Some people say golf isn't even a sport. A game they say, played by non-athletes who can do nothing else but hit a ball in a hole. I can see part of that. I've always contended that if you took a person who has inherent athletic skills, good hand-eye coordination and a desire to learn, you could make them a scratch player if that was all they worked on for a year or so.<p><A HREF="http://www.samsportsline.com" target="new"><IMG SRC="http://images.ibsys.com/2000/0824/54122.gif" WIDTH="200" HEIGHT="100" ALT="Sam's Sportsline" ALIGN="RIGHT" HSPACE="10" VSPACE="5" BORDER="0"></a>Golf has become such a different kind of endeavor in the last 20 years. As the money grew, the players became more serious about the game, kept their bodies in better shape and practiced harder. The biggest complaint from the over-40 set in professional golf in the last two decades hasn't been about anything on the course. They don't like the locker room any more. Too many agents, too many briefcases, and too many pagers, not enough scotch, beer and card games. They were looking forward to the Senior Tour so they could have a cocktail with somebody, anybody, without a bunch of arched eyebrows scouring their bellies.<p>There are famous stories about Tom Weiskopf showing up on the first tee on Friday wearing the same clothes he wore on Thursday. Apparently something he learned from Raymond Floyd. If that happened these days, the player would be hustled off the course for some kind of counseling and put in a rehab, immediately.<p>Nobody on tour is acting like that anymore. It's not even the middle of March and eight players have already won more than $1 million. Joe Durant is the only two-time winner on tour.<p>Who?<p>Joe Durant, one of the hundred or so players capable of winning each week.<p>Used to be only about ten guys could actually win, and that number was smaller if Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were playing. They just scared guys off the leader board. Tiger Woods did that for a short time, but not anymore. Players like Phil Mickelson and Hal Sutton are looking for the action.<p>The new golf balls are making everybody longer and giving them the idea that they can compete. Players are practicing harder and longer. "Hell, even Stadler is hitting balls on the range," Fuzzy Zoeller told me at Bay Hill this week, "Stad never hit balls!" <p>Over the next two weeks in North Florida, the greatest golfers of all time will put their games on display. Not some kind of All-star, old-timers exhibition, but rather real competition. <p>The Players Championship should have every great current player in the world on the golf course for the first round of competition on Thursday. Every one of the top 50 players in the world is committed to playing. On Sunday, the best player of the week will be identified. <p>The Stadium Course at Sawgrass is set up so that if any part of a players' game is deficient, it will cost him. He won't win. The winner will have driven it straight, hit crisp iron shots, displayed a deft short game, and putted beautifully.<p>Tiger, Hal, Freddie, Phil, Duval, all of the best will be there.<p>On Monday, two of the most significant players in the history of the game will play at the King and the Bear at the World Golf Village. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will play in a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match over their new collaborative course in St. Augustine. Not put on an exhibition, like when they opened the course, but play a match. Real competition. Palmer at 71, recently shot his age in a tournament, and Nicklaus is still a force on the Senior Tour in his 60's. They both want to win, and both hate to lose, especially to each other.<p>Where else are you going to see that?<p>Following that, Palmer and Nicklaus will pair up as a team to compete in the Legends of Golf at the King and the Bear. Every great player not on the PGA Tour who can still bend over and tee it up will compete.<p>Right here in our backyard.<p>For more of Sam Kouvaris' weekly commentary, you can <A HREF="http://www.news4jax.com/jax/sports/samssportsline/stories/samssportsline-20001113-145900.html" target="new"> click here</a> or go to <A HREF="http://www.samsportsline.com" target="new">Samsportsline.com</a>. <B><FONT SIZE="+2"><HR ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH="50%"></FONT></B><B><FONT SIZE="+2">Sam's Slams: Mar. 19, 2001</FONT></B><p>After a year where there were no upsets in the first round (every higher seeded team won) this year's NCAA Tournament has provided its share of excitement. St. Joseph's, Gonzaga (again), Butler, Georgia State, Utah State, Indiana State and Hampton all provided first round surprises and the second round has been just as unpredictable.<p>Penn State and Temple knocked the second and third seeded teams out handily. Two of last year's Final Four teams went out with a whimper. Florida and North Carolina looked lost. Neither looked like they knew what they were supposed to do to get to the Sweet 16.<P>I did get kind of sick listening to Jim Nantz and Billy Packer drone on and on about John Cheney and his history, his philosophy, his work ethic, blah, blah, blah. I have a lot of respect for John Cheney, but tell the story once and go to something else. Finally toward the end of the game they gave Billy Donovan credit for overcoming his personal and professional adversity this year.