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Genuity Championship starting its run at Doral

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2001


MIAMI -- The tournament never has been played under the present name, and yet it will celebrate its 40th anniversary today.

Since 1962, the PGA Tour has come to south Florida each spring for an event at the Doral Resort. But for the first time, Doral no longer is part of the tournament's name.

For fans who grew accustomed to Doral as the real start to the season, the beginning of the run to the Masters ... well, it's just going to take a little getting used to.

It will be called the Genuity Championship -- Genuity is an Internet services provider -- and will offer a $4.5-million purse, an increase from $3-million last year. It is one of 18 tour events with a purse of $4-million or more.

And the event nearly vanished.

After 40 years at the same course, 30 years being run by one family, and just two corporate sponsors, the tournament was in for quite a jolt last year when Ryder elected not to continue its involvement.

The owners of Doral threatened to evict the tournament if the Doral name wasn't included when a new sponsor was chosen. Genuity demanded naming rights over Doral's objections, and only after much discussion did the Doral owners agree.

"Our role will be more as a host -- as it is with the Franklin Templeton Shootout and the Office Depot (other events at Doral) -- than as a partner," said Joel Paige, Doral's president. "We are disappointed the Doral name won't be in the tournament's official name. We think there will be a tradition missing, but we don't think it will impact the overall success of the event. We're okay with it. We think it will be a great event."

HEADED TO AUGUSTA?: Jack Nicklaus will not completely commit to next month's Masters, although it appears he will play in the tournament for a 42nd time. "I haven't said I am not going to play for sure or not," Nicklaus said Wednesday. "I can't imagine I am not going to play. But my feeling has always been I am not going to clutter up the field if I can't play. ... If I feel like I can play halfway decent and feel like I can be presentable, then I will go play Augusta."

Nicklaus is playing at Doral for the 38th time. He is considering playing at Bay Hill in two weeks, or the senior event in San Jose. Looks like he's trying to get ready for the Masters.

CANADA IN SOUTH CAROLINA: The Golf Channel continues its innovative approach to telecasting Canadian Tour events this week at the Barefoot Classic, where four players who have been given sponsors exemptions will have a special microphone. Players were given the exemptions with the stipulation they would participate, communicating to the audience about course setup, shot and club selection and strategy. The Golf Channel has a 10-year contract to telecast Canadian Tour events. The tour began its season last week with the first of four straight events in the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area.

"Because all we do is golf ... what that affords us, we think, is pretty good insight to what golfers and golf viewers would like to see," said David Manougian, the Golf Channel's chief operating officer. "We're able to stay in touch with our viewers pretty well and we're pretty sure this is something that the viewer is going to be interested in. This delivers an experience without getting in the way of the game."

Among those participating are former U.S. Amateur champion Matt Kuchar, Robert Floyd and Steve Scott.

AROUND GOLF: Here's one clue why Tiger Woods has failed to win this year. Last year, he led six of the statistical categories. This season, he is in the top 10 in just two -- sixth in scoring (69.69) and ninth in driving distance (287.4). ... Robert Allenby's victory at the Nissan Open was his third on the PGA Tour, all in playoffs. He is 7-0 worldwide in playoffs. Jeff Sluman, one of Allenby's victims in Los Angeles, is 0-6 in playoffs. ... For the first time since 1994, there were no multiple winners on tour heading into the Florida swing. ... The Future of Golfers Conference is set for March 11-15 in Tempe, Ariz., with an impressive list of golf industry leaders scheduled to participate. The four-day conference will be hosted by Arizona State University's GREAT (Golf Research Education and Training) program and is an interim conference planned to supplement the World Scientific Congress of Golf's four-year meetings. The aim of the conference is to bring together the game's leading players, coaches, instructors and scientists.

QUOTABLE: Nicklaus, on the fitness craze in golf. "I haven't even heard of body fat. All I have heard of was fat."

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

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