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Beem in Australia to Unwind

COOLUM, Australia -- As much as Rich Beem didn't want his life to change after winning the PGA Championship in 2002, he knew it would. Just how much wasn't apparent until the golf season ended in the United States.
'This year has been such a grind,' Beem said Wednesday on the eve of the Australian PGA championship. 'Demands on your time, the expectations of other people, including myself, all greatly different from years past.'
Beem decided several months ago to head to Australia when the U.S. season ended for two Australasian tour events. Last week's first effort at the Australian Masters at Huntingdale in Melbourne ended early when he missed the cut, thanks to a wayward driver.
This week, about 1,200 miles further north in subtropical Queensland state, he's enjoying the weather and atmosphere around the Hyatt Regency resort course.
'Reminds me of Hawaii because of all the palm trees,' said Beem.
'I wanted to come to Australia and play some of the offseason events because they're fun and relaxing. I was kind of hoping it might put me in a good frame of mind for next year.'
Whatever happens next year, it should be better than 2003, at least in Beam's estimation. He picked up $2.9 million in 2002 while winning the PGA, the first major for the journeyman pro who quit golf for three years in 1995 and once sold cellular phones in Seattle, Washington.
This year, he won just over $1 million and finished 71st on the money list, with his best finish a second to Tiger Woods in the Western Open. He finished in the money in 19 of 30 tournaments and in the top 10 on five occasions.
A struggling kind of year, not surprising considering what he was going through.
'It's a totally different experience once you win a major championship,' said Beem. 'As much as I didn't want my life to change, it had to. By the end of the year, you just wonder if it's ever going to end.
'I probably spent more time on my game last year than I ever had in my life. It just got to be the point where I would eat, sleep and breathe golf. You'd wake up in the middle of the night and all of a sudden you are just thinking about a golf course, or about your swing. It's just way too much.'
He's hoping the relaxed atmosphere in Australia will be good therapy.
'This week has really done wonders for me, regardless of how I play,' he said. 'I feel much more relaxed on the golf course than I have in an awful long time. Hopefully I can get out there this week and freewheel it a bit.'
That wasn't the case last week at Huntingdale.
'I put myself in some spots with the driver that I really couldn't recover from,' said Beem. 'I didn't take advantage of any of the par-5s.'
This week, recent rain has softened the par-72 course and Beem figures 20 under could be the figure needed to win. The field includes Greg Norman, Australians Adam Scott, defending co-champions Jarrod Moseley and Peter Lonard and fellow American Chip Beck.
'I'm in my element here,' said Beem. 'I'm looking forward to putting myself in a position to win, which I didn't do last week.'
If not, so be it, says Beem.
'Unfortunately my game is still such that it leads itself to error every now and again,' he said. 'Am I disappointed? Absolutely. But that's just the way it goes.
'I know in my heart I'm a good player. Just because my performances don't say that, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.'
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