<P>Each year the tournament provides so much entertainment, I think both the radio and televison announcers banging every small story line into our heads a hundred times sometimes tempers it. It's almost like the basketball community is waiting for the tournament each year to legitimize itself as a real entity. How many times can they tell us what a great guy Tom Izzo is? Or how under appreciated Steve Lavin is? Enough! We know already! Let us watch the games! <B><FONT COLOR="#0000ff" SIZE="+2"><HR ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH="35%"></FONT></B>So much for Tiger Woods' so-called slump. Playing with a long game that looked like it belonged to somebody else, Woods won at Bay Hill by making birdies on two of the last three holes from somewhere in the jungle. Banging his driver left on 16, Tiger got a break when his ball was sitting up enough in the rough to give him a chance to go for the green on the par 5 in two. Woods is one of a handful of players on tour who is strong enough to hit the shot necessary, and part of a smaller group who have the talent and guts to actually try and pull it off. He did, and a two-putt birdie pulled him even with Mickelson. (Not to mention the bomb he made on 14)<p>His drive on 18 was headed way out of bounds, but hit a spectator in the cheek and fell to the ground. Television doesn't show the 18th hole at Bay Hill very well. The tee shot is to a little rise and the players can't see where their ball hits after hit clears the rise. Tiger knew it was left, but didn't know the kind of break he got. It's downhill to the green from about 200 yards in, so his tee shot hitting the hard pan was headed for the cart path and out through the wrought iron fence. After a free-drop, his second shot was perfect, taking advantage of the break he got, and you knew he was going to make it, because, that's what he does. That's what Hogan did, that's what Palmer did, that's what Nicklaus did, that's what Watson did.<p>Actually, I knew he was going to make it, because I had already read the finish on the web where it said, "Tiger makes birdie on 18 at Bay Hill for victory." Because of predicted bad weather in the Orlando area Sunday afternoon, the PGA TOUR moved the tee times up to the morning, sent the players off the front and the back and paired them up in threesomes. You'd have never known it by watching the telecast though. NBC never mentioned it (at least when I was watching).<p>I don't mind keeping the outcome in doubt as part of the suspense of watching, but you have to let the viewers know it was all on tape. You can't pass it off as live when its not. The networks have really fallen into the practice of showing shots and in this case entire chunks of action portraying them as live, when who knows when they happened. CBS used to be very meticulous about saying "a moment ago" or "on video tape" but they've gotten away from that. You'd be amazed how many shots on the telecasts Thursday through Sunday are lined up on tape. Tape is fine just let us know.<B><FONT COLOR="#0000ff" SIZE="+2"><HR ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH="35%"></FONT></B>I wouldn't want Bobby Knight to be the basketball coach at my University, but I think the petition signed by the nearly 60 professors at Texas Tech was really petty. If somebody is potentially coming to your campus, take the time to go and meet him, to see him speak, to look at him, face-to-face and say "we don't want you here." Taking his reputation and the media created personality as fact isn't the right thing to do. If the faculty is so up in arms about Bobby Knight, go tell him to his face, and tell the school president and athletic director as well. Just don't sign a paper and hide in the corner. <B><FONT COLOR="#0000ff" SIZE="+2"><HR ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH="35%"></FONT></B>After this week, there won't be much on the free-agent signing front in the NFL. Teams have their coaches and personnel directors traveling around the country to college campuses to see the "private" workouts of the top players. All of this is in preparation for the NFL Draft, scheduled for the third weekend in April. <B><FONT SIZE="+2"><HR ALIGN=CENTER WIDTH="50%"></FONT></B><B><FONT SIZE="+2">Jaguar Journal - March. 15, 2001</FONT></B><p>They're meeting, they're not meeting, they say they'll meet, and they have no comment. What's going on at the Jaguars headquarters anyway? A face-to-face meeting was scheduled between owner Wayne Weaver and Mark Brunell, which seemed like a good idea.<P>Weaver is a persuasive businessman, accomplished in negotiations. Brunell is a reasonable person, and it does appear he and the Jaguars intentions are, as Weaver says, "aligned." The meeting didn't happen as planned, apparently called off when Brunell's agent Leigh Steinberg got wind of it. Brunell would have no comment when asked if Steinberg called off the meeting, and Weaver said they'd try to reschedule and do it sometime in the near future.<P>To say there's bad blood between Weaver and Steinberg would be overstating the case, but it is apparent they're having a tough time seeing things eye to eye. Both Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe signed $100 million deals with the guaranteed money somewhere in the $30 million range over four years. The Jaguars offered Brunell a $31 million deal over 6 years, but Brunell rejected it. That would have slotted him behind Favre and Bledsoe, one a three time MVP and Super Bowl willing QB, the other a quarterback who took his team to the Super Bowl. Brunell has accomplished neither, even with an equal supporting cast around him.<P>Jacksonville might be a unique market for players and their relationship with the fans. Fans don't begrudge players who are paid their fair market value, and don't mind paying an inflated seat price to support the high salaries, but if the fans get wind of a player being something they perceive as greedy, they'll turn their back on him, quickly. One senior Jaguar official said, "if the fans think a player is making $100 million, they'd constantly ask, 'so that's why I have to pay 6 bucks for a beer!"<P>You won't see any hundred million dollar figures coming out of the Jaguars anytime soon.<P>There continues to be talk that the Jaguars are trying to trade Kevin Hardy. Apparently Hardy's refusal to renegotiate a deal convinced the team that they need to make a move before they lose him to free agency without a getting anything in return. Other teams have rebuffed the Jaguars asking price of a first and third round pick.<P>If the Brunell deal gets done, the Jaguars will have to give Jimmy Smith some sort of raise if they expect him to play this year. Rumblings continue that Smith will hold out if he's not given a new deal. Right now he's the best bargain in the league, which is a fancy way of saying he's underpaid. The team will have to address that situation before training camp.
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