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Chrysler awaiting word from Woods

BOB HARIG
Published September 25, 2003

The news continues to be positive. Wednesday, it was John Daly who said he's coming. Last week, Masters champion Mike Weir signed up. Long ago, Ernie Els, Justin Leonard, Mark O'Meara and Paul Azinger said they intended to play in the Chrysler Championship, the PGA Tour event that's just more than a month away.

But there's one name tournament director Gerald Goodman constantly is asked about, the player who could turn a nice event into the place to be Oct.30-Nov.2 at Innisbrook. Tiger Woods has not said he is playing, and that sort of non-negative news gives Goodman hope.

"I have to believe in my heart that he is coming," Goodman said. "That is what I am saying, and that is what I believe."

Woods, by far the game's biggest draw, does not typically commit to events until the week prior. The deadline is 5 p.m. on the Friday before a tournament. It's a policy Woods established as a rookie in 1996 when he committed to an event, pulled out at the last minute due to illness, then was criticized for skipping.

How seriously does he adhere to this guideline?

Woods didn't commit to next week's American Express Championship until Wednesday, a tourney the entire golf world knew he was going to play. It is a $6-million World Golf Championship event he won last year in Ireland. And he has a clinic scheduled for Tuesday on behalf of American Express in Atlanta, site of the tournament.

So don't expect any early commitments from Woods here, even though there are some signs suggesting he could play. After next week, Woods has on his schedule Disney, which he hasn't skipped since turning pro; and the Tour Championship. The Chrysler Championship, 90 minutes from his home in Orlando, is scheduled between them. If Woods cares about the PGA Tour money title and player of the year race, honors he's won the past four years, he might need the Chrysler to achieve those goals.

Though Woods has not shown any inclination to help tournaments that helped him when he needed sponsor exemptions after turning pro in 1996 (i.e. Milwaukee, Quad Cities), he might remember the favor Goodman did for him that year when the JCPenney Classic was at Innisbrook.

Woods would come only if he could play the mixed-team event with Kelli Kuehne, then an amateur. Goodman did back flips to get the LPGA to change its rules to allow her to compete, and the duo finished second on a Copperhead course that Woods said he enjoyed.

Goodman has lobbied Woods in person and been in touch with his agent at IMG, Mark Steinberg. In the meantime, Goodman has a tournament to run, one whose dynamics change considerably depending on a call Woods may or may not make.

OUTBACK'S HIRE: The Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am, the newly named Champions Tour event at the TPC of Tampa Bay, this week selected Amy Hawk to be tournament director. The 30-year-old has been director of the Music City Championship in Nashville the past three years and with the tourney the past nine.

She was in town Wednesday with her family looking for a new home and expects to begin her duties next week. In addition to selling sponsorships to an event that's less than five months away, Hawk will oversee the implementation of a pro-am format.

GRACE SELLS: Clearwater's Bobby Grace has sold his putter company to MacGregor Golf but will continue to design the clubs.

"They are going to have me be their sole putter designer for five years," Grace said.

He made a name for himself when he designed that "Fat Lady Swings" mallet putter in the early 1990s. Nick Price used the putter when he won the 1994 PGA Championship.

Cobra Golf bought the company in '97, but Grace took it back in 2000 before the recent sale to MacGregor. Though he hasn't had the corporate clout of industry giants such as Titleist, Odyssey and TaylorMade, Grace has enjoyed success getting his putter in the hands of tour players.

J.L. Lewis won the 84 Lumber Classic last weekend with a Grace belly putter, and Vijay Singh was using a Grace model the week before when he captured the John Deere Classic title.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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