Stenson knew he wouldn't be able to play the Buick Invitational next month because he will be on the European tour in the Middle East. When he arrived in California for the Target World Challenge, he made a detour to San Diego and booked a twosome on the golf course. The starter put them with another couple who just started playing golf five months ago.
Turns out the woman's name was Pamela Anderson -- no, not that one -- and Stenson's remembers her boyfriend's name only as Jesse.
'Let's just say it was an interesting round,' Stenson said. 'She told me, 'The next time you're south of L.A., give me a call.' And I told her, 'Which Pamela Anderson am I going to look up?''
It was an awakening of sorts for Stenson, who won last year in Dubai and the Accenture Match Play Championship. Outside of a round in Spain last year, he said it had been 10 years since he paid a greens fee. The good news is he received the San Diego County residents rate.
And he bought a bucket of balls for the range, the first time in a while he hit balls with a black stripe around them.
'They were limited-flight balls,' he said. 'It was cool in the morning, and the ball was going nowhere. But it took a couple of swings to realize this is not down to me. Some of it was the balls.'
As for the course?
'It was one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been,' he said. 'Stunning views. It was nice to see a U.S. Open course in advance.'
Odds are, it won't be the same in June.
He'll be hitting premium range balls. The practice area will be part of the North Course. And he won't be paired with Pamela Anderson.
Not many will complain about Steve Stricker being voted PGA TOUR comeback player of the year because of his class, although consecutive years winning the award left casual fans confused.
The Players Advisory Council was responsible for submitting the ballot, and it could be charged with falling asleep at the wheel.
Except for a comeback from injury, the award might as well be called 'Most Improved Player.' And if that's the case, there were plenty of worthy candidates who were ignored.
Paul Goydos only kept his PGA TOUR card with a tie for second in the final tournament of 2006. In his next start, he won the Sony Open in January for his first victory in nearly 11 years. It had been so long since Goydos won that Tiger Woods was still an amateur.
Another candidate might have been Mark Calcavecchia.
While exempt from his '05 Canadian Open victory, Calcavecchia narrowly finished inside the top 125 in 2006. What followed was his best season of the decade. Along with winning the PODS Championship, Calcavecchia finished 13th on the money list with a career-high $2.9 million and wound up No. 8 in the FedEx Cup.
Calcavecchia knew he had a big year when he was invited to the Target World Challenge.
'Pretty sporty company I'm in,' Calcavecchia said. 'I didn't think I'd be here at the start of the year.'
BACK TO AMERICA
Paul Casey of England hasn't been a PGA TOUR member since 2005, so it was surprising to hear he would rejoin the U.S. tour in 2008, especially because it's a Ryder Cup year.
It's all part of a broader plan to make the European team and become a more polished player.
'The way I want to get in the Ryder Cup is world ranking points,' he said. 'It doesn't matter where I play, I just need to play well.'
Five members of the European team come off a money list that began in September. Five others are taken off a list of world ranking points earned since September. Because he likely will be eligible for the four majors and three World Golf Championships, Casey only needs to play four European tour events to keep his membership.
He already has played the HSBC Champions in China and plans to play twice in the Middle East early next year.
'My intention is to play as much golf over here as possible,' he said. 'Keeping my European card is easy, and thank (chief executive) George O'Grady for that.'
Along with making the Ryder Cup team for the third straight time, Casey wants to get into the top 10 in the world, and he figures his game will only improve playing a full U.S. schedule.
'I want to play against Tiger, Furyk and Mickelson week in and week out,' he said. 'I've got to test myself against those guys all the time. I want to win a major, at least one. And I think in order to raise my game, I've got to be here all the time.'
This is a big year for Colin Montgomerie, who is trying to get into the top 50 in the world to qualify for the Masters and hopes to make his ninth consecutive Ryder Cup team.
From where does he draw inspiration?
Boo Weekley, of course.
Montgomerie was enchanted with America's fun-loving country boy during the World Cup, where Monty and Marc Warren edged out the U.S. team of Weekley and Heath Slocum to bring Scotland its first title.
'He's a character, Boo,' Montgomerie said. 'I'll tell you what, Boo can play golf. Boo is very good. Boo is excellent. And he's got that complete, laid-back attitude that is superb for this game. He doesn't seem to care. It's amazing how many putts go in when you don't seem to be bothered, and that's him.'
Montgomerie was particularly amused to hear that Weekley was hunting when he learned he would be playing in the World Cup. The way Monty tells it, Weekley was 'in a tree trying to kill something.'
That's called hunting.
The Scot was in good spirits at the Target World Challenge, despite opening with an 80. He played 14-under par the rest of the week to tie for eighth. When asked why he seemed so relaxed, Montgomerie again referenced his new hero.
'I'm taking a leaf out of Boo's book, really,' he said. 'We should all learn from a bit of Boo. I won't be climbing trees, mind you, and I won't be killing anything from there. But yeah, I'm relaxed as I can be.'
STAT OF THE WEEK
PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour events raised $123 million for charity in 2007, roughly 35 percent of the total prize money on all three circuits.
'I certainly do know the difference between good golf and bad golf. And I'm a lot closer to playing good or great golf than I am bad golf.' -- David Duval.
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