Webb Sights Set on Another Big Year

The Karrie Webb Worldwide Tour stops in Phoenix this week for the Standard Register Ping after a hit performance in her native Australia, then moves on to an even larger stage--the LPGA's first major of the year, the Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage.

Webb, the LPGA's two-time player of the year, is the defending champion at Mission Hills, where she ran circles around the rest of the field and wound up winning by 10 shots.

"After last year's performance, I have great memories there," Webb said.

No kidding. Anyway, Webb, still looking for her first LPGA Tour victory this year, arrived in Phoenix on Monday from Australia, where she won the Australian Masters and was second at the Australian Open, raising a fuss along the way when she hinted she might boycott both events in a one-woman protest of prize money.

The total purse at the Australian Open was about $600,000.

Webb said she probably wouldn't sit out the tournaments, but she did say it has crossed her mind.

Now she is busy trying to figure out ways to repeat what she did last year when she won seven times--twice in majors--and qualified for the Hall of Fame once she puts in the necessary 10 years.

THIS IS A TEST

News item: The USGA announces it will adopt indoor testing methods by Jan. 1 to determine whether balls conform to the Rules of Golf.

Reaction: Let's hope it goes just as smoothly as the USGA's conforming golf club tests.

TIGER UPDATE

Now it can be told: After Tiger Woods double-bogeyed the last hole to lose at Dubai, he was distraught enough that the awards ceremony for Thomas Bjorn had to be delayed for a while so Woods could compose himself.

But after taking last week off in Florida, Woods is at Bay Hill and ready again to try to end his so-called winless "slump" that now measures eight consecutive PGA Tour events.

Arnold Palmer is one of the many who thinks the slump talk is way overdone.

Says Palmer: "When he wins again, which he will soon, everybody will start writing that the slump wasn't so long after all."

DUVAL UPDATE

And while we're on the subject of slumps, David Duval's continues. Duval, who hasn't finished higher than 53rd in a full-field event this year, pulled out of Bay Hill because of a sore wrist.

MONEY NEWS

The New Zealand PGA Championship is reportedly offering Woods $4 million (yes, that's four million dollars) to play next year's event the first week of January.

The tournament is opposite the Mercedes Championships, which Woods has not qualified for, by the way, so it might have to be moved to accommodate Tiger, probably to the week of the Bob Hope.

MONEY NEWS II

Woods earned an average of $110,703 every round he played last year. He's averaging $27,292 a round this year. Woods is defending his title at Bay Hill this week, then going to the Players Championship and taking a week off before the Masters.

ON THE MARK

News item: Former European Ryder Cup captain Mark James, who has had operations for testicular cancer and abdominal cancer, vows to return to the golf course in May for the Volvo PGA at Wentworth.

Reaction: Let's hope he makes 18 birdies.

FASHION NEWS

In case you missed it (and how in the world could you?), Jesper Parnevik wore a black shirt with no collar, a black cap and a white belt with plaid pants when he won at the Honda.

Said Parnevik's wife, Mia: "I didn't dress him."

SHE DIDN'T CRUMBLE, EITHER

Annika Sorenstam must have known she was going to win the Welch's/Circle K sooner than last Sunday.

Sorenstam pulled the note out of her fortune cookie at dinner last Tuesday night. It said, "Your goals will be realized this week."

She opened another fortune cookie at a different restaurant the next night. It said the same thing.

By the way, it was Sorenstam's first victory since July.

FOOD NEWS

Better keep an eye on Robert Karlsson this year. The 32-year-old Swede has not only dyed his blond hair a flaming red, he also has junked his health food diet and gone back to ice cream whenever he feels like it.

Said Karlsson: "It's my life."

You may remember Karlsson for missing out on the 1999 Ryder Cup team even though he was No. 11 in the qualifying table. He was passed over for the wild card by James in favor of Andrew Coltart.

THE LONG OF IT

News item: Jim Furyk used a long-handled putter with a 42-inch shaft at the Honda.

Reaction: Maybe it'll help him with that crazy loop in his swing.

TRAVEL PLANS

You have to admire the candidness of European players Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke, who recently aired their marital problems in the media.

Both players said their marriages were in trouble because of the demands of playing pro golf. Montgomerie, a Scot, wrote about his problems in a column in an English newspaper. Clarke, from Northern Ireland, talked to the Irish Independent about how golf strained his relationship with his wife, Heather, over the winter.

