Woods Getting More Distance in 2004

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Tiger Woods starts out the season at No. 1 in driving distance, averaging 311.1 yards last week on the Plantation course at Kapalua.
 
A year ago, Woods finished 11th in driving distance, the first he had fallen out of the top 10.
 
What might make a difference is a new Nike One ball and slightly different driver.
 
'I went from a three-piece ball to a four-piece ball,' Woods said. 'I just added more speed to the ball.'
 
He also said his Nike Ignite driver was 'just a touch faster.'
 
Woods said he was not alarmed at his drop in driving distance, although he said that was the weakest part of his game last year. He continues to use steel shafts and a shorter club for control.
 
He said he could switch to graphite shafts, an inch longer driver and harder ball and pick up another 20 yards.
 
'I have the ability to not have to go that route yet,' he said.
 
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A MAJOR FEAT: Tom Watson last year became the first player to play in all nine major championships - four on the regular tour, five on the Champions Tour.
 
Jay Haas might do something even more remarkable.
 
He has a chance to become the first player to qualify for nine majors in one year.
 
Haas, who turned 50 in December, is coming off one of his best years on the PGA Tour. He finished 15th on the money list, which makes him eligible for the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship.
 
Having played on the 1995 Ryder Cup team, Haas is eligible for the U.S. Senior Open, the Senior British Open and the Senior PGA Championship. He is 29th on the PGA Tour career money list, which makes him eligible for the Tradition.
 
The other major is the Senior Players Championship. Eligibility is determined by a 12-month money list on the Champions Tour leading up to the tournament.
 
Watson had to get special exemptions for two majors last year, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship.
 
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MAN OF THE WORLD: Vijay Singh was not only the biggest money-maker on the PGA Tour, he ended Tiger Woods five-year domination atop the World Money List.
 
Singh earned $8.5 million from tournaments worldwide, according to figures released Tuesday by IMG.
 
Ernie Els of South Africa, golf's most global player, had seven victories worldwide and was second with $7.6 million. Woods was third with $7.4 million.
 
Woods set the record in 2000 with just over $11 million.
 
In the 38 years that IMG has compiled the World Money List, no one had ever won the title five years in a row. Tom Watson was tops from 1977 to 1980, while Jack Nicklaus earned the most money worldwide seven times, but never more than three straight years.
 
IMG said 99 regular tour players earned more than $1 million last year.
 
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MAJOR EXEMPTIONS: Michelle Wie was among six amateurs invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Tour's first major of the year.
 
A year ago, Wie played in the final group with winner Patricia Meunier-Lebouc and Annika Sorenstam. She closed with a 76 and tied for ninth.
 
The others were U.S. Women's Amateur champion Virada Nirapathpongporn and runner-up Jane Park; Arizona sophomore Erica Blasberg; Duke sophomore Elizabeth Janangelo; and Paula Creamer, the top-rated junior golfer.
 
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DIVOTS: Greg Norman has donated $2,000 to the re-election campaign of President Bush, Golf World magazine reported this week. According to Federal Election Commissioner records, Norman gave $2,000 to Bush's 2000 campaign. Norman lives in Jupiter, Fla., but is not a U.S. citizen and is ineligible to vote. ... Colin Montgomerie is changing clubs for the third time in two years, switching to Yonex. Montgomerie had a longtime endorsement with Callaway, then switched to Hogan last year. When Callaway acquired the Hogan Co., it did not keep Monty on its tour staff. The Scot is playing in the South African Airways Open this week. ... No more than five of the 30 players at the Mercedes Championships had their drivers tested by the new 'pendulum tester' made available by the PGA Tour.
 
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods was the only player to average more than 300 yards off the tee (311.1) at the Mercedes Championships.
 
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FINAL WORD: 'Distance is not her problem. Age is probably her problem.' - Davis Love III, on 14-year-old Michelle Wie playing in the Sony Open.
 
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