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The latest:
 
TITLEIST EYES ARE SMILING: That's mainly because the smiling eyes of Mark O'Meara will be looking out from under the bill of a Titleist hat for the 2001 season. O'Meara will be head-to-toe Titleist and FootJoy - he'll play Titleist clubs and golf balls, which will be carried in a Titleist bag, he'll wear that hat, and he'll wear FootJoy shoes and a Titleist or FootJoy glove. The parties wouldn't say more than that the deal is for multiple seasons, but sources close to the negotiations said the contract is worth $1.6 million per year to O'Meara.
 
The most important aspect of the Titleist-ization of O'Meara is the golf ball. Titleist snatched O'Meara away from Spalding Sports Worldwide, for whom he was probably the most recognizable pitchman for the Strata brand of golf balls. O'Meara will play the new, solid-core Titleist Pro V1 392 model golf ball, which has drawn professional player raves since its introduction at the PGA Tour's Las Vegas event in October. O'Meara's presence will add even more experienced-player credibility to Titleist's aggressive campaign to beat back competitors' efforts to control the wound ball category and paint Titleist as a wound-ball specialist, and therefore, out of step.
 
Of course, the Pro V1 392 (the name of which will be updated for 2001) isn't Titleist's first solid-core ball. But Titleist's high-profile marketing of it prior to general release is an unmistakable sign of the 'Bring it on' philosophy Titleist has espoused since new ball companies - specifically Nike - got into the business.
 
And among all this conflict it's easy to forget that O'Meara is ending a long golf club association with TaylorMade Golf - so no more laying bricks with TaylorMade irons.
 
RULES DISHARMONY AND THE TOUR: As far as thin-faced drivers are concerned, the PGA Tour is staying the course for now.
 
During his annual 'State of the Tour' conference call with reporters Wednesday, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said that the Tour will follow the Rules of Golf that apply in the region where the relevant competition is being played. So all those drivers on the U.S. Golf Association nonconforming list would be nixed for domestic U.S. events. But if a player wanted to bring one to an overseas event, such as the British Open or one of the overseas World Golf Championships, that would be OK, because the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which does not proscribe those drivers, makes the rules in those places.
 
About a month ago, Finchem publicly encouraged the rulemaking bodies to work to harmonize equipment standards. During the conference call, he reported that both the USGA and the R&A had responded favorably to his suggestion, but that no one should expect either organization to move precipitously.
 
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?: During the conference call, background noise from the phone lines of the many reporters who had called in repeatedly interrupted the Commissioner Finchem's presentation. He soldiered on - until some caller's obviously large dog sounded off in the background with a fusillade of barks.
 
And of course, all the Commish could do was share in the hearty laughter of the reporters. (Note to Commissioner Finchem: I wasn't calling from home, I promise.)