"We had problems," Clarke said. "It is tough too, when you've got a 2 1/2-year-old son who wants to know why you're going away all the time."

The Clarkes, who also have a 5-month-old son, resolved the problem by planning to travel more together as a family, Clarke said.

YES, THAT AUGUSTA

Augusta National isn't the only golf club in that Georgia town. In fact, Augusta Country Club is right next door and you can usually see it in the Masters telecasts because the 12th green at Augusta National backs up to Augusta Country Club.

Anyway, the city's lesser-known club, designed by Donald Ross, is closing in July for a restoration project and will reopen in January. Architect Brian Silva is a Ross-restoration specialist.

ROLLING THE DICE

This week's Senior PGA Tour event, the first-year Siebel Classic, will be played at a Jack Nicklaus-designed layout called Coyote Creek that is split nearly down the middle by Highway 101 near San Jose.

Seven holes are on one side of the freeway and 11 holes are on the other. Chi Chi Rodriguez doesn't see anything wrong with that.

Says Rodriguez: "Anything that comes up with seven and 11 is all right with me."

WHY PROS LIKE GOLF

The Compaq Classic in New Orleans is the 18th PGA Tour event to offer at least

$4 million in prize money this year. Tournament officials announced a $600,000 purse increase this week.

GRACE AND STYLE

Grace Park, 22, is regarded as one of the brighter new stars on the LPGA Tour. Sixth last week at Tucson, Park is fifth on the LPGA money list with $178,511.

A member of the 1998 NCAA champion Arizona State golf team, Park showed she was something different when she signed a deal with Artists' Management Group of Hollywood broker Michael Ovitz.

Park is the first golfer represented by the management group, which also handles the sports business affairs of Pete Sampras and Jason Kidd and the entertainment affairs of Serena and Venus Williams.

AMG sees Park's marketing plans crossing over from sports to entertainment, but she has some other considerations right now.

Soo Nam Park, who runs his daughter's business deals, hasn't come up with an endorsement contract yet. Park's golf bag has her name on it, but no logos.

Says the elder Park: "Most important, not endorsement. Most important, play well."

Grace Park says when she signs endorsement deals, they will be related to golf, although she is keeping her mind open on what opportunities AMG will come up with for her.

"They will have bigger and better opportunities for me in the future," she said. "That's the trend nowadays and it's something athletes really need to look at, but I know I have to play well in order for anything else to happen."

HONESTY AWARD

Laura Davies, who found fame and fortune by hitting her driver farther than anyone on the LPGA Tour, can't find the fairway anymore. Davies has lost so much confidence in her driver, she rarely uses it anymore.

"When you have trouble sleeping at night, you know there's a problem," Davies said.

Last week, she tied for 16th at the Australian Open and didn't like the way she played.

"That was ridiculous," Davies said. "It was madness out there."

Davies missed the cut the week before at the Australian Masters, her first missed cut in 60 tournaments.

Maybe Davies will find a comfort zone this week at Phoenix, where she is a four-time winner at the Standard Register Ping.

BIRDIES, BOGEYS, PARS

Ernie Banks, Mac Davis, Don Cheadle, Joe Mantegna, Vince Neil, Judd Nelson, Tim Matheson and Chad Everett are among the celebrities expected to play in the second Mark and Brian tournament Saturday at Coyote Hills Golf Course in Fullerton. The event benefits the KLOS Food Bank and the T.J. Martell Foundation's Neil Bogart Memorial Fund. Details: http://www.955klos.com.

Rogie Vachon, Mitch Gaylord, Dick Bass, Bob Seagren, Paul Gonzales, Pat Boone, John O'Hurley, George Lazenby and Marty Kove are among those scheduled to play in the Volunteers of America Orange County and Los Angeles County celebrity tournament. The event will be held March 30 at California Country Club in Whittier. Details: (760) 632-7770.

Tiger Jam IV, benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation, will be held April 28 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Details: (714) 816-1806.

Hall of Fame member Amy Alcott is the host of the $800,000 City of Hope Championship, April 12-14 at Wilshire Country Club. The 54-hole LPGA event benefits the City of Hope Cancer Center.

A tournament to benefit the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research will be held June 11 at Robinson Ranch Golf Club in Santa Clarita. Details: (661) 799-7940.

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