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Desert Classic Won’t Lose Hope for Some Time

Times Staff Writer

He rescued a moderately successful, 5-year-old tournament called the Palm Springs Golf Classic and it became the Bob Hope Desert Classic in 1965. Despite his death, Hope’s name on the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic is sure to be there in 2004.

But what’s going to happen after that?

The best bet is that Hope’s name will stay with the tournament through 2006. That’s when the PGA Tour’s network television deal ends and also marks the last year of the Hope tournament’s contract with title sponsor Chrysler.

Tournament officials have an agreement with the Hope family to be able to use his name and likeness in connection with the event as long as it continues to add to its $37 million of charitable contributions.

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Unless Chrysler is different from most other title sponsors, the company is going to want more bang for its considerable buck. Chrysler is also the title sponsor of the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro, N.C., and the Chrysler Championship, in Tampa, Fla.

The Chrysler Desert Classic may be only a few years away.

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Monday night’s fifth version of the “Battle” series, the made-for-television prime-time golf show on ABC featuring Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, drew the lowest overnight ratings of them all.

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You can’t call this a surprise. In the first place, it’s not as if you can’t see Woods on television anymore. Actually, he’s close to being overexposed. Check his schedule: You saw him play the final round of the British Open eight days before, then he’s in prime time and now you’ll see him playing the Buick Open the rest of the week.

It’s clear that the novelty of these events has worn off. Those dead-air-filling segments of taped interviews have become trite and they reveal little. Also, there was too much coverage devoted to players walking fairways and down paths, and even though Ben Curtis came through to win the British Open, his interview with ABC showed he’s still boring.

If your idea of interesting is watching Els eat a sandwich, give the wrapper to his caddie and then wipe his hands on a towel, this was your show.

Plus the live comments made by the players were not as compelling as the golf, which was ordinary.

Examples: “I read it right edge.” “He got me on my downstroke.” “I’ve had this putt before.”

They would have been better off comparing the merits of their private jets.

This “Battle” is a lost cause.

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Her appearance at the PGA Tour’s Colonial tournament is gaining endorsements for Annika Sorenstam, but Suzy Whaley’s aim is slightly lower. The club pro who played in last week’s Greater Hartford Open would like to cash in by doing golf commentary for ESPN.

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Curtis may need media training to get some zip in his interviews, but winning the British Open has already done wonders for his ranking. Curtis has moved up 363 places to 33rd in the rankings, a far cry from where he ended 2002 -- 1,269th.

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Is nine enough? When he plays in the PGA Championship next month at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., Tom Watson will be the first to play in nine major championships in one year.

Watson will have played the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, plus five more on the Champions Tour, which has five majors because the British Senior Open is a major for the first time this year.

Meanwhile, Nick Faldo will skip the PGA to be with his family, ending the longest current streak of consecutive starts in majors at 65.

Faldo became a father for the fourth time Monday when his wife Valerie gave birth to a girl, Emma Scarlet.

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“Having taken part in 65 consecutive majors this was obviously a tough decision to make, bringing with it mixed emotions,” Faldo said in a statement.

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That whirring sound this week came from the spin doctors at Nike Golf, hard at work trying to make the best of the news that Woods had ditched his prototype Nike driver and gone back to his old Titleist driver.

Nike invested $100 million in Woods three years ago when he signed a five-year extension of his endorsement deal, but there’s much more at stake for Nike Golf, which has made Woods the focal point of its driver business.

Buyers might purchase a driver if the best player in the world is using it, but would they feel the same way if he isn’t?

Nike Golf released a statement Tuesday, the day after Woods used the Titleist driver during the “Battle of the Bridges.”

“True to our word, Tiger Woods can play any piece of equipment he chooses,” the statement said. “He’s unhappy with the way he’s been driving the ball and has chosen to make a change to something he’s more familiar with. His old driver.

“This shift does not affect our relationship in any way.”

The statement also said Nike will begin testing new driver designs with Woods when he’s ready.

Woods, who is 128th in driving accuracy and 24th in distance (and still first in money won at $4.5 million), won the 2002 Masters and the 2002 U.S. Open with his Nike prototype driver and continues to use the Nike irons and ball. But now his three-wood, wedges, putter and 975D driver are all made by Titleist.

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Disqualified at the British Open for forgetting to exchange scorecards with Jesper Parnevik, Mark Roe was asked whether he checked his scorecard after shooting a 69 in the first round of the Irish Open: “Only 47 times.”


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