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Harrington still wants his hand on the claret jug

                                                                                                                                                                                    THE TOUR Championship by Coke 2007 LogoATLANTA – British Open champion Stewart Cink decided to thank East Lake for giving him an honorary membership 13 years ago when he was just starting out on the PGA Tour by bringing the claret jug to display in the clubhouse during the Tour Championship.

The former owner of the jug decided to play a prank.

Cink had the claret jug in its silver suitcase outside his locker Tuesday. To most people, the nondescript suitcase looks like it might hold audio equipment, perhaps even a musical instrument.

Padraig Harrington, who won the British Open the previous two years, knows better. He saw the familiar case and stashed it in his locker. Cink realized it was missing when he returned upstairs after registering, looked in his locker, then figured the PGA Tour Productions crew had taken it downstairs for their interview.

“I assumed they had gotten it and put it on their set,” Cink said. “I said, ‘So you guys already have the claret jug?’ And they said, ‘No.”’

Was he worried? Not for long.

The locker room attendant came over and told Cink, “I think Mr. Harrington played a joke on you.”

“I think Harrington walked in and saw the case – not the jug, but the case,” Cink said. “A lot of people don’t know what’s in there. He knew. … Before I could think that it was gone, they told me where it was. I wish it was more dramatic.”

Cink said the jug has been in his kitchen, but that he would keep it at East Lake for a few weeks. Bobby Jones grew up at East Lake and won the British Open three times.

“This clubhouse is like a Bobby Jones golf history museum,” Cink said. “With the claret jug in there, the actual one, I think it’s fitting.”

As for Harrington?

“He only had it for two years, so he wanted to have it just a little bit longer,” Cink said. “I’ve only had it for two months.”

LPGA SEARCH: The LPGA is moving closer to finding a new commissioner to replace Carolyn Bivens, with USGA chief business officer Pete Bevacqua and WNBA president Donna Orender atop the short list.

Bevacqua, managing director of the U.S. Open before taking over as USGA’s business officer already has gone through part of the interview process. Orender, a former broadcast executive with the PGA Tour whose WNBA contract expires this year, was at the Samsung World Championship last week in San Diego.

Golfweek Magazine reported that Jon Podany, senior vice president of business development at the PGA Tour, and Jeffrey Pollack, commissioner of the World Series of Poker, also are being considered.

All indications are that the LPGA is trying to have a new commissioner in place for its season-ending LPGA Tour Championship the week of Oct. 16 in Houston. Marty Evans, who took over when Bivens was ousted, has said she doesn’t want the job.

SLOW PLAY POLICY: The PGA Tour’s fine structure for slow play might eventually get the attention of even those who can afford it.

The tour’s new pace-of-play policy began in 2003, and one of the components was a $20,000 fine for the 10th time during the season that a player was put on the clock.

In a policy change for this year that was not announced, the tour now is going after repeat offenders.

According to the player handbook, anyone put on the clock 10 times for a $20,000 fine will face double the amount – $40,000 – if he gets put on the clock 10 times the following year. And after that, the amount continues to double. If a player is timed on 10 occasions a third straight year, the fine goes to $80,000.

Whether any player has been docked double – or faces such a fine – is not known. The tour keeps that list private.

DIVOTS: Henry Hughes is retiring next year after 25 years at the PGA Tour. Hughes was executive director of The Players Championship during its greatest growth, and spent 10 years as the tour’s chief of operations, in which he was in charge of competition. … Suzann Pettersen will join Natalie Gulbis and Cristie Kerr as the LPGA team in the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, to be played Nov. 10 at Rio Secco in Las Vegas. … In a statistical oddity, Tiger Woods’ victory at the BMW Championship was his first this year when he began the tournament with a morning tee time Thursday.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods has been a runner-up at the Tour Championship three times, the most of any PGA Tour event.

FINAL WORD: “Under all those layers of apparently lack of caring, he does not want to lose.” – Stewart Cink, on Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples.