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Jack, Tiger in a dead heat in the majors after five years

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2001

When it comes to measuring the majors, the records of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are nearly identical through their first years as a pro.

Woods was on a faster pace until he finished this year by failing to get into contention in the last three majors. As a result, he has six majors -- same as Nicklaus -- after his first 20 as a professional.

Each of them completed the career Grand Slam, although Woods needed only 15 majors while Nicklaus got his slam in his 19th. Each went through one year in which they failed to win a major.

Nicklaus had 13 finishes in the top 10, while Woods had 12.

MONSTER TIGER: Hale Irwin believes the popularity of Tiger Woods is getting out of hand.

''A monster has been created,'' Irwin said after a clinic in Knoxville, Tenn. ''It's a huge monster, too.

Irwin, who won 20 times and three U.S. Opens before moving to the Senior Tour, said Woods' appearance in tournaments gets more attention than those who win.

''If you pick up a newspaper today, it's going to say the golf ratings are down because Tiger wasn't in contention,'' he said. ''I just think that's placing too much emphasis on Tiger as a huge importance in the game.

"Even Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer weren't that big, and I don't see Tiger being bigger than either one of those.''

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TOUGH CALLS: U.S. captain Curtis Strange said the toughest call he had to make when informing the players who didn't make the Ryder Cup team was to Tom Lehman.

Not only had Lehman played on the last three teams and finished just outside the top 10 in the Ryder Cup standings, he and his wife are still dealing with a stillborn child.

''We didn't talk long,'' Strange said. ''He was disappointed, but very professional.''

Strange has been on both ends of such phone calls. Tom Watson called him in 1993 to tell him he was taking Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins as his captain's picks. The conversation went something like this:

''Curtis?''

''Yeah.''

''You're out.''

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BOOTIES: Mark Calcavecchia, back on the Ryder Cup team for the first time in 10 years, feels as though he still has plenty more to accomplish in his career. Still, at 41 he is starting to feel the aches and pains.

Among the ailments is plantar fasciitis in his heel, and he has been wearing a boot cast when he goes to bed at night the past six weeks to keep his calf and heel flexed.

''I'm trying to do the best that I can with my feet, but walking around with sore feet is no fun,'' Calcavecchia said. ''Hopefully, that will go away eventually. If not, I may not even feel my foot at the Ryder Cup (because) I'll have so much cortisone in it.''

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MOVING ON: Beth Bauer, Angela Buzminski of Canada and Jung Yeon Lee of Korea earned their LPGA Tour cards for next season by finishing in the top three on the money list on the Futures Tour.

The seven players behind them on the money list are exempt into the final stage of the LPGA qualifying tournament, Oct. 10-13 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Six of the top 10 on the money list were international players.

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COUPLES WINDING DOWN: Fred Couples hasn't won since 1998 and hasn't finished in the top 10 all year. The PGA Championship was only the second cut he made in the majors this year, and now he is talking about retirement.

Couples turns 42 in October, and this summer told captain Curtis Strange he was not even thinking about a late push to make the Ryder Cup team.

''I don't want people thinking that I'm not trying and being a poor sport about it and giving up,'' Couples said. ''I've been out here for 21 years, and you can see sometimes the writing on the wall. I don't want to play golf just to come out and play.''

The other option is to work harder on his game, and Couples said he might do that from now until the end of the year. He remains one of the most gifted players in golf, and perhaps one of the biggest underachievers.

''Retirement only comes if I play like this next year,'' he said. ''Then, I would probably be finished. It's not because I'm giving up. I just don't feel like I can go through the grind to be a better player.''

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KING OF THE 'HOOD: Mark O'Meara says everyone's got it all wrong.

''I was the first one to move into Isleworth,'' he said of the neighborhood outside Orlando, Fla., that athletes like Tiger Woods and Ken Griffey Jr. call home.

''People say, 'Hey, there's Mark O'Meara. He lives in Tiger's development.' No. That's not the way it is,'' O'Meara said. ''Tiger lives in my development.''

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DIVOTS: Tickets for next year's U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y., sold out at 42,500 a day as soon as the application deadline expired July 31. That marks the 16th straight sellout for the U.S. Open, starting with Olympic Club in 1987. ... Starting with a 67 in the first round of the PGA, Nick Faldo held out hope of winning his seventh major and making the Ryder Cup team. It ended with a 74 in the second round. ''This was going to be my last-ditch attempt to get on the side,'' he said. ''Now I'm in the ditch.'' ... One year after his great duel with Tiger Woods, Bob May was the only player at the PGA Championship who failed to break par in any of the four rounds. ... Eleven of the past 14 winners of the PGA Championship never had won a major. The exceptions are Nick Price (1994) and Tiger Woods (1999, 2000).

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods played his last three major championships in 1-over par. He played his previous three majors in 53-under par.

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FINAL WORD: ''Scott Hoch is the kind of guy you want on your team -- with a muzzle once in a while.'' -- Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange.



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