Woods raises questions with schedule, Callaway getting in ball business, Couples's back in pain
Tiger Woods has played in 13 professional events during his illustrious amateur career, but the Stanford sophomore turned heads last week when he accepted sponsors' exemptions to play in the Greater Milwaukee Open and in the Quad City Classic in Coal Valley, Ill., in September. The PGA Tour events follow the U.S. Amateur, at which Woods will bid for an unprecedented third consecutive championship, and the announcement that he would play them fueled speculation that he will turn professional and forgo his final two years of college eligibility.
Woods, who has won eight of the 25 events he has played for Stanford, is the prohibitive favorite to win his first individual NCAA title later this month at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. Some say that an NCAA title coupled with another Amateur crown would mean Woods has nothing left to accomplish as an amateur. As a professional he could try to win enough money in late season events to earn his Tour card without having to attend qualifying school.
Woods, however, might have simpler motives for playing in the Tour events. Because he has had little success in professional tournaments—he has made only four cuts, and his best finish is a 41st at the 1995 Masters—he might be using the events to see how much work his game needs.
Phil Mickelson had even more success as an amateur than Woods, winning the 1990 Amateur, three individual NCAA titles and a full-field PGA Tour event, the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. He faced many of the same seductions as Woods, but he graduated from Arizona State before joining the Tour full time in 1993. "I don't regret staying for four years at all," Mickelson said last Friday. "Those were the greatest four years of my life."
It hasn't hurt his golf game either. On Sunday the 25-year-old Mickelson won his eighth Tour event, the GTE Byron Nelson Classic.
Playing Milwaukee and Quad City was the idea of Woods's father, Earl. The tournaments fall in the window between the Amateur and the start of classes at Stanford. "I don't know what he's going to do [about turning pro]," Earl said on Sunday from his home in Cypress, Calif. "The decision will rest with him. But I tell you this, I'll be planting arguments against any scenario he might come up with that doesn't call for him staying in school."
How about this scenario, Earl? Tiger wins at Milwaukee or Quad City as an amateur, thus securing a two-year PGA Tour exemption.
The Ely Ball
Callaway Golf is getting into the golf ball business. On Monday the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company announced it has hired Taylor Made president Chuck Yash to head the new Callaway Golf Ball Company. It was Yash who put Taylor Made back on the golf equipment map with the introduction of the Burner Bubble metal-woods and irons.