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Is Tiger next in line for Congressional Gold Medal?

Now that Arnold Palmer has been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, is Tiger Woods on deck? He is if Rep. Joe Baca (D-California) has his way.

Baca, 62, is a golf nut, who chairs the Congressional Golf Caucus, a newly-formed group of Democrats and Republicans who wish to promote golf. He had been working for more than five years to get Palmer a Congressional Gold Medal, which recognizes distinguished achievements and contributions.

For two years, he's been working on seeing to it that Woods is similarly honored. In 2007, he sponsored a bill (H.R. 1373) to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Woods.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Rory McIlroy: Coming to America?

Northern Ireland's young star Rory McIlroy made headlines Wednesday when he said that he is giving serious thought to joining the PGA Tour in 2010. Should he elect to do so, he might be subjecting himself to another round of controversy in Europe, in the manner of his having called the Ryder Cup an exhibition.

The fact is that joining the PGA Tour does not require a commitment of enough magnitude to warrant criticism in this day and age.

A PGA Tour member is required to play a minimum of 15 events, and major championships, World Golf Championship events, and the Players Championship all count toward the 15. McIlroy, 20, has played 11 PGA Tour events this year and will add a 12th at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November. He'd need only to add three tournaments to his schedule, and they could include the FedEx Cup playoff events.

Moreover, he wouldn't necessarily have to relinquish his European Tour membership. The European Tour requires 12 starts, which would include the majors and WGC events.

A schedule evenly split between the two tours would be a boon to each of them. Go for it, Rory.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

So what kind of amateur field plays in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the European Tour's equivalent of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am? A remarkably gilded one. Among American celebrities are George Lopez, Kyle MacLachlan, Marcus Allen, Maury Povich, John O'Hurley, Huey Lewis, Don Felder and Greg Kinnear. British actor Hugh Grant is also playing. Then there is Beltrán Gomez-Acebo, nephew of King Juan Carlos of Spain, former USGA executive committee member Eric Gleacher, former skiing great Franz Klammer, Sir Michael Bonallack, former secretary of the Royal and Ancient, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and a host of well-heeled businessmen from around the world. ... Read
News & Tours

Shoulder surgery for the Shark

Presidents Cup International Team Captain Greg Norman has issued a press release saying he had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday. According to Norman, "The procedure will in no way impact my responsibilities at The Presidents Cup."

Just don't expect any Tiger-like uppercut fist pumps from the Shark during the competition.

Following a 2008 season that saw Norman nearly win the British Open at Royal Birkdale after holding the 54-hole lead, 2009 hasn't brought the same kind of magic. Norman missed the cut at both the Masters and the British Open and let chances to win slip away in the final round of both the U.S. and British Senior Opens.

He said in the statement that he has been "experiencing ongoing discomfort in his right shoulder," and that the timing of the operation will allow him to return to competition for both the Australian Open and The Shark Shootout in December.

Next week's long-drive contest with U.S. captain Fred Couples in San Francisco, however, is now off.

--Alex Myers

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News & Tours

Hey, Tiger, they say the first billion is the hardest

Forbes magazine is reporting that Tiger Woods' $10 million FedEx Cup bonus put him over the the $1 billion mark in earnings (on and off the course), the first athlete to reach that plateau.

"Woods had earned a cumulative $895 million going into 2009, by our estimates, from prize money, appearance fees, endorsements, bonuses and his golf course design business," Kurt Badenhausen writes. "If you add his $10.5 million in 2009 prize money, the FedEx bonus and his take so far this year from his more than $100 million in annual off-the-course earnings, Woods' career earnings are now 10 figures."

The magazine estimates that Michael Jordan has earned $800 million since joining the NBA in 1984 and that Formula One driver Michael Schumacher has earned $700 million.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

Missed by that much (92 strokes)

Occasionally players get into the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (in this case the Pre-Qualifying Stage) who don't belong. The recent pre-qualifier at Seaside, Calif. was a case in point.

One player had rounds of 97, 95, 100 and 99 to miss advancing to the first stage of the qualifying tournament by 92 strokes. He was 38 strokes in arrears of the player directly in front of him on the leaderboard.

Aside from embarrassing, it isn't fair to those with whom he is playing, who are there attempting to secure a future in golf and have to endure playing with someone chopping it around like a 25-handicapper. (or worse).

Another player who shouldn't have been there was former Major League Baseball player Phil Nevin, who had rounds of 83, 89, 93 and 81 to miss advancing by 47 strokes. It was the second straight year he missed by a wide margin (he was off 17 strokes from advancing last year).

