PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) The most nervous Annika Sorenstam ever felt on a golf course was standing on the 10th tee at Colonial in 2003 when she became the first female in 45 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
Ian Baker-Finch might be able to understand how she felt.
The 48-year-old Australian, a past champion at Colonial, has entered the Crowne Plaza Invitational, which begins May 28. This will be the 20-year anniversary of his victory at Colonial, but only his second time to compete in the last 12 years.
“I turn 50 in a couple of years and I want to see where I am, whether it’s worth putting extra effort into playing a bit,” Baker-Finch said Tuesday. “I’d be an addition to the field as a past champion, so if I did shoot a bad score, I wouldn’t feel bad about taking a place.”
Why the nerves?
Baker-Finch, a television commentator for the last decade who now works for CBS Sports, has not played tournament golf in eight years, going 74-77 at Colonial to miss the cut. Most people recall his return to the British Open as a former champion when he played at Royal Troon in 1997 and shot 92 before he withdrew.
He has considered playing a couple of times over the years, but was cautious because of what happened at Troon, playing with an ailing back, nowhere to hide before thousands of fans.
But he’ll still be nervous.
“I’m out of my league now,” he said. “I call the golf and still play well, but it’s different when you play a tour event. I’m a little apprehensive how my form would be. I have no visions of grandeur.”
His one wish is that the PGA Tour will consider grouping past champions together at tournaments where they can still play, such as Colonial and the Memorial.
Baker-Finch said Colonial officials have embraced the idea, and he is hopeful the PGA Tour would go along with it.
“I really think it would add some spice to the event,” he said. “You add groupings of past champions, there’s extra spice, more of a media angle. I think it would be good for the tournament. And the older guys are going to be more comfortable playing with each other. I’m not sure I want to get drawn with two young guys that hit it 340 yards.”
Baker-Finch said depending on how the Colonial goes, he might consider returning to play the British Open next year at St. Andrews.
GOYDOS AND DRUG TESTING: Paul Goydos last year illustrated the difference between him and Tiger Woods when he said that Woods was trying to win 18 majors and “I’m trying to play in 18 majors.”
But he has one major distinction Woods can’t match – first player to be tested for drugs at a major.
“I shot a 74, nothing special,” he said. “I hadn’t made a cut at a major in 10 years, since the ’99 PGA Championship, and I was the first one tested at a major championship.”
Drug testing became a topic last week after Los Angeles Dodgers star Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games. The PGA Tour wasn’t looking for a spokesman on the issue when it asked Goydos to speak Thursday night at a corporate function, but it might have found one.
Goydos has his own take on what constitutes “performance enhancing drugs,” arguing that glasses help a player’s performance. But he pointed out to reporters, and later during his Q&A with Jeld-Wen clients, that drug testing shouldn’t be an issue in golf.
“Do you know the rules of golf?” he said. “Our second rule says to be a good sport, treat competitors fairly and leave the course better than you found it. It’s not the 50th rule. It’s the second. We don’t cheat. We call penalties on ourselves. Golf is all about integrity.”
He said drug testing is the “only rule in golf in which we’re not policing ourselves.”
Goydos is not about to join a speaker’s circuit, and he said he agreed to the corporate function at The Players Championship only if he didn’t have to give a speech.
“If I had to entertain these people without them being involved, not good,” he said. “If they want to do a Q&A, I can be pretty good.”
COUPLES FUTURE: Fred Couples turns 50 in October and will make his Champions Tour debut later this year. As for the future, he plans to keep full membership on the Champions Tour, and he has an idea what his schedule will look like without even looking.
And while he doesn’t know the schedule, he kept it simple, as always.
“The Senior Open is in Seattle, and there’s a tournament in Seattle,” he said. “A couple in California – that’s four. One in Houston and San Antonio late in the year – that’s six. Five majors – that’s 11. And I believe I have to play 12, and that’s my goal.”
He counted the U.S. Senior Open twice, but not to worry.
“I could get in as a pick for Hualalai,” he added, referring to the season-opener in Hawaii. “I think the Senior Skins is the next week, and Jay (Haas) and I are going to be partners. Can you believe that?”
That made him think of something else, and he snapped his fingers and grinned.
“Oh, Jay and I are playing the Legends of Golf,” he said. “That’s 12.”
DIVOTS: Having now played more than 21 rounds this year, Tiger Woods made his debut in the PGA Tour statistics. He is No. 1 in scoring average at 69.13, more than a half-stroke better than David Toms. … The bright side of missing the cut at The Players Championship was that Paul Goydos was able to spend Mother’s Day at home with his two daughters. Their mother, ex-wife Wendy, died in January. “There was a piece of me that thought it was a good thing that I was home,” he said. “And I was right.” … Danny Lee has accepted a sponsor’s exemption to the John Deere Classic, held a week before the British Open. … The third round of the LPGA event last week at Kingsmill had to give way on ESPN2 for the opening round of the NCAA Lacrosse Championship featuring Brown against Johns Hopkins. For the record, Johns Hopkins won in an overtime thriller.
STAT OF THE WEEK: With his three-way tie for second in the Italian Open, John Daly moved up 343 spots in the world ranking. He now is No. 451.
FINAL WORD: “I don’t think I could play unless I was trying to get better.” – Padraig Harrington.