Back Spin

Back Spin

Suzann Pettersen donned traditional Korean garb after making the wind-shortened (to 36 holes) Hana Bank Kolon Championship, in Gyeongju, her fourth win of the season.
Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA

It’s no secret that two of Tiger Woods‘s best friends in golf are fellow Isleworth residents Mark O’Meara and John Cook, both of whom made their debuts on the Champions tour this year (O’Meara on Feb. 18 and Cook on Oct. 12).

Two weeks ago O’Meara led going into the final round of the Administaff Small Business Classic when, he says, he got a late-Saturday-night text message from Woods telling him to “go ahead and win the blankety-blank golf tournament.” O’Meara tried, but wound up second to Bernhard Langer.

At last week’s AT&T Championship in San Antonio, O’Meara again shared the lead heading into the final round, but this time no Woods pep talk came across his cellphone. “The gratitude of that kid after all I did for him,” O’Meara said, joking. Text or not, O’Meara said he would still draw on Woods’s friendship as he sought his first Champions tour win.

“I had won plenty of times before I ever met Tiger, but I learned the value of self-belief and drive from him,” says O’Meara, who won his first major title, the 1998 Masters, when he was 41. “He always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe I could be a major champion.” Of course, Woods also believes in a little friendly harassment.

“I know he wonders why I haven’t won before now, but it’s like I tell him, it’s not as if I’m not trying,” says O’Meara. He will have to keep trying, since he shot a final-round 69 to finish second again.

Who won? Cook, by closing with a six-under 65, which raised another question: Did he receive a text from Tiger? The answer: no.

• Tiger Woods had a great year, and Lorena Ochoa won seven times, but the unofficial award for best season may go to the UNC Charlotte 49ers, who have won three times in three tries this fall and are ranked No. 1. The team was a perennial Division I also-ran until four years ago, when coach Jamie Green signed on.

A protege of Dick Gordin, for whom he played at Ohio Wesleyan, Green had been an assistant at North Carolina, Auburn and Dartmouth and brought a philosophy of success with him. “Every tournament is up in the air for playing time,” he says. “[Our players] have to qualify for every tournament. That motivates guys to play hard and practice.” It’s working. Since Green arrived, the 49ers have competed in 38 tournaments and have 29 top fives, including 14 victories.

That has helped recruiting too; witness sophomore Corey Nagy, a Charlotte native who passed up several traditional powers to play for his hometown team. This week the 49ers will be at the Callaway Match Play in Greensboro, Ga., to go for their fourth straight W, a possibility that stokes Green’s inner Vince Lombardi. “Everybody wants to win,” he says, “but not everybody has the will to do what it takes. I do, and I hold my guys accountable for accomplishing it.”

• Tough times for the Wies. Stanford is requiring Michelle to pay the student rate, $25 per round, to play the school’s course and charging her parents a cart fee every time they tag along.