Meanwhile, in another pre-qualifier, Gary Nicklaus (Jack's son) and Sam Saunders (Arnold Palmer's grandson) advanced to the first stage.

-- John Strege

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News & Tours

A Benefit for Bruce Edwards

Golf Digest Contributing Editor John Feinstein blogged about the fifth annual charity golf tournament in honor of the late Bruce Edwards.

The tournament, known simply as 'The Bruce,' is hosted every year by Feinstein and Tom Watson, for whom Edwards was a longtime caddie before passing away in April of 2004. The event attracts plenty of big names, from golfers like Andy North and John Cook to college basketball coaching legends Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams, all in an effort to raise research money for ALS, the disease Edwards was first diagnosed with in 2003.

Feinstein was pleased to report that Monday's event raised approximately $350,000, which will go to The Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins University. He was even happier to write that one of Packard's scientists told a group of listeners, "There is actually -- FINALLY -- the beginnings of hope that a cure will be found."

The nearly $3 million in funds that 'The Bruce' has generated during its five years of existence certainly hasn't hurt the cause.

--Alex Myers

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News & Tours

Officials say Harding Park is on schedule for Presidents Cup

SAN FRANCISCO -- The countdown to the Presidents Cup is ticking away, and that means time is running out to make sure the greens at Harding Park Golf Course are going to be able to stand the test when the event begins next Thursday.

Both the PGA Tour and Harding's grounds staff have been playing catch-up since late July, when nine greens were damaged in an over-fertilization mistake, but with just over a week left, is there any question they won't be ready?

"We've had some thinning grass, but we've got the golf course closed now and we're starting to grow grass again," said Paul Vermeulen, the PGA Tour's agronomist who is on site at Harding and overseeing the condition of the course.

"There's a misconception that the course is going to be in championship condition this far ahead of the competition, but right now, we are where we wanted to be."

Vermeulen said that several of greens at Harding, a municipal course which sees as many as 60,000 rounds a year, had to be closed last week in order to protect them.  Rounds had been limited for the last two months, but Harding is now closed entirely until the Presidents Cup.

"We closed those greens just to give them a chance to be ready," Vermeulen said. There is a grounds crew staff of 29 working on Harding.  Most of their focus has been on the greens that were damaged July 23.  More than 300 square yards of sod was laid to repair the greens, with the most severely affected green the 200-yard par three 11th (which will play as the second hole in the re-routing for the Presidents Cup.)

Harding's condition was said to be no issue in a staff meeting Monday at PGA Tour headquarters at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

-- Thomas Bonk ... Read
News & Tours

The King Meets The President

ORLANDO -- Arnold Palmer will be at the White House on Wednesday, accepting the Congressional Gold Medal from President Barack Obama. "I think I'm gonna do it," Palmer joked Tuesday at the official re-opening of his Bay Hill Club and Lodge after major renovations.
 
Palmer, a close friend of the late former President Dwight Eisenhower and most recently Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, wryly admitted he has received tons of messages from friends to pass on to the President. Politics aside, recent American Presidents have always sidled up to The King.
 
President Clinton presented him the National Sports Award at a gala banquet in Wasington. In 2004, Presidents George W. Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Congressional Medal was first given to then General George Washington in 1776. Asked what the award meant to him, Palmer's eyes twinkled.
 
"I didn't know George Washington," Palmer said. "But if I did I'd shake his hand and say you were the first and I'm not going to be the last."
 
Palmer just survived a two-week celebration of his 80th birthday in Orlando and his home of Latrobe, Pa. One of his proudest moments was throwing an 80 MPH fastball down the middle at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. He did this after throwing a golf ball for this first pitch.
 
"Well, it was quite a birthday," Palmer said. "I won't say I'm sorry because the alternative is not so good. I got together with some old friends I don't see much anymore. We laughed and had a lot of fun."

--Tim Rosaforte ... Read
News & Tours

Jerry Rice's new game

Future NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice has turned his attention to a career in professional golf, both as an administrator and as a player.

Rice, an inveterate golfer, will serve as the host of the Nationwide Tour's Stonebrae Classic at TPC San Francisco next April, the tournament is announcing today. Moreover, Rice has accepted a sponsor exemption to play in the tournament, apparently as a professional.

Tournament proceeds will go to the Jerry Rice "127" Foundation, which supports a variety of children's charities.

-- John Strege

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