Dont Overlook the True Storylines This Week


PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. -- The Buick Challenge in Callaway Gardens disappears from the PGA Tour schedule after this weeks event ... not enough sponsorship money, very little fan support. In fact the 132 players in the field looked to outnumber the fan turnout for Wednesdays pro-am. But dont be fooled. This final Buick Challenge may provide some of the most dramatic moments of the year.
First theres the battle for the championship. Just to name a few who might figure in the trophy hunt: Chris DiMarco, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, David Duval, Davis Love. Incredibly, neither Toms nor Duval nor Love has won on tour this year. All three love the course here and all three seem to be near the top of their games following the Ryder Cup.
Mickelson, world No. 2, is playing for the first time since the Belfry and seems enthusiastic about being back out on tour. And then theres DiMarco, the defending champion.
Chris led - or was tied for the lead - after each of the first three rounds last week at Disney, but couldnt close the deal and finished second. He has a history of coming back the week after a major disappointment in a major way. As evidence: The week after leading, and then playing poorly down the stretch this year at the Bob Hope (which Mickelson won), Chris rallied on the back nine in Phoenix to win there.
'Im playing really good golf right now,' DiMarco said, 'I think I made, what, just three bogeys all last week ... and Ive got really good memories of this place from last year.' That obviously bodes well.
Beyond the will to win this week, there is also the search to survive. This is the next to the last week on the 2002 PGA Tour schedule and futures are at stake. More than a handful of the players in the Buick Challenge must play well here, and/or next week in Mississippi to finish in the top 125 on the money list and stay fully exempt for next year.
At the other end of the spectrum, theres the battle to finish in the top 30. Those 2002 millionaires are the only gentlemen invited to play in next weeks elite Tour Championship. Number 30 Brad Faxon is here this week and says making the top 30 'is definitely something on my mind.'
Nunber 31 Kenny Perry wants badly to get back to the Tour Championship. Last year, he made it right on the number, tied for fifth at the event and ended one of his most successful years 24th on the money list. 'I was No. 30 last week and didnt play and, man, now Im 31,' Perry said.
Scott McCarron starts the week 29th on the money list. 'Sure I want to make the top 30,' he said, 'But Im here to play the Buick Challenge and try to win it. If I dont play well, I guess Ill just need a little help from my friends.'
Yes, theres plenty at stake this week. As Mickelson ' who has nothing to worry about ' said, 'This is a great time of year to be a golf fan - there are so many great storylines out there.' Yes, Phil, there are.