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Jim Thorpe

 
THE MIGHTY THOR-PE?:  Jim Thorpe was sentenced to one year in prison for failing to pay more than $2 million in income taxes. The 13-time Champions Tour winner, who turns 61 on Feb. 1, must turn himself in to authorities by April 1. He was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service. He must try to repay the taxes while he’s on supervised release.
 
BackspinIt used to be that a professional athlete could kidnap the Pope and only have to pay a minimal fine and do some community service. Now they're going to prison left and right. Two rules every professional athlete – and really everyone in general – should live by: 1) Keep your gun at home. 2) Give the government their money. Just adhering to those two things will cut your chances of going to jail by 70 percent.

Tiger Woods

 
ENQUIRING MINDS WANT TO KNOW: Tiger Woods was purportedly photographed at a sex rehab clinic in Mississippi. The photos surfaced courtesy the National Enquirer. Other reports had Woods in a six-week program, with speculation that he would return to the PGA Tour during the Florida Swing in preparation for the Masters.
 
BackspinPurportedly. Speculation. Words like these have been tossed around quite liberally over the last few months. Of course, the Woods camp could turn rumors into facts with a little disclosure. Geoff Ogilvy, for one, thinks Woods at least needs to meet the press prior to returning to competition to avoid an on-site media circus. I, on the other hand, hope he doesn't speak until he returns and that he returns at Bay Hill. Normally I'd avoid such a chaotic scene like it was a Jennifer Aniston movie. But that I would have to see first-hand. In a perverted way, it's golf history.

Bill Haas

HAAS HAS HOPE
: Bill Haas birdied the 90th and final hole Monday for a one-shot victory at the weather-delayed, five-round, six-day Bob Hope Classic. Haas edged three others to join father Jay as Bob Hope champions. Jay won the event in 1988. They became the eighth father-son duo to win on the PGA Tour.
 
BackspinBill took a little flak coming off a stellar amateur career when he grumbled over having to begin his professional career on the Nationwide Tour. It took five years, but the younger Haas not only proved he belongs on the big stage, but proved he's more than just a guy struggling to earn a card each year. Congratulations, Bill. And thank you for avoiding a playoff and extending this event any longer than it had to be. 
Martin Kaymer


MY FAVORITE MARTIN: Martin Kaymer birdied the final hole at Abu Dhabi Golf Club for a one-shot victory in the Abu Dhabi Championship. It was the German's second triumph in this event in the last three years and his fifth tour title in less than three seasons.

BackspinWe could have put a photograph of Hennie Otto above, called him Martin Kaymer and barely a handful of people would have noticed. But despite a lack of facial recognition, his name is getting plenty of respect among his peers. He just beat a field which included eight of the top 14 players in the world. No European Tour regular has more wins than does he since the start of the 2006 season. And he's only 25. For all the hype surrounding Rory McIlroy, Anthony Kim, Rickie Fowler and the like, right now, Kaymer is the world's best player under 30.

Tom Watson

 
FEELING YOUNG AGAIN: Tom Watson won a shootout in the Champions Tour season-opener, making birdie on the final two holes for a one-shot victory over Fred Couples. Watson shot 7-under 65 Sunday, while Couples, who was making his senior debut, carded a 66.
 
BackspinThe Champions Tour could not have scripted a better start to their season. Maybe a Couples victory would have resonated a bit more, but a Watson win ain't bad. Congratulations to the 60-year-old for beating the 50-year-old head-to-head. And a special thanks to the late Dr. Robert Adler, who invented the remote control in 1956, thus allowing me to watch both the amazing finish to the Mitsubishi and a classic NFC Championship game at the same time.
 
Phil Mickelson


WELCOME BACK: Phil Mickelson was on the list when the field was announced Friday for the upcoming Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Mickelson was the only top-10 player on the field list and one of only three top-20 players scheduled to attend [Robert Allenby and Ernie Els]. Tiger Woods will be missing the tournament for the second consecutive year.

 

BackspinNormally, the best part about Mickelson's return to competition after a lengthy offseason is his first press conference, where he'll say something kooky like he's found a way to better treat botulism. But after ending 2009 barnstorming the globe, taking home trophies from Atlanta to Shanghai, and considering Woods' current state of flux, it's with great anticipation we wait to see what he's capable of in 2010. Keep an eye on June. Mickelson turns 40 on the 16th. The U.S. Open begins the 17th. On the 20th, he could be celebrating Father's Day, his first U.S. Open victory and his ascension to No. 1 in the world.

Jack Nicklaus

 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Jack Nicklaus turned 70 Thursday. ... Doug Barron, banned from the PGA Tour, signed up to play a developmental tour in North Carolina. ... Sea Island, Ga., home to Davis Love III, will host a PGA Tour Fall Series event beginning this year. ... An Ohio high school golfer, who called a scorecard infraction on himself which cost him the state championship five years ago, was named to the Sports Illustrated sportsman of the decade list.
 
BackspinAnd in case you missed it, GolfChannel.com celebrated Jack's birthday with a Q&A and 70 facts about his life. ... Barron paid his membership fee of $2,250 for the eGolf Professional Tour. There's always a golf tour to play somewhere. ... The McGladrey Classic will be played Oct. 7-10 on the Seaside Course. ... It's easy to say you would do the same thing in his situation. But, as a teenager, would you?