November 27, 2007

Notes from the tours

Notes from the tours

The inaugural George Archer Stroke of Genius Pro-Am was a huge success. Held in the memory of the late 1969 Masters champion, who could not read or write beyond the third grade level, the sold-out event was held at Donald Ross-designed Peninsula Country Club in San Mateo, Calif., where Archer learned the game as a caddie. His wife, Donna, spearheaded the cause and helped raised more than $50,000 for the George Archer Memorial Fund for Literary.

Many heavy hitters contributed to the cause, including Honorary Co-Chairmen Dave Stockton, a two-time PGA champion and Jim Langley, beloved former head pro at Cypress Point Club. Stockton auctioned off a 1991 U.S. Ryder Cup poster signed by the American team he captained to victory at Kiawah Island. He sold it twice and brought in $13,000. Tiger Woods donated a signed golf glove that went for $3,500.

Arguably the most impressive aspect of the tournament was the individual hole sponsors, who included Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Bob Goalby, Peter Jacobsen, Larry Laoretti, Charles Schwab and Sandy Tatum. That’s some serious signage. Kelsey and Dick Ferris sponsored a short game clinic conducted by Stockton. Archer, who passed away in 2005, won 12 times on the PGA Tour and 20 times on the Champions Tour.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem made a recent site visit to The Institute Golf Course in Morgan Hill, Ca. about 20 miles south of San Jose, with Brett Quigley and Dustin Johnson to scout the course for a future PGA Tour event. The ultra-private layout is owned by Fry’s Electronics CEO John Fry. The greens, which rival Augusta National in speed and contour, were running about 15 on the Stimpmeter.

In 2007, they were 99 millionaires on the PGA Tour and it took $785,180 (Mathias Gronberg) to crack the top 125. The stakes have increased in 2008. With one official event remaining, there are 102 millionaires. Jeff Overton owns the precious 125th spot with $840,809.

Fred Funk has played both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour the last two years, and says he’ll continue to split time on the two circuits in 2009. “I just don’t want to walk away as long as I feel I can still play,” said the 52-year-old Funk. “I’m not trying to prove anything – I just really enjoy playing with the young guys out there.”

John Cook thinks he’s crazy not to play full-time on the Champions Tour. “I like Fred and I think he’s nuts,” Cook said. “I don’t know what the attraction is. There’s only two or three times a year where you feel like this is the week that I have a chance.”

The statistics back him up. Funk has made seven of 14 cuts on the PGA Tour this year and won $257,283, his best showing a tie for 10th at the Sony Open. On the Champions Tour, he posted two wins, nine Top 10’s and finished third on the money list with more than $1.8 million. You do the math.

Give Sergio Garcia an assist for convincing rising U.S. stars Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim to join the European Tour. “They asked me a couple things, and I told them, you know, how the Tour is – everything seems to be a little bit more relaxed in Europe,” said Garcia. “Don’t get me wrong, when we go out there, we are all trying our hardest and we are all trying to win. But outside of that, everything seems to be a little bit more relaxed. You know, the interaction with the players, I think it’s a little bit looser here. You get along and have dinners and all of those kind of things.”

Of course, Villegas and Kim were also lured by the season-ending “Race to Dubai.” The top 60 players will compete for a share of a $10 million bonus pool.

Davis Love III saw his streak of eight-consecutive rounds in the 60s snapped after shooting a first-round 75 at the Ginn sur Mer Classic. Love, coming off major ankle surgery last year, still has a chance to extend his PGA Tour mark of 13-straight years for winning at least $1 million with a strong performance this week at the Children’s Miracle Network Classic. Love starts the week at $867,737.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: In case you missed it: Kevin Stadler missed the cut at the recent Frys.com Open in Arizona by shooting 81-61 … Tough week for Champions Tour finale in Sonoma, Calif. A rain-out Saturday, followed by Andy Bean’s spellbinding nine-stroke victory Sunday ... Pebble Beach Golf Links has begun the process of converting its rough to ryegrass.

MUST-SEE: Former LPGA player-turned-award-winning golf photographer Joann Dost has opened a new golf lifestyle gallery across from the Monterey Airport in Monterey, Ca. In addition to her amazing work, she will also rotate photos and art exhibits from Monterey Peninsula contributors.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “They’re like high school kids.” Scott McCarron, who attended the wedding of Greg Norman and former tennis star Chris Evert. McCarron says the couple couldn’t be happier.

Contributing Editor Mark Soltau is a tour correspondent for Golf Digest. He can also be read at tigerwoods.com.