Notes Ode to La Costa Lehmans Rules

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- Players weren't always pampered on the PGA Tour.
There was a time when they had to buy a bag of range balls, share the cost of rental cars and even pay for their meals before tournaments started to treat them like royalty.
That's what made La Costa Resort so special.
'This was where you wanted to be,' Davis Love III said. 'They were the first ones who really made it a special week for your family, because it was a great place to stay, they treated the wives great with all the shops and spas, we had courtesy cars. You wanted to start your year at La Costa.'
The resort has been part of the PGA Tour landscape since 1969 when it hosted the Tournament of Champions. It later became the Mercedes Championships and stayed until 1999. The tournament moved to Kapalua that year, and La Costa became home to the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Now, that's about to end.
The Match Play Championship is expected to move to Tucson, Ariz., next year. If La Costa gets another professional tournament, it won't be the PGA Tour.
'It's just unfortunate they couldn't work a deal out,' said Tiger Woods, a three-time winner at La Costa. 'It has a lot of sentimental value to me.'
Memories for the current crop of players are of rain delays and flooded fairways. The first round was postponed a year ago because the ninth fairway turned into a lake; when the tournament began Thursday, the par-4 ninth was played as a par 3 the first three rounds.
As for the pampering, that has become the norm on the PGA Tour.
Love said he still will miss La Costa, especially the oil paintings of all past champions that hung on the walls in the lobby leading to the locker room. Love won in 1993 by one shot over Tom Kite.
'I think they changed artists the year I won,' he said.
Like it or not, Tiger Woods can sleep in during practice rounds at the Ryder Cup.
Woods caused a minor stir at The Belfry in 2002 when he played a practice round for the Ryder Cup at 6:30 a.m. and was finished by the time fans were allowed in the gates.
U.S. captain Tom Lehman said that won't be the case at the K Club in Ireland.
'We'll practice as a team, without question,' Lehman said last week. 'Whether it's three, foursomes or one twelvesome is yet to be seen. But we will be together. No wiggle room.'
Woods played with Mark Calcavecchia that morning, so he wasn't by himself. But Lehman believes fans who pay to see practice rounds deserve to see the best.
'Whether we tee off a bit early, or a bit later, we will play it together,' Lehman said. 'We want to make sure that the folks that are spending all of that money to buy tickets, making an effort to get there, do get to see the team play and practice.'
That means Phil Mickelson probably won't get any time off. Lefty was ridiculed at Oakland Hills in 2004 when he took Wednesday off from practice, then played an adjacent course Thursday to practice with Woods' golf ball, knowing they would be paired together the first day.
As for teeing off with all 12 players?
'I'm not kidding about that,' Lehman said. 'We will probably play a twelvesome one day and just have some fun playing alternate shot. Just all tee it up on the first tee together, and away we go.'
Colin Montgomerie is aware that a European has not won a major since Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open, and he think he knows why.
'Tiger takes two of them,' he said. 'So that only leaves two for everyone else.'
Woods has won nine of the 25 majors since Lawrie last won at Carnoustie. Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Phil Mickelson each have won two majors during that stretch.
'If you give one to Phil, Ernie (Els) and Vijay and Retief, that only leaves one, doesn't it?' he said. 'It's tough now, isn't it? If you look at it statistically, that's what should happen. So it's difficult. You've only got one to go with. And it's got to be your day, your time.'
Steve Flesch is coming off his worst year on the PGA Tour, finishing 95th on the money list. Of greater concern was pain in his right shoulder, which he described as a rubber band on the verge of snapping.
He tried to let it heal through rest, taking November off. But when he went to a charity event in Florida in December, it wasn't getting any better. The southpaw from Kentucky had an MRI on Dec. 22, and had arthroscopic surgery the next day to treat decompression in his shoulder.
'They basically cleaned it out,' Flesch said. 'There was no room for anything to move.'
Doctors told him he would be back hitting balls in three weeks, and sure enough, he played in the Bob Hope Classic.
The biggest difference?
'If I wanted to go out to the range and hit a few drivers, I had to stretch to get it loose,' Flesch said. 'Now I can start hitting right away.'
When the PGA Tour released its 2006 schedule last fall, it listed the Las Vegas Invitational on Oct. 12-15. Without any announcement, it appeared in the media guide as the Bose Championship at Las Vegas.
So, did the Las Vegas event get a new title sponsor?
Not yet.
Turns out the deal with Bose fell through after the book went to the printer, although Las Vegas is still safe.
'We're in some negotiations now and getting things moved around,' tournament chairman Charlie Baron said. 'We'll have a title sponsor squared away in a week or so.'
Kapalua announced in January that it will continue to host the season-opening event for the next four to six years. The title sponsor will stay the same, too, as Mercedes renewed its deal through 2010. ... Ian Poulter went to the Scotty Cameron studio over the weekend to sort out his putting, and watched video of Tiger Woods' stroke in slow motion -- 250 frames per second. 'It's no wonder why Tiger Woods is the best putter in the world,' he said. 'When you see his putter in slow motion, it's perfect.' ... David Duval already has seven rounds in the 60s this year, compared with four rounds in the 60s all of last year. His scoring average (70.54) is an improvement of more than five shots per round.
Five of the top 20 players in the world ranking are in their 20s, although none is an American -- Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Luke Donald, Rory Sabbatini and Henrik Stenson.
'If I play, there will be 10,000 people there. If Tiger Woods plays, there will be 100,000.' -- Stephen Ames of Trinidad & Tobago on whether he will play in the World Cup in Barbados.
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