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Notes Gulbis Improving Players Marrying

Sergio Garcia turned 27 Tuesday and more than a few people noted that one more year had passed without one of golfs most promising players winning a major championship. It has also been noted by a smaller group of observers that Garcia has fallen out of the top 10 in the World Rankings.

Which brings us, in a roundabout sort of way, to Natalie Gulbis.

No, Sergio is not dating her.

Natalie Gulbis
Natalie Gulbis has 25 top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour, but no wins.
But two days before Garcias 27th birthday Gulbis turned 24. She has played golf professionally since 2002. She currently ranks No. 20 in the Rolex Womens World Golf Rankings.

And shes still looking for her first LPGA victory.

Not to worry, says her teacher and swing coach, Butch Harmon. Harmon is a tough guy when he has to be. But at the moment he sees the glass as half full for Gulbis.

The thing that pleases me the most about Natalie is that in the tournaments in which she has been close, someone else has won, Harmon says. She hasnt lost them.

Shes playing very well. Im pleased with her progress. And I think she will win multiple times this year.

Gulbis posted seven top-10s in 2006 and finished No. 16 on the money list. The big problem was with the driver. The stats dont lie. Gulbis wound up tied for 54th in fairways in regulation and tied for 77th in driving distance.

She has to hit it farther, Harmon says.

Meanwhile, he adds, Natalies also still learning how to best manage her time. Shes a very popular young lady.

Time management, Harmon said, was one of Greg Normans strengths. Harmon learned from former pupil Greg Norman and imparted many of Normans time management skills to Tiger Woods when that pair famously worked together.

Normans daughter, Morgan-Leigh, by the way, is the one dating Garcia these days.


Speaking of which, Arron Oberholser, who is hoping to defend his title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am next month, recently became engaged to LPGA player Angie Rizzo.

Oberholser is 31. Rizzo is 28.

Oberholsers people, by the way, say the back problem that forced him to withdraw from the Mercedes-Benz Championship last week is not serious.

Didnt it seem like more?

Brett Wetterich
Brett Wetterich hit the longest drive of the week at the Mercedes, 437 yards.
The final numbers from Kapalua were 12 drives of 400 yards or longer by the field for the week.

Knowing that the USGA, golf in Americas regulating rules body, pays close attention to this sort of thing, I inquired as to whether this golf ball bashing raised any eyebrows at its New Jersey headquarters.

And I was informed by Dick Rugge, the USGAs Senior Technical Director, that the corresponding 400-yard drive number was 13 last year and up into the 70s at the 2004 event at Kapalua.

So, no. No eyebrows raised.

The average driving distance at this event was 255.1 yards, Rugge observed. Last year it was 255.4. This 10-inch decrease from last year isnt going to move my needle too much, he said.

But remember, Rugge added, that this is only one event'it takes plenty more before we can spot any trend changes or be able to confirm that there are no trend changes.

The early favorite for Rookie of the Year, in the minds of many experts, is Anthony Kim. Kim, 21, also happens to be the youngest rookie on the PGA TOUR. The oldest rookie is 47-year-old Canadian Jim Rutledge.

Rutledge says one of his biggest challenges will be adjusting, on the fly, to all the new courses. Taking these golf courses and breaking them down as quickly as humanly possible because of the short time I have to do that, he said.

The smartest pick for Rookie of the Year?

Swedens Henrik Stenson.

Stenson won $582,303 on the PGA TOUR last year and is now a special temporary member which makes him a rookie off the 2006 Non-Member Money List category.

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