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Nissan Open challenge for Woods

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- First, it was Phil Mickelson who called out Tiger Woods by suggesting he used inferior equipment.

This week, the challenge comes from a tournament: the Nissan Open, which begins today.

The 1992 Nissan was the first PGA Tour event Woods played, when he was 16. It remains the only tournament he has played at least five times without winning.

"You don't think he's aware of that?" Mark O'Meara said Wednesday. "I think he's looking forward to this."

The timing couldn't be better. Riviera Country Club is a little bit longer than the last time Woods played it two years ago, which always helps. Plus, he is coming off a dominant performance in the Buick Invitational, winning by four strokes.

Asked why he has never won the Nissan, Woods said: "I don't know. It's just about getting the right breaks at the right time and playing good. That helps."

MORE FROM MICKELSON: Mickelson isn't playing this week, but he still managed to raise the issue of Woods' equipment again.

During a conference call for the Ford Championship March 6 at Doral, Mickelson said he should not have said Woods used inferior equipment -- but added he was right.

"What kills me is that all of you guys that printed it and found it easy to lay into me -- none of you admitted the accuracy of my statement," said Mickelson, who routinely hit the ball farther than Woods during their final round at Torrey Pines on Sunday.

"When I try to be honest and upfront and give a little insight, I get reamed for it," Mickelson said. "I don't know what else to say other than the only guy to win with other than the (Titleist) Pro V1x ball is Tiger."

Woods uses a Nike Golf ball.

MASTERS MOVEMENT: Groups planning to protest the all-male membership of Augusta National Golf Club during this year's Masters will have to apply for a permit at least 20 days in advance under a revised local ordinance. The Augusta-Richmond County Commission, which had been deadlocked in two previous ballots, voted 6-5 in favor of the policy on the basis of public safety. Augusta Mayor Bob Young, who abstained previously, broke the tie Tuesday.

"It looks to me to be a clear ploy to restrict free speech," said Martha Burk, president of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

The old ordinance, which simply gave the sheriff authority to approve or deny permits, may not have withstood a court challenge, Augusta city attorney Sparticus Heyward said.

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