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TEEING OFF

Times Staff Writer

Five things to look for on the professional golf scene:

1. George Lopez’s two-year run as host of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic has come to an abrupt halt, after his name . . . “hosted by George Lopez” . . . was removed from the tournament website.

There is no longer any mention of Lopez on the home page, although his image is still used.

For the 46-year-old comic who threw himself into his job headfirst and called in some favors to get buddies Andy Garcia, Ray Romano, Kevin James and Samuel L. Jackson into the Hope field, being removed in such a way doesn’t appear to add up to a lot of respect.

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Tournament President John Foster said the Hope is a couple of weeks away from announcing something different for next year.

“We’re trying to bring a special guy out of the hat,” he said.

That would probably be Arnold Palmer, who would serve as the host for the 50th anniversary of the tournament, if it all works out. Palmer, 78, won the first edition of the event in 1960.

As for Lopez, Foster said, “George will still be around, he’ll still be a part of the tournament and hopefully play in the tournament.”

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Maybe not.

Said Lopez: “My intentions have always been about what’s best for the tournament. Arnold Palmer, he’s an icon of golf; who doesn’t respect him? I wish the tournament all the luck in the world.

“As for whether I’ll play, it’s going to depend on my schedule.”

2. Tiger Woods is back after a two-week break, carrying his five-tournament winning streak into the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. After Woods played his pro-am round Wednesday, he said that the greens aren’t in very good shape, but that they’re not in very good shape for everybody.

Woods has won four times at Bay Hill, but since his last victory in 2003 (which was his fourth in a row), he has tied for 22nd, tied for 20th, tied for 23rd and tied for 46th.

But with the Masters coming up the week of April 7, Woods said he’s already thinking about Augusta National, specifically Amen Corner.

“It’s more difficult than people think,” he said. “The shot that Larry Mize hit, you can’t hit that shot anymore because they have raised the green. . . . It slopes more toward the water. Twelve is just 12, it’s the same as it has been.

“Thirteen, with the tee moving back a little bit to the left and now they have got the rough up there and plus more pine needles . . . you used to be able to blow it up there and have a shot, and now you don’t.

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“They’ve made two of the three holes more difficult.”

3. So swing coach Butch Harmon splits with John Daly because Harmon says Daly is more interested in drinking than playing golf. Hello? Nobody saw this coming?

This is the smallest surprise since somebody figured Tiger is a pretty good player.

Daly’s poor personal habits, at least as they relate to his professional golf career, have been on display long enough to set off alarms that should have been heard long ago at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Actually, they were. Tour officials have been quietly collecting information on Daly’s drinking and erratic behavior since the Bob Hope in January. That’s when Daly was a regular at tournament parties and had to be basically carried out of the after-party Friday night following the major gala.

4. It has been a long decline for Lee Janzen, 43, the two-time U.S. Open champion whose last victory was the 1998 Open at the Olympic Club.

Last year, Janzen fell to 160th on the money list, his lowest in a pro career that began in 1990. His best finish was a tie for 13th at Oakmont at the U.S. Open, perhaps appropriately.

Janzen’s only status for exemptions into tournaments this year is as a past champion, and he played in last week’s PODS Championship on a sponsor’s invitation -- but he made the most of it. Janzen’s tie for 10th was his first top 10 in two years and it earned him a spot in the field this week at Bay Hill.

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5. There is already rejoicing in Fort Worth, where Phil Mickelson is on board to play the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in late May -- a tournament he hasn’t entered in three years.

Why is Mickelson coming back? Sure, he likes the cozy, 7,054-yard Colonial layout all right, but he also likes the advertising deal he cut with tournament title sponsor Crowne Plaza to appear in TV commercials pumping the hotel chain, similar to the ones that CBS’ David Feherty made famous. Plans call for a message “crawl” across the bottom of the screen during the commercials, promoting the tournament.

By the way, Mickelson is also playing the Shell Houston Open the week before the Masters . . . without a deal with Shell.

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STAT OF THE WEEK

The tournament in Orlando, Fla., called the Arnold Palmer Invitational is doing business under its ninth title. From its beginning in 1966, the event’s other names have been the Florida Citrus Open Invitational, Bay Hill Citrus Classic, Bay Hill Classic, Hertz Bay Hill Classic, Nestle Invitational, Bay Hill Invitational presented by Office Depot, Bay Hill Invitational presented by Cooper Tires, and Bay Hill Invitational presented by MasterCard.

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A SLICE OF LIFE

Sean O’Hair, PODS Championship winner, on why he asked Arnold Palmer to pose with him for a picture this week before the Arnold Palmer Invitational:

‘Mr. Palmer brought this sport to what it is. . . . I mean, basically he was like Superman in golf. So I just kind of wanted a picture so I could show my grandkids one day.’


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