By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000
Next week's Presidents Cup is nearly upon us, but don't feel bad if it snuck up on you. The golf world is not exactly hyperventilating with anticipation. Neither are the American players.
It's understandable. After the emotion-packed atmosphere of the Ryder Cup, especially last year's thrilling final-day comeback by the Americans over the Europeans, this copycat event has difficulty generating the same kind of enthusiasm.
The American team that will take on an international squad basically will be the same one that defeated the Europeans.
Not even the Americans suffering a 201/2 to 111/2 drubbing in Australia in 1998 -- the worst U.S. loss in any cup, amateur or professional -- is stoking the competitive fires.
Perhaps it is because the Presidents Cup is one event too many. Top American players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval conceivably could be on a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team every year.
"That's what they face, and that could be too much," said Bradenton's Paul Azinger, an at-large selection of U.S. captain Ken Venturi, who has competed in three Ryder Cups. "Tom Kite said he played on seven Ryder Cup teams and that (the intensity) might have been different if he had to play on 14."
For the Americans, the Presidents Cup is more of a relief from the pressures of the Ryder Cup.
"I don't want to say it, but the press, the fans, the people involved in the tournament want us to go head-to-head, just bash each other's brains out," said Woods, who will compete in the Presidents Cup for the second time. "But it's just meant to be fun. It's a gentlemen's game and should be played that way."
Said Davis Love III: "It's not quite the pressure of the Ryder Cup. But still, we don't want to lose."
Nonetheless, Azinger said, it is more difficult to get fired up to compete against players he sees all the time. Many of the international players -- unlike the majority of the European Ryder Cup team -- play on the PGA Tour and live in the United States.
"I'd rather play a bunch of guys I don't like, like it used to be," Azinger said.
LOCALLY: One of Florida's premier amateur events takes place this weekend, the 18th annual Invitational de Avila. The 54-hole event begins Friday at Avila Golf & Country Club. Lutz's Joe Alfieri will attempt to win his third straight title. Other past champions in the field of some 90 players include Tampa's Doug LaCrosse, Tampa's Wayne Rudzewicz and Melbourne's Rick Luzar. ... The Dave Pelz Scoring Game Tour continues through this weekend at the Westin Innisbrook Resort. Pelz, the noted short-game guru, has a series of one-day clinics that run through Sunday. Each six-hour clinic consists of a three-hour putting session and a three-hour wedge session. The student-teacher ratio is 6-to-1, with a maximum class size of 18. The fee is $350 per student. To enroll, call (800) 735-9868.
SENSE OF HUMOR: Give Woods credit for showing his lighter side. At his recent Tiger Jam III, a fundraising concert in Las Vegas, Woods addressed a group of pre-teens and said: "The best year in my life was when I was 11. I got straight A's, had two recesses a day, had the cutest girlfriend and won 32 tournaments that year. Everything's been downhill since."
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.
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