And the Winners Are

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There was more than one winner in golf last week.

Yes, of course, at The Old Course, Tiger Woods won his 10th major championship and finds himself, once again, steaming towards Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 professional major victories.

Hard to imagine him not eclipsing Jack. And hard to imagine his teacher, Hank Haney, not feeling especially good about all of this. Haney has been roundly criticized, even by many of his teaching peers, for being the architect of Woods' most recent swing changes.

Guess what? Haney can handle the heat. And the satisfaction he is now quietly taking for Woods' second major win in three tries this year is not the smug kind. That's not Haney's style.

How about Clay Ogden? Ogden is the unheralded college kid from Utah who took out Michelle Wie in the U.S. Publinx. Ogden didn't stop there. He won two more matches and the championship, earning himself a spot in the 2006 Masters where his father will be on the bag.

Sean O'Hair's father-in-law was on the bag at St. Andrews. And the two of them, fighting jet lag, didn't get to see the course for the first time until the day before the championship began. Of all the golf courses in the world, The Old Course may be the most difficult to figure out in one day. So they hired a local caddie to show them the lines off the tee and they survived Thursday with a 73. They followed that with a remarkable stretch of 67-70-73 and a share of 15th place.

Lloyd Saltman, a 19-year-old Scot from North Berwick, tied O'Hair and will be playing on the GB&I Walker Cup side later this year. Do not take your eye off his future.

Speaking of futures, Jason Gore suddenly is as big as his heart and his girth combined. A month ago he played in the last group Sunday at the U.S. Open. Since then he was won two straight on the Nationwide Tour by hitting it long and straight off the tee, always an irresistible combination.

Brad Faxon dumped his approach shot into the Swilcan Byrne on the first hole Sunday at St. Andrews and faded to a 76 and a tie for 23rd. But he was a winner before he ever started. Faxon qualified locally for this Open Championship by capturing one of the three precious spots available for 97 players at nearby Lundin Links in the days leading up to The Open Championship.

In fact if there were any losers last week in golf, they were the players who still haven't figured out that The Open Championship is an event worth getting on a plane and even spending a few dollars out of your own pocket to attend.

Jack Nicklaus has always been a winner. And U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, who tied for fifth Sunday, has been energized, not drained, by his recent fine form.

But maybe the biggest winner of all was outgoing LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw. Briefly, he looked like a villain when he decided Morgan Pressel will not be allowed to play regularly on the LPGA until her 18th birthday next May.

Pressel lashed out at Votaw in an article that appeared in Golfweek.Com. But when I caught up to Votaw by phone Saturday he said he'd basically rather be criticized for protecting the best young female players in the world rather than for exploiting their talents at too tender an age.

Here's a novel concept: Votaw thinks the players on the LPGA should graduate from high school before they play full time. Aree Song, even though permitted to play full time at 17, was not an exception. She had already graduated from high school at the time.

Here's hoping Votaw's successor, Carolyn Bivens, is as wise as her predecessor.
 
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