Tour and News

Backspin: Hoch storms the Champions tour

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Eight-time world surfing champ Kelly Slater, a three handicap, ended his Saturday at Pebble Beach by hitting the waves off the 18th. Slater and Pat Perez finished 12th in the pro-am.

Can Lightning strike the same Champions tour event twice? It did last week when a storm rolled through Boca Raton, Fla., on Saturday night at the Allianz Championship and a bolt from the heavens zinged the Golf Channel compound. The flash caused so much damage that only hours before the 1 p.m. Sunday telecast producers still weren't sure if they would make it on the air. Fortunately, they patched the system back together — minus some bells and whistles — because the final round was electric. High winds and nine players bunched within three shots of the lead created a shootout.

Thirteen guys shot four under or better, but Scott Hoch, who was three down with eight holes to play, provided the biggest jolt, making five birdies on the way in, including on the last two holes, to finish at 202 and win by a single shot.

The record 10-shot Pebble Beach Pro-Am victory by Fredrik Jacobson and 61-year-old amateur Bill Walters, the owner of Walters Golf in Las Vegas, had a few people scratching their heads. Walters, an 11 handicap, earned 34 of the team's 38-under total, but when he said he had once won a $550,000 Nassau, some folks wondered if he was really an amateur.

Not a problem, says the USGA. The rules on amateurism state that "there is no objection to informal gambling or wagering among individual golfers or teams of golfers when it is incidental to the game," although one of the caveats is that "the amount of money involved is not generally considered to be excessive." Is a $550,000 Nassau excessive? Asked for clarification, a USGA spokesman said, "In effect, there is no monetary limit for gambling between players in the same group. If two billionaires want to play a match for $1 million, why should we care?"

USGA executive director David Fay hedged his bet. "For me, a $100 Nassau would be seriously excessive," he said. "Hell, I'd gag at playing a $5 Nassau. But excessive is subjective."

LPGA player Hye Jung Choi says that she'll go by her initials, H.J., giving pro golf an H.J. Choi and a K.J. Choi. The two, both from South Korea, are not related, but they're easily connected with an I.J. and a J.J. ... After an 18-month absence, Jonathan Kaye dipped a toe back into the PGA Tour pool. Kaye finished 135th on the '06 money list and lost his card. He won it back at Q school, but four days after that event he had surgery to repair an injured toe on his right foot, which caused him to miss all of '07. Kaye finished 53rd ($13,824) at Pebble. "I'm ecstatic," Kaye said. "This is my first paycheck since Q school." His last official money came at the Tour stop in Las Vegas in October '06, when he finished 81st and won $7,080. ... Mike Hulbert feels Kaye's pain. He lost his card in 1999, but he, too, found his way inside the ropes at Pebble Beach — caddying for Davis Love III. Hulbert is waiting for April, when he'll turn 50 and move to the Champions tour. Last week, when a friend asked him, "Shouldn't you be working on your game?" Hulbert answered, "I am, mentally."

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