golf. Now, tournament officials have added an extra year of eligibility to beef it up.
 
Starting this year, players who have won LPGA events in the last four years (dating to 2001) will be eligible for the $800,000 event at Magnolia Grove in Alabama. Previously, winners from the last three years were eligible.
 
'With the increasing number of multiple tournament winners on the LPGA Tour, we have seen the eligible field list limited in numbers,' tournament director Steve Harrelson said. 'These moves allow us to keep the tournament's reputation as a 'best-of-the-best' event.'

Because of the change, nine players will be added to this year's field, raising it to 42 players. The field has declined each year since the tournament moved to Alabama, from 44 in 1999 to 29 last year.
 
NORMAN'S GIFT
Two-time British Open champion Greg Norman and his wife are encouraging couples to play golf and contribute to child cancer research.

Norman is behind 'Golf for Living,' an innovative program this summer at clubs in eight PGA of America sections. With a $50 donation, couples are automatically entered into a sweepstakes for an all-expenses trip to the Franklin Templeton Shootout that Norman hosts in Naples, Fla.

The money goes to CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation.
 
'What better way to spend time with your partner, while actively helping in the fight against childhood cancer?' Norman said.
 
DIVOTS
Yahoo! Inc. has signed a deal to power Tiger Woods' Web site in exchange for editorial and promotional content. Under terms of the deal, Yahoo! will be responsible for advertising sales on tigerwoods.com, and both camps will share the revenue. Along with text-based editorial articles, Woods' Web site will give Yahoo! exclusive one-on-one online interviews and video highlights. ... Robert Gamez shot a 61 in the B.C. Open and a 60 at the Bob Hope Classic and didn't win either tournament. ... A Titleist ball was used by 153 out of the 156 players at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship last week. ... Yuri Fudo, the leading money winner on the Japan LPGA Tour the last four years, captured her 30th career victory last week to earn a lifetime exemption. Only five other players have earned lifetime exemptions on the Japanese tour.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Players from five countries have won the six USGA championships played this year -- South Africa (U.S. Open), Korea (U.S. Junior Amateur), Paraguay (U.S. Girls Junior Amateur), China (U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links) and the United States (U.S. Women's Open, U.S. Amateur Public Links).
 
FINAL WORD
'Golf has only one winner. Second doesn't do it for anybody.' -- Jane Park, 17, runner-up at the U.S. Women's Amateur and the U.S. Girls' Junior Amateur.
 
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