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For busy players, cups runneth over

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 26, 2000


LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The International team that lost to the United States on Sunday at the Presidents Cup understandably wants another shot at the Americans. And the Internationals want to play a team at its best.

But when the competition moves in South Africa in 2002, it remains to be seen whether the top players make the trip.

Australians Greg Norman and Steve Elkington suggested that the Americans owe it to the game to play in the Presidents Cup, no matter when, no matter where.

"I don't believe that," said Scott Hoch, who was not part of the U.S. team this year. "Gosh, we play so much now. And it is a burden on the U.S. players, because we have this every year, whether it's the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. And we don't have an off year like the other guys (Europeans for the Ryder Cup, Internationals for the Presidents Cup) do.

"I don't think anybody should be obligated. It makes it tough. I realize it's a world championship and it needs to spread around. But you have 22 of the 24 guys who play here in this U.S. on our (PGA) Tour. Shoot, why don't they have it in Orlando? Half of them live here. It would make things a lot easier."

The biggest blow would be to not have the best player in the world. And Tiger Woods is not on board, at least not yet.

"Our calendar year is getting pretty saturated, it's pretty full," Woods said. "Where do I put a few more here and there without compromising what I want to do in these big ones?"

Woods is in the midst of an eight-week stretch of golf. He played in last weekend's Presidents Cup, followed by the last three official PGA Tour events -- National Car Rental Golf Classic, Tour Championship and American Express Invitational. Then he has four off-season events: the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand, the Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii, the Williams World Challenge, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, and the World Cup in Argentina.

"I play all around the world, and that's one of the things I love to do," Woods said. "I find it very ironic. ... I probably should not say it ... but I find it very ironic that Greg would be the one to say that, when he's not going to go down and support the Match Play in his own country."

The World Golf Championship match-play event is scheduled for the first week of January in Norman's native Australia. Norman is skipping the tournament because of two previously scheduled trips Down Under.

Woods is skipping the event, too, choosing to start the 2001 season at the Mercedes Championships in Hawaii.

BUICK PLEASED: The inaugural Tampa Bay Classic at the Westin Innisbrook Resort received high marks from the players, who loved the course, and Buick, which comes on board in 2001 as the presenting sponsor of the event. After two years going up against the American Express Invitational in September, the hope is that the tournament will secure its own dates and be part of a mini-Florida swing in October leading up to the Tour Championship.

"Most of our people were there over the weekend, and we thought the tournament came off very well," said Jim McGovern, the director of Buick golf marketing. "We'll still be an opposite event for two years, but we want to milk it for as much as we can, then someday get a full-blown event with our own dates."

Decisions will hinge on the tour's negotiations with television networks. No tournament dates are official beyond 2002.

LPGA LOSING JCPENNEY?: In less than three months, the LPGA Tour is scheduled to open its 2001 season in Orlando with the JCPenney After School Open. But the JCPenney Co. apparently wants out. Citing its struggling retail business, JCPenney will honor its obligation toward the $1-million purse in 2001 but sever other ties. That leaves the LPGA scrambling to save the event. JCPenney had sponsored the mixed-team Classic in the Tampa Bay area for 23 years before opting to go solely with the LPGA.

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