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When the LPGA canceled the Safeway Classic in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the tour's players received the decision with mixed emotions, including desperation among those in the nether regions of the money list. The Safeway in Portland was to be the second-to-last tournament of the official season, and the low earners had gathered there to play for their livelihoods. With the Safeway eliminated, the last few exemptions for the 2002 season—me top 90 in winnings are fully exempt next year, while Nos. 91 mrough 125 get partial exemptions—would be determined in a one-week crapshoot at the season-ending Asahi Ryokuken International Championship 3,000 miles away, in North Augusta, S.C.
Complicating matters, the LPGA waited until Sept. 13 to cancel the Safeway, a day after the PGA Tour pulled the plug on its three tournaments for that week. The LPGA promised to supply a chartered plane to take the players to the event in South Carolina, but a handful of edgy players drove. Unable to find a vacant motel along the way, Vicki Odegard (107th on the money list) drove for 42 consecutive hours to her house near Asheville, N.C., before resting. Outside Denver, at the unholy hour of 3 a.m. on Sept. 14, she was passed on Interstate 25 by a minivan full of LPGA players, including Marrianne Morris (110th), bad back and all. Morris has been playing with a bulging disk this season, and cross-country drives aren't part of her physical therapy. How did she endure the trip? "I drove some, I sat some, and I lay on the floor some," she says.
Perhaps there is an AAA ad in all this because, amazingly, Odegard and Morris were coleaders after vrooming to five-under 67s in the first round in North Augusta. Alas, they ran out of gas over the ensuing 36 holes and were lapped by winner Tina Fischer. Odegard finished 13th, Morris 16th, and neither player cracked the top 90.
One of the week's success stories was rookie Jennifer Hubbard, who arrived in Portland 124th on the money list but with a scant $512 separating her from No. 128. Not wanting to take any chances on the charter, Jennifer and her father-caddie, Doug, took the only rental car they could find, a Hyundai Sonata—"I almost started crying when I got into the car," Jennifer says of the prospect of driving across the country in the tiny vehicle—and lit out for their home in Van Alstyne, Texas. A couple of nights in her own bed, some of Mom's cherry cobbler and an hour with her teacher, Greg Morrison, got Hubbard ready to defend her spot on the money list. "Canceling the tournament actually worked out for me," she says. "I was hitting it poorly, but since we didn't play, no one passed me. Then I went home and relaxed for a few days."
Hubbard is 5'9" and has a long, upright swing that calls to mind that of the young Juli Inkster. Though Hubbard is among the LPGA's top 30 in driving distance, she tiptoed around Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club last week with calculated restraint, shooting a one-under 215 to finish 44th, nine strokes behind Fischer, earning $4,830 and locking up number 120 on the money list. On Sunday evening Jennifer and Doug piled into their rental—this time a spacious minivan—and headed back to Van Alstyne. Talking on a cell phone from Birmingham, Ala., Jennifer said, "We've only got 10 hours to go. That doesn't seem so bad."
Globe-trotting is a part of Tiger Woods's job, but in the wake of the terrorist attacks two weeks ago there have been doubts about his willingness to travel overseas. Last week Woods responded by committing to defend his title at the Nov. 15-18 World Cup, in Gotemba, Japan. David Duval will reprise his role as Woods's partner.
"It's a big deal for the tournament," says James Cramer, the manager of communications for the World Golf Championships; the World Cup is one of its four events. "It would have been pretty glaring if the defending champions weren't there."
Woods sets the agenda in pro golf, and it has been speculated that his decision to withdraw from last week's Troph�e Lanc�me outside Paris played a part in the decision to postpone the Ryder Cup until 2002. In announcing that he was dropping out, Woods said, "The security risks of traveling overseas at the present time are too great."