BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — Paul Goydos remembers the first time he was asked to play in a PGA Tour event, and his RSVP was immediate.
His victory at Bay Hill in 1996 got him into the Masters and allowed him for the first time to set his own schedule. He never had much success at the Byron Nelson Championship, so he figured he would skip that one and play Colonial and Memorial, both invitationals.
“I’m playing the second round of the Masters, and Byron Nelson is sitting on a chair five feet from the tee markers. You had to take your practice swing to the side because you would hit him in the forehead,” Goydos said. “And he looks at me and goes, ‘Hey, Paul, great playing at Bay Hill. Are you coming to the Byron Nelson?’
“And I looked at him and said, ‘I am now.'”
That led some to wonder when Tiger Woods will go from the world’s No. 1 player to chief recruiter for his AT&T National.
Players typically rank quality of the golf course and the spot on the calendar as their top reasons for playing, so the lack of so many top 20 players – injuries aside – was surprising. Congressional is as good as any track in golf. The setup was close to perfect, with the rough deep enough to present problems, yet not so thick that players couldn’t try to reach the green.
One problem might have been perception. Europe had 14 players among the top 50 in the world last week, none at Congressional. Most were at the European Open, with the British Open two weeks away. And this being a Ryder Cup year, some need to get in their minimum 11 tournaments for membership purposes.
Players invariably thank Woods for making them so much money. What would happen if he asked them to play in his event? That’s hard to imagine, for no other reason that it’s not Woods’ style.
“Tiger has done a lot for this tour the last 11 years,” Goydos said. “And I think if Tiger asks you to come help him out, you’re going to come help him out. And if you don’t, you’re a nut.”
LINKS DEBUT: Brandt Snedeker will be making his British Open debut next week at Royal Birkdale, but it will not be his first time playing links golf. Snedeker jumped at the chance to play in the British Amateur in 2001 at Prestwick, where the first dozen British Opens were held.
“You used to be able to get in if you qualified for the U.S. Amateur,” he said. “I went over there one summer and had a blast. I missed out on match play, but I had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get over there to get started.”
Even better for Snedeker is that he already has arranged for a practice round with his idol, Tom Watson, the only player to win the British Open on five courses – including Royal Birkdale in 1983.
KEEP UP: PGA Tour rules official Mickey Bradley stepped inside the ropes at Congressional to urge the group of Robert Allenby, J.J. Henry and John Rollins to close the gap between them and the next group.
“We just had a ruling on the last hole,” Allenby protested.
“I know,” Bradley replied. “I’m the one who gave it.”
This stopped Allenby in his tracks, but only briefly.
“Then you should give a quicker ruling,” he said, and both men broke into laughter.
NAME GAME: Se Ri Pak inspired a nation of golfers from South Korea when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998, with players such as Inbee Park and Birdie Kim among many who consider her their role model.
But what about the men?
K.J. Choi, whose seven victories make him the most prolific Asian winner on the PGA Tour, was asked if he recalled Pak winning in 1998. Choi said he was living in Seoul and watched Pak’s playoff victory on television.
Asked if he paid close attention to the LPGA, however, Choi wore a look of confusion.
“Hard to keep track,” he said. “Too many Kims and Parks.”
The LPGA has 10 members with the last name Kim, and six with the last name Park. He didn’t bother mentioning the six Lees.
OUT OF WORK: Tiger Woods is out for the rest of the golf season, and so is caddie Steve Williams.
Caddies are a caring group, especially when it comes to their own, so it was only fitting that they take up a collection for a guy who’s player won’t be earning any more money on the PGA Tour until he recovers from reconstructive knee surgery.
Two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship, the caddies put up a sign in their trailer that said, “Steve Williams Benevolent Fund,” offering caddies a chance to donate to the cause.
For a money jar, they used a shot glass.
AHEAD OF HER TIME: LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens might have spoken too soon.
She was in the media center at Interlachen before the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open, dressed in white slacks, a white sweater and white shoes. Someone jokingly remarked that she looked to be on her way to Wimbledon.
“Let me tell you, I’d rather have our leaderboard than theirs,” Bivens said with a laugh.
Rookie of the year Angela Park was in the lead, followed by Helen Alfredsson, with defending champion Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer another shot back. Over at the All England Club, the top three seeds in the women’s bracket had failed to reach the quarterfinals for the first time at any Grand Slam in the open era.
The next day, the four names atop the leaderboard at Interlachen at one point in the final round were Park, Kim, Kim and Park.
The next weekend, Venus Williams beat sister Serena in the women’s final, and Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in what many consider to be the greatest match ever at Wimbledon.
Strawberries and cream, anyone?
DIVOTS: Stacy Lewis is off to a good start as a professional beyond her game. She received a sponsor’s exemption to Kapalua, and called the tournament office the next day to say thanks. … The PGA Tour keeps stockpiling its office with talent, the latest move enticing Jay Monahan to leave Fenway Sports Group as executive vice president to become the executive director of The Players Championship. … Robert Garrigus had a 74.5-yard advantage in driving distance over Corey Pavin at the Buick Open. But both hit 54 greens in regulation for the week, and Pavin wound up one shot ahead. … Three-time major champion Meg Mallon will be inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in February.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Because of the exchange rate, the British Open will offer more Ryder Cup points for American players than any other tournament.
FINAL WORD: “If we win, I’ll go down as having the lowest I.Q. of any genius who ever lived.” – Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger, on changes he made to the U.S. qualifying process.